Some Tips on Maintaining a Healthy Embouchure

Last week the ULM Brass Faculty gave a presentation on “Embouchure Health and Maintenance” during our weekly Recital Hour for music majors. We wanted to keep the talk somewhat informal, so each of us prepared some brief remarks based on our own experiences. Because of a family emergency, I was unable to attend the presentation. What follows here are the talking points for my part of the presentation. I hope you find them useful! Feel free to comment if you would like to add to or discuss any of these points.

Embouchure Health and Maintenance: Practical Tips for the College Student

James Boldin, D.M.A.

ULM Recital Hour 3/15/2018

…we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit… Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy (1926)

The solution to frustration is reality. -Jeff Nelsen, Professor of Horn, Indiana University

Some Basic Principles

  • Strive to get a healthy amount of sleep each night.
  • Drink plenty of water (not soft drinks) throughout the day.
  • Strive to play fundamentals every day.
  • Strive to do some form of physical exercise every day.
  • Take a few minutes each day to silently relax and focus on breathing, with no other distractions.
  • (Re)Warm-up before each rehearsal with at least 5-10 minutes to spare before rehearsal begins.
  • Play some low/pedal notes at the end of the day to relax and loosen up.
  • Light massage and cool/warm compresses can help with stiffness.
  • Be aware of what is in your lip balm, and anything else you eat/drink/put on your face.
  • Expect your embouchure and playing mechanics to be influenced by what you did or did not do the day before.
  • Take days off only when absolutely necessary, and plan enough time to get back in shape. The 2:1 rule often applies. For every day off, it will take two days to get back to your original playing condition.
  • When working to increase practice time, range, endurance, volume, etc., do so gradually. Sudden changes can lead to future problems.
  • Be careful who you ask for advice, and where you look for it. If you ask someone for an opinion, you will usually get one. This does not mean it is correct or appropriate for you.

Further Reading

British Association for Performing Arts Medicine http://www.bapam.org.uk/

Lucinda Lewis, Broken Embouchures http://www.embouchures.com/

http://www.mountainpeakmusic.com/

Bruce Nelson, Ed. Also Sprach Arnold Jacobs: A Developmental Guide for Brass Musicians, Polymnia Press, 1996.

Andrew J. Pelletier, “Embouchure Health and Maintenance,” in The Horn Call: Journal of the International Horn Society, May, 1999. pp. 65-66.

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Embouchure, Health, Teaching

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