How do you know if a brass development method "works?"
Most people would say, "you get better." But the problem is, such an idea fails to take into account that some
players simply get better by practicing almost anything. How is it possible to be sure that a particular method is
the difference maker?
Here is a big clue: Look at players who struggle the most. In my experience, players with chronic embouchure
inefficiencies do not get better by general practice. If you can find clear evidence which supports the claim that a
wide variety of players with chronic difficulties - who struggled for years with different methods - have gone down
a specific path and successfully pulled themselves out of the mud, then you have the most compelling proof
available that a particular method is responsible for the difference.
Another clue is to look at players who have stopped improving. Although reluctant to admit it, a lot of
professionals are in this category, stuck on a plateau for years, unable to improve. If a single method causes
improvement to start again, then it must be considered as reasonable proof of the efficacy of the method.
The testimonials on this page are the evidence. Many thanks to everyone who posted these words!
For more testimonials, go to archives. For stories connected to teaching BE, go here)
2007 BE Forum post:
"In high school, I played a variety of brass instruments.
Since French horn was my "concert season" instrument
I decided to study it seriously in college. In my college
admissions audition, I was told, "Nice tone, but you look
like you've been playing trumpet." So they set to work
on transforming my embouchure into a classic French
horn embouchure. Guess what? It was a disaster, I got
frustrated & dropped out of music after my sophomore
year thinking I'd never be a decent horn player. But I
never stopped thinking of myself as a horn player.
After retiring from nursing I indulged myself &
purchased a horn. I practiced hard & soon regained my
previous college playing level which, unfortunately,
included the range & endurance-limiting "classic" French
horn embouchure (whatever that is!).
Out of sheer frustration I decided to search the
internet for solutions. I found a few websites that
parroted the same old stuff I'd heard decades ago.
Then I found Jeff's website. His message resonated with
me. And, most importantly he had the guts to promise
that BE would work for every player, even a French
horn player. I figured, "what have I got to lose?," so I
ordered the book.
To make a short story even shorter, I experienced
almost instant success with BE. Everything quickly fell
into place. My private instructor was so pleased with
my progress, she ordered the book herself & uses parts
of it for herself & with her other horn students. I've only
been a come back player for about 20 months, so of
course, I still have many technical obstacles to
overcome, but there's ONE obstacle I no longer wrestle
with -- a range/endurance limiting inefficient
embouchure. I can play the full 4 octaves w/ pretty
decent tone expected of a French horn player. Thanks
to Jeff Smiley, range & endurance are no longer holding
me back. Whoo hoo!"
NOTE: In adding "other brass" to the testimonial page,
it was only fair to list Valerie first. She has done more
to promote BE in the French horn world than anyone.
Thank you, Valerie!
I've been meaning to report back to you about my
experience with BE, as you seem to like to hear the
anecdotal evidence of what happens when BE kicks in.
I got started with BE just under a year ago, a former
trombone player who took up the French horn about
five years ago. I made progress, especially after the
first two years and an embouchure change. But I knew
there was something missing. Then I came across your
website, got in contact with Valerie, and it's been a
whirlwind romance with the horn ever since. It's
showing signs of being a lasting love affair.
The RI exercises, while feeling a little odd, were easy
enough to implement, and I was able to play incredibly
high notes as predicted. What surprised me was that
within a matter of weeks the Roll In became a
permanent feature of my embouchure, especially the
upper lip, which is extremely rolled in. It actually feels
strange, but I'm not one to argue with success. From
that time on I've been able to have a reliable high C
without strain, effort or pressure. I can slur up to it, or
tongue it as needed. It's entirely automatic.
On the low end, the Roll Out was not an unfamiliar
concept. I had discovered that on my own, before BE,
but tended to dismiss it as "cheating," which I find an
amusing concept now. If it works how can it be
cheating? I spend most of my BE exercise time on the
low end, as it's still the weak area. Unlike trumpet,
where the pedals are not usable notes, on horn there
are many passages written for the pedals.
Using RO, I can play nearly the entire pedal range and
can from time to time get down to the fundamental F.
