Posted by: eaubeauhorn | September 27, 2012

Balanced Embouchure and Farkas embouchure

I have a horn mouthpiece that I diddle around with sometimes because I’m still interested despite the dystonia. Maybe one of these days I’ll find a reliable work-around and be able to play again.

One thing that had seemed promising was using the Balanced Embouchure concepts to arrive at a different place with my chops, so that the brain fart of dystonia did not kick in. I have been able to play euphonium and tuba, reasonably well, with the dystonia, but not horn, which is my first love and always will be.

I’d say the major concepts I got from BE  were that lip position changes predictably over range; more rolled in for high and more rolled out for low; and that the use of pressure prevents this lip motion, limiting range. As a rolled-out player, I always had difficulty playing high and had to start increasing the pressure of the horn against my face in order to get higher notes. Since high notes were only achieved with pressure, I had zero high-note endurance and could only hit the highest notes occasionally, which caused me to end up being a low player. Fortunately I like playing both middle (2nd) and low (4th) parts so it wasn’t all bad. But I remained frustrated, and I believe I developed the dystonia because I kept trying to force my face to play high by over-tensing a low-range embouchure.

BE suggests that the Farkas embouchure, with its flat chin and ring of tense muscles, is not the easiest way to play high, and that rolling the lips in and loosening the corners will allow high playing without pressure. I have found this to be true but also have had great difficulty getting much of a sound playing that way; I can get individual notes but to play a two-octave gliss (or even a few-notes gliss) has been frustrating. If I had started this way it wouldn’t have made any difference but being competent at one system and then trying to start an entirely new one requires much patience.

So I was dinking around with the mouthpiece the other day, and was working on moving my lips inside the cup, rolling in and out to change range. In particular I seemed to be able to move my upper lip, since I set in to the lower lip just a little bit usually. I had some success and was managing to gliss through various octaves, including up to high C from third-space C, and it was pretty smooth and sounded pretty good. I was just concentrating on moving that upper lip in and out and not much else.

Then I noticed that my corners were really tired, and then I noticed I was using my old, flat-chin Farkas embouchure but had incorporated near-zero pressure on my upper lip, which was allowing it to roll in and out inside the cup instead of being pinned.

So I guess the concepts really can mix; and I also understand that the people who are competent with the Farkas embouchure and who preach not to use a lot of pressure, may be doing this, rolling the lip inside the cup. But in their teaching they leave out the fact that they are changing their lip position inside the cup. Perhaps they are simply unaware that they do it.
BTW, if you want to see a high player using a rolled-in embouchure, watch the 1st horn in this video from Youtube. He is the first player to be shown.

(Vienna horns Jurassic Park video)



  1. A rolled in embouchure can be developed to produce a beautiful tone just like any other embouchure setting. It’s just a matter of time & patient practice. For some people, the rolled in embouchure is the best choice due to personal lip architecture such as a protruding soft mass in the center sometimes called “cupid’s bow”. Others are more successful with a rolled out setting. Many must use a hybrid between the two or transition between the two for different registers. That’s why The Balanced Embouchure system has the student practice in three distinct embouchure settings every day. By doing this, they can discover for themselves what works best for them.

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