Hi! Jeff Smiley here, bringing you up to date.
In the mid-1990's, I awoke one morning with a startling thought -
a completely new approach to brass development appeared to
me, right down to the title, The Balanced Embouchure.
I wondered aloud, "Is this the answer?"
Until the BE principles arrived that day, my decades-long
teaching experience - with trumpet - was clouded by a secret
frustration: I could help most players, but a group of kids would
stubbornly refuse to improve. I was starting to wonder if these
students were beyond my help.
NOTE: The ego loves to rationalize. Over time, it becomes easier to look
away from a problem, and accept it as a "normal deviation," rather than
admit any personal responsibility for finding a solution.
But, I was also skeptical of the revelation. Past programming
filled me with doubts. The new BE approach seemed...strange,
very different from what I had been led to believe was "truth." I
certainly didn't want to create more difficulty for anyone.
Learning to play a brass instrument is difficult enough.
And so, timidly at first, I began to teach the principles in trumpet
The results astounded me.
In a few short weeks, ALL of the struggling players started to
It snowballed from there. Over the next several years, I
systematically introduced the principles to all of my students, in
the course of more than 3000 lessons. Magical transformations
became a daily experience. Beyond all doubt, this was the real
Armed with overwhelming proof, I began writing down my
experiences. Nine months later, in 2001, I self-published the BE
book, put up a website, and went public.
Most of it was positive. Obviously, it took a while to get the word
out - an ongoing process - and even longer for players to
actually learn the exercises and report back their results.
But predictably, there was also fear. If you understand the BE
approach, you know that it has to ruffle some feathers. Part of
understanding why BE works is to analyze why other
approaches either fail or only work in part. A few educators
were outraged by some of my conclusions, an outcome that I
regret. However, I continue to believe that you must understand
the basic problem in order to grasp the logic of the BE solution.
So, you are probably wondering, what is the basic problem?
In the educational community, there is a reluctance to deal with
the mechanics of embouchure - which of course, is the focus of
BE - in any way other than what has been considered "tried and
In general, the subject of embouchure - especially regarding any
kind of lip movement - is swept under the carpet in music
education. There exists an unspoken fear, a concern that stirring
the embouchure pot inevitably leads to greater confusion.
Truisms such as "overanalysis equals paralysis," both justify and
reinforce that idea.
Substituted in place of embouchure study is a hodgepodge of
vague or inflexible techniques, loosely organized into a
mainstream pedagogy by well-intended players and educators,
which systematically cause a high percentage of hopeful
students to mistakenly focus on effect rather than cause. Focus
on the perfect breath. Focus on the perfect sound. Focus on
less pressure. Focus on soft playing. Focus on arching the
tongue. In other words, analyze anything else, but stay away
from the lips! From a BE perspective, this is backwards and
unnatural, and leads to an epidemic of students with weak
The consequences cannot be underestimated. In the early
stages of music education, hundreds of thousands of students
suffer unnecessarily, and either quit in frustration, or are
switched to a different instrument. This attrition is considered
"normal," a kind of negative "bell curve" where most players
simply give up hope in ever mastering the range, flexibility,
endurance and tone necessary to play at a satisfying amateur
level, much less that of a professional.
For many readers, these are bold statements. I agree. And, if
changing the focus to embouchure and lips had little success -
and instead created more confusion, as many believe it does -
then my words here would be empty.
You be the judge. I ask that you read through this website, and
weigh the evidence for yourself.
Please be clear. I do not claim that BE is the only way to brass
playing success. Every method works for a certain percentage
of players. And indeed, there are even some players who need
very little help with mechanics, as they are blessed with a
particular physical structure that promotes an ease of playing.
For them, ANY method will work.
For everyone else, there is BE. Three things make it different.
First, from an educational point of view, BE is very easy to
understand, and can even be taught in the classroom by
teachers who don't play brass instruments. Second, is the
breadth of success. In my experience, BE is the most effective
approach to brass development over a wide student population.
Third is the transformational power. Read through the
testimonials to see how players who were stuck on a plateau for
years, suddenly began making progress.
It is my hope that you too will eventually apply the principles
outlined on this website, and discover how to achieve the real
goal of every brass player - a balanced embouchure.
NOTE: Life keeps me busy, and I can go
for months without posting anything new
on this site. As a result, people
sometimes contact me, wondering if the
book is still being sold. Rest assured,
book sales and site activity are not
connected. The BE book has been on
the market 12 years, and it continues to
grow in popularity. If you are reading this,
the book is available.
8/31/12 - Added story to Tales From the
Front, and added Alexander Shuhan to
teacher page. Welcome, Alex!
1/2/12 - Updated copyright and added new
testimonials and added Daimon Brunton to
the teacher page. Welcome, Daimon!
1/24/11 - Added new testimonials, new
question to the Q&A page, and added
Steve Park to the teacher page. Welcome,
6/21/10 - Added Zach Enos in Tennessee
to the Teacher page. Welcome aboard,
12/21/09 - Added video page link to a
Yahoo video of John Graas, a renowned
French Horn player, who was comfortable
in either an orchestra, a jazz club, or the
studio. Thanks Valerie!
11/14/09 - Added article to Resources
page, "I Am Not A Guru," which finished
the initial set of articles I had planned for
the new site.
11/02/09 - Added video page link to a
YouTube of Philip McCann. a legend in the
British Brass Band world. Thanks, Bert!
11/01/09 - Major update of the website.
Changes include a more useful user
interface, better organization, new
developments regarding the application of
BE to other brass instruments (especially
French Horn), a listing of BE-oriented
teachers, mp3 and video files, new
articles, and a special health section which
offers a dramatic solution for chronic
conditions which challenge brass players.
The Balanced Embouchure, trumpet, trumpet playing, trumpet lessons, trumpet instruction, trumpet
embouchure, trumpet chops, trumpet range development, trumpet high notes, trumpet screaming, double
high C, triple high C, super C, super chops, Jerome Callet, Louis Maggio, Claude Gordon, Earl Irons,
Doc Severinsen, Maynard Ferguson, Armando Ghitalla, Carmine Caruso, trumpet pedagogy