In daily practice, I don't worry about the extreme low
end, but push to play the notes anyway. If I get them,
I get them. If not I move on.
What is occurring is the RI low end is getting lower, and
the RO high end is getting higher. The true integration
is just beyond the horizon, but it's getting closer.
The payoff has been that I felt like I was finally ready
to rejoin the performing world and joined a small
orchestra that plays mostly movie and pops music. Due
to an odd set of circumstances this fall, I moved from
my usual 2nd horn spot to principal as we started
preparing our Christmas concert which featured John
Williams' score of Home Alone, with those soaring horn
parts, and Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, with all the
odd interval jumps, and both high and low passages. I'm
not claiming that I played everything perfectly. There
were a few chipped notes, but mostly everything
worked. My point is that with all that I had to think
about, the thing I didn't think about was chops.
In my first email I expressed my concern that I might
have some age problems to deal with, but you assured
me that "age is not your issue! :-)" You were absolutely
I still have a long way to go, but the difference
between a year ago and now, is that I have a plan and
a method that is working for me. Valerie has been a joy
and inspiration, and I give you my most heartfelt thanks
for the work you are doing. It's made all the difference
between failure and success in my playing."
"While browsing the internet, looking to see what was
happening over in the English-speaking part of the
French horn world, I stumbled into a post from Valerie
about BE. I wasn't looking for any particular help at the
time. Even high notes didn't scare me, as I could go
pretty high by using more pressure. But Valerie seemed
so enthusiastic about BE that I went to have a look at
your website and read the excerpts there about
mechanics. They made sense to me, so I ordered the
book. I read it from cover to cover and started the
exercises right away.
Now one and a half years later, I am on a stable path of
improvement. The gap between my upper and lower
ranges is filling itself progressively. Yesterday I was able
to do lip slurs on 4 octaves. I can feel a real
combination of RI and RO on each note. Really, for me,
playing high involves a lot of RO, I almost never work on
My endurance is incredible, and my range is approaching
5 octaves. I can now play up to high C with real ease
and go up to high E with a strong volume. high Fs (=
trumpet high C) and Gs are here but still a little weak.
All this with a small mouthpiece without any concession
on accuracy or tone quality. I am now amazed by the
little pressure I need to play
I start to feel comfortable with TOL. Before, it felt
Thanks a lot for your wonderful discoveries. They do
apply to French horn too, without any doubt."
"I received the BE book, with horn amendments, about
two weeks ago and have been in close contact with
Valerie Wells since with lots of "how too" questions
(Valerie has been great by the way). In all my years I
have never seen a (for lack of a better word) "miracle"
product that actually delivers what it says like BE has.
RI is no problem and RO is getting better but the
amazing thing is the results on my regular playing. I can
easily play up to a high C and with surprisingly little
effort can play scales and arpeggios up to F, G, A and
Bb (only once) above that. I am not contorting my face
or straining. Tone and low register have gotten stronger
and more solid too. I am SHOCKED that your system has
not taken the brass teaching/playing world by storm.
All my formal training was - whether they actually said
it or not - with the Farkas method. Heck my Undergrad
was at IU. I have never seen a horn player without
something of a flat chin and tight corners. Trumpet
players are another story. I have seen many with air
pockets and a bunched chin and always wondered how
they could play with that "screwed up" set up. I think
that is funny now.
Thanks again. I am so glad I stumbled across your
system. The internet is a wonderful thing."
Band Director and born again Horn Player
Email to Valerie
"Starting BE has been such a Renaissance for me and
there have been many moments when I have been
thrilled with my playing again. To sit here in my
basement office and be astounded again at my sound
and playing is very touching to me. Several days ago I
was shocked by the additional resonance I can get out
of the horn. I probably never got this many overtones
out of the horn before. When I conquer the A-Fib and
respiratory deal, I will be the strongest I have ever
been on the cornu.
