Swift, Arthur : Guide to Embouchure Recovery

Dr. Swift‘s Guide to Embouchure Recovery

I contacted Dr. Swift in the late 1990’s asking for help with my embouchure.  Probably due to overworking the muscles, I was experiencing difficulty.  Following was his advice:

First, try to take one day off completely. Don’t even get the horn out of the case, except to clean it if it needs it.

Then, the next day –  after taking a few deep breaths, then buzzing about a 1/2 dozen low tones (about 2 beats each) with lips only (no mouthpiece) with some gentle “horse flaps” between each buzz – do the following exercise:

Play a second space A (to me the A feels better than the 2nd-line G, and I like holding on to the horn with 2 valves down), volume about mf (vary your volume level slightly up and/or down as you proceed, if that begins to feel better), hold only about 2 beats (this is not a long-tone exercise), rest about 4 beats, repeat for 10-20 minutes, more or less. Several objectives should be kept in mind throughout the exercise: (1) to make the quality of every A better than the last, (2) to obtain the most relaxed feeling possible, (3) to let the breath do ALL the work, (4) to reach BEYOND perfection with the attack and release as well as the tone quality.

Remember that #1, the quality of the sound, is the real key, and that the other 3 are the paths to the primary goal. Take this exercise as an opportunity to achieve a better sound than any you have ever produced, not only should you rediscover the “taste” of a good sound but improve upon it! Play NOTHING but the A. Lengthen your rest times as needed. Do it in several 2-5 minute segments, if that feels better. If, at any point, you feel things are NOT getting better, or worse, if things are going downhill, STOP IMMEDIATELY! Either try again a few hours later, or wait another day.

When you feel really good about what you’ve accomplished with the above exercise, rest, then go on to your usual warm up exercises. If you remember to apply what you’ve learned (actually RELEARNED) in this process, you’re cured!