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"The Embouchure: The Trumpeter's Fuel Injector"

by Vaughn Nark

I firmly believe that a trumpeter must use his or her body as a vessel or engine to both create and sustain the energy required in performance. The trumpeter must always initially travel through the physical first, to eventually arrive at the musical destination. In clinics I always compare the trumpeter's body or vessel to a powerful vehicle engine. The embouchure is not the center of energy for the trumpeter but it is rather in the solar plexus, where the true engine resides, hence the term, "a strong lip" is truly a misinformed conception. The function of the embouchure itself is to create the proper alignment and compression required to hold the mouthpiece in correct position, while our airstream or fuel is channeled through our oral cavity, then projected through our instrument and beyond.

As with a vehicle engine, the center of energy is of course the engine itself, but without the proper alignment of the front end and tires, the vehicle is in effect useless. The trumpeter's engine resides in the solar plexus and its alignment resides in the embouchure. In ascending and descending, the embouchure travels along a track or pivot. This can be proven by observing yourself performing in front of a mirror, ascending from low "C" to high "C" and beyond before returning to the initial note. You will notice a minuscule movement of the musculature, hence the "track" that was mentioned earlier. It is necessary that the corners of the embouchure generate the required compression and serve as a kind of "seat belt" to allow the embouchure to remain in correct alignment and track position to channel the tremendous energy generated by our solar plexus and airstream (fuel).

The embouchure has many idiosyncrasies including teeth and jaw formations, teeth and lip apertures, tongue positions and the use of lubrication to allow our muscular movement to, in effect, "glide" rather than "slide" along our track or pivot. The embouchure is in effect a "fuel injector", when functioning properly can produce an enormously effect result, but when not can cause one to consider a second career--perhaps as a MORTICIAN!

Our lip tissue itself can be regenerated by the use of aloe vera gel, a miraculous substance I was exposed to many years ago by both Dizzy Gillespie and Bobby Shew. As one of natures greatest healing agents, daily use of this aide can serve to reinvigorate the small circumference that must physically create the musical thoughts we ultimately hope to express. As a trumpeter, we need any friend we can make!

Finally, I wish to express my most sincere gratitude posthumously to two gentleman who had dedicated their entire lives to the study of the trumpeter's embouchure; Dr. Donald Reinhardt and Roy Stevens. Performing on the trumpet is like riding a roller coaster; it can scare you to death , but you can't wait to get back on!

Vaughn Nark

Yamaha trumpet clinician
Summit Records recording artist
USAF Airmen of Note (Ret.)

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