There are two salient things about the BE that I have
not emphasized from my personal experience as a
developmental BE advocate and I consider it critical to
my commentary about the BE System:
1. The BE system will stabilize one's playing to the
extent that chops feel ready to go everyday at the
point of warmup. Even with a minimal warmup most
everything jumps into place pretty fast.............maybe
too fast. The danger is to extend the warmup long
enough to get the muscles operating. For me this is the
most difficult time of my horn playing. I now can pick up
the horn and just zip around with great abandon. But
then it comes back to haunt me because I waste my
embouchure very quickly. If I take the time to go slow,
then I have excellent application all over the range and
technique.........even with only 60 or 70% of the air
that most players have. Quite an endorsement for the
BE system and the highest I can give. I used to have
dead chops each day and then had to bring all this to
life each time I played. The good days far out number
the bad days. Actually if I take time to warmup and
don't fry my chops there are no bad days.
2. If one concentrates on the system, the player will
experience an openness to their playing that they may
have never experienced before. When you consider that
I am a wreck from a health standpoint, have way less
air supply, a cardio deal nipping at my heels, I am truly
blessed to have the BE to anchor my playing again. So
it is a platform that will profoundly impact all aspects of
playing. I am continually shocked at how well this BE
deal works. There have been (and continue to be) some
meltdown periods but this was due to NOT WARMING
UP, my continual nemesis. Even when I over practice or
do a program that burns me to the ground chop wise, I
pick up the horn the next day and I feel like I am
already warmed up and ready to go. But the warm up,
however concise, is critical to the BE working
effectively. You and Jeff are onto one of the greatest
breakthroughs in brass instrument pedagogy. It is such
a joy to know about this and I am so sad that I put off
getting into the program.
I hope this is something that will help the novitiates of
the program. And the heck of it is that I am only
scratching the surface on the paradigm shift with BE.
When I get it all up and running I will have the elements
of technique and endurance that went away over the
years due to health and bad habits. To be able to play
the Schumann Adagio and Allegro at the end of a chop
killer little program is something I have never been able
to do before, and I mean NEVER....N E V E R.
Bless you for staying on me Valerie. You knew but I did
Former Principal Horn in Colorado Springs Symphony
"Jeff, your stroke of genius with BE is a must for anyone
serious about exploring and developing their
musicianship as a brass player. At age 57 and after 14
months of doing the RI/RO exercises and incorporating
the Zip idea into the flexies that I do daily, my
understanding and experience of playing a brass
instrument has been thoroughly revolutionized and
transformed. It is now much easier and far less taxing.
I've added an octave onto my range which now extends
over five octaves. My embouchure functionality has sky
rocketed. BE allows me to now experience an ease and
reliability when playing that has taken a lot of stress
OUT of my professional life and made it far more
rewarding and enjoyable. I'm deeply grateful to you for
Principal Horn of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne,
Germany (since September 1978)
"I believe your teaching of the lip rolling concept is
As a ‘flat chin’ player, I’m able to use the rolling idea to
solidify my range and consistency. I don't have higher
range. I had - and
still have - what I need for my work, but it sounds
better, I'm more consistent with it, and I am FAR better
at teaching others how to minimize their struggle than I
ever was before.
I modified your basic 3 and advanced 1-10 exercises for
horn ranges, and I do 3-5 of them daily (usually basic 2
or 3, followed by advanced 1, 2, 3 and 5). I'll do more
when I feel a concept has slipped – less on time
constraint days or when I need to get right to
repertoire. They also make great pre-concert warm ups
– reminding me of the crucial ‘how’ before I then largely
forget all the ‘hows’ and focus on ‘why’. As I’m sure you
know – why works a lot better when how is a settled
You may be encouraged to know that I’ve shared the
BE principles with 2 budding professional hornists on the
audition trail. Both have become quite excited about
how quickly their playing has both improved, and gained
Congratulations on your work. I believe that within ten
years (less if there is any justice and fairness out
there…), everyone will be teaching your concept of lip
rolling – if not the entire spectrum of your method."
co-principal Horn, Toledo Symphony
The BE method has helped me revive my chops from the
onset of focal dystonia in 2006. Due to a rigorous
teaching schedule, graduate school at the time, and
Las Vegas show-playing schedule, my chops were in
pain and I was losing my ability to play. (To give an
example how bad my chops were, I could not play or
sustain a high C without pain.)
