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Fundamentals of Embouchure in Brass Players: Towards a Definition and Clinical Assessment

Kees H. Woldendorp, Hans Boschma, Anne M. Boonstra, Hans J. Arendzen, Michiel F. Reneman
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 31 Number 4: Page 232 (December 2016)

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Abstract: Brass players may experience problems producing an optimal sound (or range of sounds) in their instrument. Assessing and treating dysfunctional embouchure requires knowledge of functional embouchure, but peer-reviewed literature on dysfunctional and functional embouchure is scarce. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to provide a narrative overview of embouchure based on information from different scientific and clinical fields. This should be regarded as a first step in constructing a reliable, valid, and practical multi-item method to assess embouchure for brass players. METHODS: Literature reviews were conducted concerning: 1) the definition of embouchure, 2) physics and acoustics of embouchure, 3) functioning of embouchure-related structures, and 4) instruments to assess embouchure. Also, embouchure experts (clinicians, scientists, and elite wind players) were consulted for information and discussion. RESULTS: A proposal for a new definition of embouchure, an overview of the relevant physics and acoustics, functions of embouchure-related body structures, and the main methods to measure embouchure in brass playing are presented. CONCLUSION: Peerreviewed information about the fundamentals of dysfunctional embouchure is scarce and sometimes contradictory. A new definition for embouchure is proposed: embouchure is the process needed to adjust the amount, pressure, and direction of the air flow (generated by the breath support) as it travels through the mouth cavity and between the lips, by the position and/or movements of the tongue, teeth, jaws, cheeks, and lips, to produce a tone in a wind instrument. An integrative overview is presented which can serve as a transparent foundation for the present understanding of functional and dysfunctional embouchure and for developing an evidence-based multi-item assessment instrument.

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