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What makes good embouchure, and what can I do to improve it?

Asked 2013-05-17T21:28:08.0Z (edited 2013-09-18T22:57:24.0Z) by Fletcher J1,390
  • Early Adopter

Since resuming my attempts to teach myself the trumpet a few weeks ago, 
I'm having trouble regaining my (poor) embouchure. Sometimes after playing, my front teeth are a little sore, probably because they aren't quite straight and I'm putting too much pressure on them. After practicing, my lips are visibly swolen. How do I get in shape correctly?


  • Keep playing?? I don't know, just sayin'!JP 2013-05-17T23:32:17.0Z
  • Warm up: Long tones, long tones, long tones. Then: Lip slurs, lip slurs, lip slurs. I'm not a trumpet player ('bone is my instrument), but this is tried and true for the brass. Before long your stamina and accuracy will improve markedly. You won't be pushing the instrument so hard onto your face to reach the higher notes (reason for your sore teeth, also possibly a sign of improper technique). Congrats on getting the horn out of the case again!Mark B 2013-09-19T14:14:24.0Z
  • Your teeth hurt because you're placing way too much pressure on your embouchure. Start buzzing long tones on just your mouthpiece. Stay within a comfortable range, say from middle C on down. Take big breaths and focus on pushing as much air through as possible. Also pay attention to getting rid of the excess air/fuzz and centering the tone. Buzz while you're commuting. Nothing pays off as much as buzzing your mouthpiece. Eventually you'll be able to play anything on just your mouthpiece.Bill B 2015-01-13T05:20:01.0Z

3 Answers

Date | Votes
Reply — Posted 2013-09-18T23:08:07.0Z
M B1,041
  • Early Adopter

Hello... I'm not a doctor, physical therapist, or dentist--- if you have persistent pain or discomfort, see one of those professionals....

My thoughts:

Building fitness for a wind instrument is identical to building general athletic fitness.  It requires steady practice and repetition, gradual incremental increase, and importantly: rest, so that muscle tissue can heal and build.  I would identify a simple workout of warmups (e.g. scales, patterns, long tones) that you can do with each practice session.  It doesn't need to be technical as the goal is to build fitness, not improve your technical chops (though any exercise will generate benefits in that area anyway).  Also, leave space in your level of fitness to address technical goals for each practice session (i.e. don't blow yourself out on warmups before you've gotten to the pieces or exercises you want to work on). Schedule in rest days too, where you either don't play, or where you go gentle, regardless of dynamics, or range in the pieces you are practicing.  Listen to your tone and sound.  When the quality of your sound starts to degrade, you're probably getting tired.    

Start slow, so that you can identify where your true fitness threshold is.  If you can only play long tones for a few minutes before getting fatigued, then that is where you start.  Build gradually.  Like athletic fitness, you don't want to injure yourself by over training too early.  Set your baseline fitness where it truly is, not where you wish that it was, or where you think that it ought to be.  Then build slowly and carefully.  

Finally, a critical compliment to embouchure fitness is your capacity to generate air.  If your physical condition allows, also work on your core muscles (abs, obliques, etc), posture, as well as your general aerobic fitness.  

Again, I'm not a doctor.  Listen closely to your body and don't overdo it.  And, your teeth and facial muscles are needed for many other things.  See a professional doctor if pain or discomfort persists.

Hope that helps...


  • Fletcher J: Listen, this guy who says that he is not a doctor sounds pretty smart. I would do what he says. Pace yourself, warm up with long tones, and you'll start to feel and hear the progress.Mark B 2013-09-23T14:13:07.0Z
  • Thanks guys, It's getting better. I'm actually thinking about looking for a good teacher, and maybe trying out for our local community band next year.Fletcher J 2013-09-23T15:59:48.0Z
Reply — Posted 2014-06-28T20:32:34.0Z (edited 2014-06-28T20:34:17.0Z)
James K511
  • Teacher

This is a good question and one that I do encounter from time to time when working with trumpet students.  I am a trumpet player and teacher by trade and the first thing that I would want to see is a short video of you playing and could tell you a lot more.  

Also if you find an excellent in-person teacher that will be helpful.  In my experience it is best to find a teacher with a lot of experience (especially if they have gone through some of the same challenges).

You should not be experiencing pain playing the trumpet.  We would want to look at embouchure set-up, teeth placement/format, mouthpiece and equipment, how you hold the instrument, pivot or how you hold the trumpet, and many other elements.

In my opinion you would be much better off working with a professional teacher in your area.  Teaching yourself will lead to a lot of bad and potentially harmful habits.  Having an experienced teacher alongside of you is the best choice.  

It looks like you are on the hunt for a good teacher.  I hope that has worked out for you.  I wanted to add my input to your question to encourage any others with similar questions or challenges that they are experiencing!


Reply — Posted 2015-07-21T01:56:46.0Z
Todd P581
  • Teacher

That is awesome that you are teaching yourself the trumpet!  In general beginner trumpet players tend to pull the instrument into their teeth to compensate for their lips vibrating too slowly.  Try buzzing with just the mouthpiece and make sure not to push it into your face.

I have this short video that explains some basics about embouchure.

?Good Luck!



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  • 4,608
  • 2013-05-17T21:28:08.0Z
  • 2015-07-21T01:56:46.0Z
  • 2013-09-18T22:57:24.0Z

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  • Technique,Trumpet

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