After a desperate search of remedies, including many
trumpet lessons with high profile teachers around the
United States (with little results), I gravitated to BE. I
began noticing improvement in a short time. In my
opinion, Jeff Smiley has a concise, easy to follow
approach to teaching (one might even say holistic).
Moreover, the exercises are clearly explained and he
offers online help via Skype and email with questions
For me, one exercise in particular, Roll Out #4, has
triggered the most benefit. It has helped me regain my
chops and heal/change my embouchure (still evolving)
into a more efficient setting.
It has been 5 years with BE and my chops are fully
recovered and stronger than ever. I can actually play
notes in the upper register that I've never even been
able to hit before. I require less warm-up time and use
certain exercises for endurance and range builders and
others as a daily maintenance routine.
One other thought – I feel it important to mention that
there is no "quick fix" or overnight solution. One must
ask why they have decided to approach the BE method
and proceed from there. For me, I had a "broken
embouchure" (BE book page 144) and based on my
experience, the exercises revived my chops in a way
that I would have never thought possible.
Although I have never personally met Jeff, he has
always taken the time to answer my questions an offer
encouragement and positive reinforcement! The book is
loaded with insightful logical information based on real
world experience. I would recommend it for all brass
players. Thank you Jeff for writing this book!
Las Vegas, NV
I have been meaning to write to you for about 3.5
years. I have been playing trumpet for 21 years and
teaching for 15 years and to say that your book
changed not only my trumpet playing but my life would
be no understatement. I am the most unnatural trumpet
player and this was exceedingly compounded by a
teacher whom I had for 8 years who taught me a
technique he believed in and made me believe in also
that was (in hindsight) never ever going to work. I am a
compulsive practicer and have probably only missed 10
days of practice in the last 9 years. And my technique
was so flawed that I would end up cutting my lip with
excessive mouthpiece pressure EVERY DAY for years.
Five years ago, two Melbourne-based trumpet players
put me onto your book (Nik Wilkins on your teacher
page was one of them). I was intrigued even though
excursions to several teachers and reading several
books had filled me with a defeatist attitude that I
would never solve my playing problems.
Once I received the book I read almost the whole book
in one night. The next morning I woke up, grabbed my
horn, rolled in blew a hiss or squeak, put the horn on my
face and played a G above high C!! I was rapt and
I teach 30-35 trumpet students a week and conduct 7
school bands (including 4 stage bands) .. after a few
months of personal success with your method I started
trying certain aspects like roll in and tongue on lips with
my students and the results were unbelievable!! I now
teach your method solely and if you want to put my
details on your teachers page I would be honoured.
Anyway the main reason for this email was simply to
say an enormous thank you Jeff. I used to wake up
every morning with nerves wondering if my playing
(which I put so much stock in) would work that day. To
say I had a constant underlying fear would be
absolutely true and your book has actually eliminated
that completely .. thanks bud.
Keep up the great work. Many, many thanks,
Just wanted to update you on my progress as I've been
doing BE for about a year now. After moving up my
mouthpiece position to get it out of the red, I saw an
immediate improvement in my endurance. The
improvements continued as I continued doing the
exercises over the past year. I play with alot less
pressure now (although I wouldn't say "no pressure")
and now I'm as comfortable playing double high Cs and
above at the end of a gig as I am at the beginning. It's
almost like magic how BE has cured my issues with
endurance and consistency. In the past I would
alternate good and bad days and often have to rest
several days after beating up my chops and now I can
play long gigs and still play great the following day!
I only wish I had discovered BE sooner. It's a shame
that BE isn't taught to more trumpet students as there
would be alot less people quitting due to frustration or
switching instruments thinking that they were destined
to play the baritone! haha. thank you again for
"As a comeback trumpet player, I acquired the BE book
from you back in April of 2008. What a journey this past
year has been. The Balanced Embouchure philosophy
has made a huge difference in just about every aspect
of my playing.
