Embouchure

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The embouchure is the use of facial muscles and the shaping of the lips to the mouthpiece of a wind instrument.

The word is of French origin and is related to the root bouche (fr.), 'mouth'.

The proper embouchure allows the instrumentalist to play the instrument at its full range with a full, clear tone and without strain or damage to one's muscles.

Contents

Brass embouchure

While performing on a brass instrument, the sound is produced by the player buzzing his or her lips into a mouthpiece. Pitches are changed in part through altering the amount of muscular contraction in the lip formation. The performer's use of the air, tightening of cheek and jaw muscles, as well as tongue manipulation can affect how the embouchure works.

Even today, many brass pedagogues take a rigid approach to teaching how a brass player's embouchure should function. Many of these authors also disagree with each other regarding which technique is correct. Research suggests efficient brass embouchures depend on the player using the method that suits that player's particular anatomy (see below). Individual differences in dental structure, lip shape and size, jaw shape and the degree of jaw malocclusion, and other anatomical factors will affect whether a particular embouchure technique will be effective or not[citation needed].

In 1962, Philip Farkas hypothesized[1] that the air stream traveling through the lip aperture should be directed straight down the shank of the mouthpiece. He believed that it would be illogical to "violently deflect" the air stream downward at the point of where the air moves past the lips. In this text, Farkas also recommends that the lower jaw be protruded so that the upper and lower teeth are aligned.

In 1970, Farkas published a second text[2] which contradicted his earlier writing. Out of 40 subjects, Farkas showed that 39 subjects directed the air downward to varying degrees and 1 subject directed the air in an upward direction at various degrees. The lower jaw position seen in these photographs show more variation from his earlier text as well.

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