the embouchure

The Musician Sound Through His Embouchure

The instrument of the woodwind player really appears to behave as his megaphone, thanks to his embouchure.

Get Your Mask Down !

Your mouth / mouthpiece / reed / ligature set defines your global embouchure : this configuration may vary between players, closely combining your morphology and the gear you use.

Your inner resonance propagates to the reed, which should easily vibrate, opposing a low resistance, hence a not too hard reed is recommended in order to be able to master the depth of the sound, shaped up at the bottom of the air column (Peter King had told me once how he had bee surprised to see that Cannonball Adderley was playing a really weak reed, when he substituted him in England in the 70’s).

This way, you define the best mouthpiece/reed combination for your sound control : this compromise depend on several factors, but you must know how to adjust it, mainly by selecting another reed, on your usual mouthpiece. And if you need a softer reed to ease out your playing, then you would be able to modulate your reed strength later on, bringing full balance and self-confidence : through your mentally visualizing that your emission remains centered on the sound source, you avoid unnecessary contractions above your diaphragm (which would be triggered by too hard a reed), following the recommendations of Alfred Tomatis in The Ear And The Voice.

deep throat

By focusing on the opening of his sound column backward and downward, the player forgets about his real trunk and his mouth, thus ensuring that his throat remains free of contractions.

« The objective for both the pharynx and the larynx is to keep the throat open and supple, avoiding closure by the constrictor muscles. The regulation of the pharynx under the organizing control of the ear consists of achieving what is famous in singing as the open throat with the help of the dilator muscles and the tongue.« 

Think Your Sound, But No Pressing

The wind player sets up his vibrating attitude by rooting his air column in his heels, and moreover pictures his embouchure at the sound source, down to the bottom of his diaphragm : then, letting the relaxation down, his inner vibration gently takes off from the root of the air column, to feed the instrument through this embouchure.

Dominique Hoppenot describes how the violon player lets his vibration propage to the violon body through his clavicle.

« The most important of all is to listen to the sound that will come and not just to the sound already achieved.« 

Once your posture is set up and stabilized, your instrument naturally gets seized by your hands (entering your mouth if you are a wind player), to amplify the sound prepared in advance ; then your flexible and relaxed embouchure, which you actually forget, since you are focussed on the air column bottom, comes into play : it links you, as the sender (the instrumentist’s body), to the amplifier (the instrument body). The projected sound gets now worked out by your fingers, and your tongue (if relevant).

« You should forget all about your embouchure positioning, and be sure not to press it.« 

« The goal is to be as relax as possible in the embouchure area, so that the delicate mechanisms at the reed can be free to occur without exerting a strain on its vibrational capacity. By the time the air stream reaches the mouthpiece, the major portion of the work for a personal sound has already been completed.« 

« When you let your mouthpiece come to your mouth, enjoyment also enters as an intruding momentum. The same way as when you take momentum to jump over an obstacle, boom ! there it goes, you are played by your instrument, so you should not play yourself, this is not a wordplay.

As little as your embouchure takes off, then you nail your mouthpiece pinch, without looking for it, playing means then sitting on the air, this is fantastic !« 

« Generally, I prefer closer mouthpieces, but I try to find the combination of the length of the facing and the tip opening so that I don’t have to press hard to play it, so that everything feels easy.« 


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