At the time I started BE exercises I also committed to
an embouchure change, since my then open
embouchure combined with excessive mouthpiece
pressure hindered further improvement and only fleeting
satisfaction. Improvements in range and endurance
came almost immediately, but I had to start the roll in
over several times as I kept trying to make it sound
better instead of giving in to the cruder sound of an
extremely rolled in lip position based on the Lip Clamp
So I kept experimenting, reading threads on TH and
trying to sound like the CD. While some days were
discouraging, I could look back at the progress I'd made
and carry on. I'm still not where I want to be, but my
playing has improved in critical ways and is more
enjoyable than ever.
Many thanks for this wonderful, compelling book. The
indirect embouchure transformation that takes place
over time is truly amazing. The fact that this balancing
process continues as long as the exercises are
continued keeps me eagerly practicing.
Well anyway.....count me as another satisfied customer
and thanks again for sharing your insight with this once
frustrated trumpet player."
I've been working with BE for a while now. I'm 62 years
old and had never sustained a quality triple before in my
life. The first time it happened, I just picked my jaw off
the floor in astonishment.
My chops have never responded this way in the 50
years that I've been playing. It's an incredible
experience to RO on a double pedal C and then to drag
it up 1 slot at a time to a double G and then keep
climbing to a triple G and feeling no fatigue. Then going
down each harmonic and having reserve to go to
Vassily Brandt Etudes and feeling strong after
completing #'s 1 and 4.
In the old days, I would usually have to hang it up after
my warm up, if I didn't pace myself carefully. Now
(thanks to you) I can go through a full 2 hour schedule
of heavy etude work, some Aebersold CDs, some
Berklee chord study work and end with your material,
and still have chops for my piccolo work.
Your method WORKS!!!!! I Am SO exited. I just wanted
to drop you this note to let you know that you have
another extremely satisfied customer. Thanks, man!"
"Maybe you remember me. I bought your book years
ago (via Ko de Rooij) and first I didn't really have any
success with it so I quit using it. Last year I took it out
again and it suddenly started to work - the major
difference was that I let the lower lip go out of the
So now I am among those, that can not live without
doing the exercises from your book. Somehow, they
eventually fixed everything. I spent more than 20 years
in struggling for endurance, range, tone...and I can't
explain to myself why I had so many problems, since it
is evident, that is so easy to fix them (it actually took
me two weeks to get used to it).
I had more than 20 years of embouchure problems and
now they have suddenly all gone, thanks to your book."
I practice your method for three years now and I think
it's time to thank you for what you've given to the
I'm now 50 years old, a nonprofessional trumpet player
(amateur). I had a so called "classical education" as a
young boy and teenager. I was taught for 7 years by
the solo trumpet player of a symphony orchestra
connected to a German radio broadcasting company.
From the beginning I was musical, and had a big, full
and nice sound. Later I was able (mostly) to play up to
a high C.
Nevertheless I constantly struggled and fought with
that beast called a trumpet (and my 1 1/4C Bach
mouthpiece). I think that one of my greatest wishes -
to learn playing jazz and improvisation - failed because I
lacked normal stamina. Whenever I finished my daily
routines (warm ups, technical studies (Arban),
tonguing, and so on) I was flattened and not able to
play anything else.
Through my whole life I was conducting intensive
conversations with professionals and amateurs about
embouchure, breathing, mouthpieces and similar
themes. When I read your book I didn't know whether
to laugh or to cry, especially about the chapter with
the teacher characteristics. I got to know them all -
breathing fetishists, mouthpiece fetishists, no-pressure
fetishists, nice-sound fetishists, tongue - tooth - jaw-
fetishists, psychologists and physicians. You are
Most horrible are the guys who know for themselves
how it works, where to put the tongue, how to form the
lips, cheeks and so on, but cannot tell me what I have
to do to get there; what and how I should practice.
They can't transfer their knowledge. But you know how
it works, and you share this knowledge with the world.
In the past three years of working halfway steadily with
your book, I've made gigantic progress. I now play a
high G for the first time in my life, I still can't believe it.
