The single most important factor in beginning to play the Euphonium (hereafter referred to as Euph) without frustration is to get a well-formed embouchure in place. The embouchure, or placement and useage of the lips, is where most of the action in playing takes place. Without a properly formed embouchure, all else fails. Find a mirror so that you can see exactly what your face looks like in place on the mouthpiece. This will help you to see problems with your embouchure.
The first step in forming the embouchure is to mouth the letter M, with the lips sealed and the jaw/teeth slightly opened and separated. Next, go through the motion that you would you would use in spitting a very small seed off the very tip of your tongue. Now hold the lips in that position. The result should looks somewhat like this:
TODO: Picture example of proper embouchure.
Now, with that placement of the lips, use the the air in your lungs (more on this in a minute) to create a buzzing noise through your lips. This a part that more or less can not be put into words, so you should go through a process of experimentation until you can create a constant pitch with only you lips. Next, try to make a "siren" sound using only your lips.
Todo: Audio sample sans mouthpiece
The obvious next step would be to add the mouthpiece to the equation. Pick up your mouthpiece of choice using your non-dominant hand (the hand you do not write with) and place it over the center of your lips, like so:
TODO: Picture example of proper mouthpiece placement.
Personal opinions abound about the proper placement of the mouthpiece in relation to your lips. Some say that the mouthpiece should be 1/3 on the top and 2/3 on the bottom, while others prefer the mouthpiece to be completely centered on the lips. Once again, I say that this comes down to personal preference and what works best for you. Each person's mouth and teeth are constructed in differing ways, so the placement of the mouthpiece will differ from person to person. The best way to find what is best for you is to experiment with the placement until you find a place on your lips that both feels comfortable and creates the best sound.
Now, with the mouthpiece to your your lips, form your embouchure in the same way as before and create the same buzzing sound. The technique for creating sound with and without mouthpiece is slightly different, so you will need to experiment in order to find the ideal way to create a good sound.
Todo: Audio sample with mouthpiece
Creating sound with the mouthpiece to your lips is a different experience than with lips alone. In order to get a good sound out of your mouthpiece, you should experiment within the constrains listed above in order to find what works for you.
- Keep the corners (outsides) of your lips firm. The only part of the lips which you use are contained within the rim of the mouthpiece.
- Use the muscles of your lower body to move the air. Keep your throat out of the way, so that the air can move freely.
- Do what feels right for you, as long as it follows the previous constraints.
- Think open. Keep your oral cavity as open as possible. Imagine you are fogging a mirror, then form the embouchure with that same oral space.
As important as the correct embouchure in creating a good sound in your first playing sessions is the correct breath support. Your air support and embouchure work in tandem and as a team to create tone.
Before you even begin to play on the instrument, you should practice taking full, deep breaths. When you breathe in, think about filling up your entire abdomen with air, not just your lungs. Feel your chest, stomach, and lower back expand as you breathe in. When you reach your capacity, breathe out slowly, with your lips shaped as though you are blowing a candle. Keys to good breath:
- Normal, shallow breaths won't cut it for a wind instrument. They take a lot of air.
- Think of filling your entire abdomen with air. Imagine your lungs filling from top to bottom, with the bottom being at your pelvis.
- Keep the throat out of the way.
The purpose of these exercises is to get the embouchure working on the mouthpiece even before you connect it to the horn. Make sure that you use correct breath support. I would recommend using a piano (or other pitch source) to make sure you have the correct pitch.
- Match the each pitch with your pitch source for as long as your breath will support.
- Chromatically from Low C up to Middle C
- Glissando from C (below middle C) up to F, slowly. Next, quickly.
- From C to C, slowly and quicly.
As you do these exercise, make sure that you keep the motion of air in and out as constant and consistent as possible. Do each of these several times in a row before moving on to another.
- Breathe in for 8 counts, breathe out for 8 counts
- In for 4 counts, out for 8 counts
- In for 2 counts, out for 8 counts
- In for 1 count, out for 8 counts
- In for 8 counts, out for 4 counts
- In for 8 counts, out for 2 counts
- In for 8 counts, out for 1 count
- In for 8, out for 16
- In for 8, out for 12
- In for 4, out for 16
- In for 4, out for 12
- In for 2, out for 16
- In for 2, out for 12
- In for 1, out for 16
- In for 1, out for 12
The purpose and goal of these exercises is to create and even and consistent airflow. The intake and output should be of consistent speed throughout the whole count. |