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What about the Farkas embouchure and range?

Posted on July 27, 2004 by 

I hope that we ALL know that Dr. Farkas was a French horn player (and a great one). His work was the first serious attempt to discuss brass embouchures. And as a result of being the first by a man with a PHD it became THE college textbook for brass playing. That was a very logical thing at the time.

However Dr. Farkas didn’t play trumpet and he had to rely on interviews of others. A lot of what he said is good however the Farkas is the most HALF taught embouchure there is. If you got 100 Farkas embouchure players in a room and asked questions like ‘ What is the main function of the mouthcorners in the register above high c? ‘ I would faint or die if 2 could give the answer.

They move in toward the center to shorten the vibrating surface.

The funny thing is it is in the book.

Middle c takes twice as much lip resistance to fight the air as low c does. 2X low c
High c takes twice as much. 4x low c
Double high c takes twice as much. 8X low c
Triple high c takes twice as much. 16X low c

The Farkas tends to be a self limiting embouchure because it requires the facial muscles to provide all of the resistance to the air stream. Not only is this TOO tiring to keep up, there is also a limit to how tight you can make the lips.

Due to these factors most people are stopped at a f or g.
So they start using an embouchure shift.
Some players push the tongue to the top of the mouth, adding resistance before the air hits the lips. This thins out the sound.
Some players add a lip curl to the lower lip. It helps a little.
Some curl in the upper lip. By the time you do this now you are in a Stevens setting.

Think of this example:

1. Take two pieces of paper hold them so that the top piece and the bottom piece touch but do not overlap. Now blow see how the paper (lips) does nothing to resist the air. This is the Farkas embouchure. We are going to make the paper (lips) strong enough to resist the air.

2. Take the same two pieces of paper and let the top overlap the bottom. Now blow . Again they offer no resistance. This is the Super chops / Screamin embouchure. If we put the mouthpiece in front then mouthpiece pressure WILL create resistance.

3. Take the pieces and put them together so that they both curl out away from you. Now blow. Again there is no resistance. This is the Maggio embouchure. We will put the mouthpiece in the way to let mouthpiece pressure create resistance.

4. Take the paper and put them together so that they curl in toward you. Now blow. There IS now built in resistance. It needs no mouthpiece pressure, or years and years of lip ups to build a mass of muscle. The air does the work for you.

Most people do not play in the double to triple c range because they depend on their mouth corners and mouthpiece pressure to create tension. All we want is to resist the air by rolling the lips in (slightly) we create a one way valve. Only in this case we are blowing the air against the valve the wrong way. This causes a great deal of resistance with a very little tension. Therefore a super c is now played with high c tension and a lip curl in. ….

As for the dog whistle sound that is a bad application of an embouchure. That is controlled by the shape of the lip aperture. Apertures fall in 3 types. Flat causing a thin shrill sound. Oval causing the full sound we all seek. And Round causing a dull too dark sound. Aperture is controlled by the mouth corners. If they pull out from normal then it is flat. If they stay put or come in slightly it is oval. And if they draw in to make a fish face it is round. When you draw the corners to make a more rounded or oval aperture then you must use a little more vertical lip compression or the lips separate.

These aperture shapes as well as the size are completely controlled by the muscles forming the embouchure and are independent of tongue level. There was a study involving a floroscope machine done in the 60’s that was published in the Instrumentalist. The arch of the tongue (tongue level) can affect the direction of the airstream and certainly the airspeed but not the shape or size of the lip aperture.

Finally aperture size can be affected in two directions height and length. It is the ability to control the length that most people ignore. There are some remarkable results to be found here by those willing to work on this. Jake said it very simply “think of making a fist with your mouth”. It draws in from all sides.

There are lots of people who play what WE call the Stevens embouchure. It was first written about in 1614. It is outlined in books like:

” Prelude to brass playing ” by Rafael Mendez
” The Psychology of cornet & trumpet playing ” by Clyde Noble PHD
” The embouchure ” by Maurice Porter
” The encyclopedia of the pivot system ” by Dr. Don Reinhardt
” The trumpeters’ handbook ” by Roger Sherman
It is not mentioned by name in these books. However an inward lip curl is not part of the other embouchures and each of these books call for a lip curl in the setup.

It is mentioned by name in these books:

“New approach to trumpet playing ” J.H. Lynch

” The no nonsense trumpet from a – z. ” &
“Trumpet FAQ’s” by me

” Embouchure self-analysis & the Stevens – Costello triple c embouchure technique ” by Dr. Roy Stevens


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