And there is another case in which I needed help: after
a holiday. Before I practiced with your method, there
was a bad rule for me: as many days as I had holidays,
I had to practice extremely hard to reach the
pre-holiday condition again. I had a frustration before
and during holidays and feared the anticipated torment.
Today, after a three weeks holiday I'm back on my top
after only 4-5 days!
Your book is more than a trumpet study book! Thank
you very much for all that very helpful material. The
Trumpet no longer is my beloved enemy, it is my true
friend thanks to your help.
Perhaps I'll still learn how to improvise ;-)"
2007 BE Forum post:
"I was in a transitioning embouchure when I went to
college and ended up getting completely lost.
Personally, I've never met anyone else who's
embouchure got as messed up as mine. I ended up in
and out of school three or four times when I just
couldn't figure out how to play anymore. I would work
on things, come up with a new way to play, try it at
school, discover that it wasn't adequate, quit, etc. etc.
I figure I hold some sort of record for most college
hours without a degree.
Even though there were tons of phenomenal trumpet
players and teachers, none had a clue how to fix my
problems. Most tried their hardest to deny that I
needed to change my embouchure. In their world
everything can be fixed by "listening", and "relaxed
breathing", and mouthpiece playing. There were a few
that realized that I did need to change my embouchure,
but they didn't have a clue how to actually help. I
literally spent about 11 years in trumpet playing limbo.
Finally I got on the internet and stumbled across Jeff's
web page. I was intrigued because he mentioned his
earlier frustrations with players like me, and that he no
longer had the same problems with his new system. At
this point in my playing I figured I'd give it a try. I had
long ago abandoned my hopes to be a pro player and
pretty much figured that I didn't care if it didn't work -
it certainly couldn't make me any worse of a player.
I took one lesson with Jeff and bought the BE book. I
worked on it for a year and half and experienced a lot
of improvement , but I knew that I could benefit from
another lesson. When I went back and took several
more lessons and Jeff showed me some things that I
was doing incorrectly giving me some more pointers. It's
been half a year since I've seen him but I've made some
I'm still on the journey but the fog and mist has cleared
away so I can see the path much clearer. When I get a
little warm-up, I can play the trumpet relatively easily.
My range and endurance continually improve. I was
most surprised by the fact that my improv is tons
better. You see, now I don't have to think about the
mechanics of playing, so I can hear my place in the
form and concentrate on my lines. If my schedule
allowed it I could go back and finish my Jazz Studies
degree, but that's not in the cards right now.
Anyway, I figured that I would be the ultimate test
case for the system, since nothing else and nobody else
could figure out how to get me to play. BE has worked
and is continuing to work for me. I finally enjoy playing
the trumpet again."
I just wanted to take a few moments to express my
most sincere gratitude for your book and for your
Balanced Embouchure system. Your method has
changed my life as a trumpet player and changed my
life, period. As a young player, I was generally
successful, making the Texas All-State Band twice in
high school and being the featured soloist in my high
school marching band. I had the range and endurance
typical of a good young player with an inefficient
embouchure. I practiced hard and tried to play the high
notes in big band and marching band but was always
using lots of pressure and could never find any real
consistency no matter what I did or tried. My range
topped out at around D or E above high C. I never
sniffed anything above a G even on the best days and
even then, I would pay for playing up there for the next
few days following as the bruises healed. (Once I really
hurt myself and took months to recover.)
I continued this way until around the age of 26. At that
age something shifted in me and I decided I wanted to
go back to school to study music. I had seen enough
players out there that seemed to play so much more
easily than I could. I wasn't willing to accept the idea
that some people are just physically gifted and built to
play that way and the rest of us are stuck out in the
cold. I began to search for a solution. I checked out
every method and philosophy I could find, from the
more mainstream like Caruso and Claude Gordon, to the
more controversial and bizarre, like the Jerome Callet
and Stevens methods.
When I came across your Balanced Embouchure method
and read through the basics on your website, I knew
immediately that I had found something different and
substantial. Although I did find some marginal help from
the other methods, for me, BE cut straight to the point.
Its clear, simple exercises helped me to discover the
efficient embouchure that had been eluding me for the
first 12 years of my trumpet playing career.
At this point, I have been doing the Balanced
Embouchure exercises for 3 ½ years and I am more
convinced than ever that this method far outshines
every other method in providing a trumpet player with
the tools he needs above all else: an efficient
embouchure that allows him to make music the way he
chooses to. Now, I play things on the trumpet every
day that I honestly would have never dreamt to be
possible just a few years ago. My main gig is playing in
a salsa band where I play lines and solos up to LOUD
F#'s and G's all night long. Practice room range is up to
triple C on a good day. But BE is not just about high
notes. My tone is so much richer. I play more in tune
with less effort. I miss fewer notes. I have far greater
flexibility and connecting registers is so much easier.
Warm up is no longer a necessity. I am not mouthpiece
dependant anymore, although I do love the paint
peeling qualities of my 6a4a in the right situation. (a
piece I could have barely made a sound on with my old
embouchure.) Endurance is almost a non-issue at this
point and I often feel better at the end of a 4-hour gig
than at the beginning. Although I love to practice more
than ever, I have completely lost my dependency on
daily practicing to "keep my chops up." I recently took
almost two weeks off during a trip to China and to even
my own surprise, felt almost no ill effects, jumping right
back into a demanding gig schedule without skipping a
I just finished up my masters degree in Jazz Studies at
SUNY Purchase where I studied with Jon Faddis, the
man with the most efficient and powerful embouchure I
have ever seen. Studying with him as I was finding my
own efficient setting through BE, was an incredibly
enlightening experience. He had never heard of the
Balanced Embouchure, but I discovered that he
definitely incorporates many basic BE principals into his
playing. He plays rolled in, with the corners pushing
towards the center of the mouthpiece as he ascends.
When I asked him how he articulates in the upper
register, he played a few notes up there to see for
himself and then told me he tongues through the gap in
his teeth, directly off the top lip!
Jeff, thank you so much for putting this book out into
the world. I know your methods have been and will
continue to be controversial and met with resistance
from the "mainstream" trumpet establishment (whatever
that really means…), but your results speak for
themselves. Like I said earlier, your book and method
have changed my trumpet playing and changed my life.
I still have a long way to go to really be where I want
to be musically, but not having to worry about my
"chops" is like playing a whole different ballgame."
I've been doing BE for five years now, and it has
completely changed the way I play, the way I teach
and my whole perception of how to play the trumpet.
When I started, I had a forced embouchure, ruined by
playing lots of heavy jump 'n jive gigs for five years.
Even before that my embouchure had never been easy
or great. When I was a thirteen, I could play Haydn, at
fifteen I finished the Charlier book. But somewhere
along the line I started to go the wrong way and it got
worse. There was a time where I couldn't play a C in
the staff properly anymore, and I was in my fourth year
of conservatory at that time!
Anyway, five years ago I had to change something in
the way I played, because I was at a dead end and had
no clue how to improve. I was stuck at D or E above
high C on good days. On bad days I couldn't even play
high C properly.
From the moment I started doing your exercises, I felt
improvement. I emailed you frequently and was
surprised by your very generous way of answering
every little question I had. I felt that here was a
teacher who stood by his method, and to be honest,
that was one of the reasons I kept doing those weird
It worked at a lot of levels. The first half year I noticed
much better endurance and my range finally got past
the E barrier and I was able to play up to high G. Later
on, I had all kinds of little and bigger surprises. Playing
got more supple, my tone opened up, I could play a
much smaller mouthpiece with a bigger tone than I had
before. All in all, playing became much more efficient,
and a pleasure again.
Also I got a much better insight in what makes the
trumpet work. Your method 'allowed me' so to speak, to
do all kinds of things that are 'forbidden'. Blow my
cheeks, tongue on my lips, experiment with different
horn angles, play smaller mouthpieces etc. It opened up
a whole world of new possibilities.
This also made me a better teacher. I know what works
and what doesn't. I never considered myself a bad
teacher, but for some problems I just didn't have a
solution. Now I feel I can help almost anybody.
So, in short, I improved beyond my wildest dreams in all
aspects of playing and teaching the trumpet. I was
playing the trumpet for almost thirty years when I
started BE, and I thought I was stuck at that level for
the rest of my life. But to my big surprise, I don't have
to warm up endlessly anymore, I don't have to worry
about my chops after one or two days off the horn, or
even after a three week holiday, my range has
increased up to double C (OK, on a good day), bad days
are my former best days, I can help people much better
and I just understand what's happened and happening.
Even if I take a little detour with an experiment or two,
I always can go back where I started because I now
very well how I got there in the first place. BE has
made me wreckproof."
Recording Artist and Composer
Just a few words to tell you how much BE has done for
my playing since I got it from Bruce Lee two years ago.
As a student from France in the 80's, I studied trumpet
with Claude Gordon and arranging with Dick Grove in LA.
Since my return to France, I've been playing
professionally for many greats (Michel Legrand, Q Jones
and so on...)
After years of fear and struggle with my playing, I
discovered your book and this one has changed my
playing and my life. Now, I can enter long writing
periods without fearing of not being ready for the next
gig because I didn't practice. After 30 years of playing,
I see my playing improving in range, tone and above all:
I am a member of the French National Jazz Orchestra,
and I would like to send you our latest record since you
are among the people I thank in the liner notes.
Unfortunately, my English is too limited to express my
gratitude to you, but I sincerely hope that you will
appreciate the CD I'm sending because it represents
some significant improvements in my trumpet playing
since I've read and practiced from your book.
Can you please send an address where I could send it?
PS: I'm a good friend of Wayne Bergeron and I know he
appreciates your contribution to trumpet teaching very
I'm writing to tell you that I think your book is great. I
read it a week ago and started doing the exercises, and
I'm just amazed at the difference it's making. I'm a
fourth-year trumpet performance major at Virginia
Commonwealth University in Richmond, studying with
Rex Richardson. If you know Wiff Rudd of Baylor in
Waco, then you know that the two of them are in a
pretty rockin' brass quintet/sextet called Rhythm &
When I say that I think your book is great, I mean the
whole book, and not just the embouchure and high note
stuff. I particularly enjoy your thoughts on health and
Anyway, your book has helped me to get out of a
slump. I've been having chop issues for the past year or
so, and have seen a purported "chops specialist" in DC
a few times, as have some peers of mine, and nothing
really came of that but misery. I'm not trying to
bad-mouth him, but he has sort of a dogmatic approach
that usually involves a complete restructuring of one's
embouchure, which my buddy Matt started two years
ago and hasn't truly recovered since. I kind of started
with this guy's method last year, but bailed because I
had to play shows at a theme park over summer and
wasn't cutting it sounding like a seventh grader (though
with the way some of yours sound...).
I never really pulled it all together after that, and have
had cycles of really awesome playing and then would go
through a slump and not be able to play anything all
that well. The worst cycle was the most recent, which
actually made me clinically depressed, and I was giving
serious consideration to giving up the trumpet
altogether, even here, but one semester from my
diploma, after all that work. I was afraid I'd never be
able to put on the last recital I need to graduate
because I wouldn't be able to last through it, especially
given that my previous recital was a disaster.
Before I was pointed to your book, I was playing around
with rolling out my bottom lip, and it was doing
wonders, and then I read your book and started doing
the Roll-Outs and it's just amazing to me that I can
sound that good. Don't get me wrong, I'm no Håkan
Hardenberger, but consistency of sound and playing in
the center of the pitch have been the biggest focuses
of my practice for the last four years or so and now
they're virtually a non-issue! Furthermore, things that
were giving me less trouble but were still a big part of
my practice, like clarity of articulation and flexibility,
and even playing softly, are clearing right up the more I
work. I've even stopped having the "mouthpiece mold"
that comes from pressing too hard and usually cripples
me after about an hour for at least two or three more.
I should probably wrap up, because I have to play a
jury in about a half hour. Keep up the good work. If
you're going to be at the ITG conference this May, we
should get a pitcher and chat, I think.
Have a good one,"