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Embouchure Muscle Activity in Student and Elite Trumpeters

Alan H.D. Watson, Kevin Price
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 35 Number 1: Page 42 (March 2020)

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Abstract: AIMS: Objective information on embouchure muscle use in brass players is currently limited. This pilot study records and analyses embouchure muscle activity in trumpet players to identify typical patterns and to reveal how these can differ between playing tasks. METHODS: Activity in four embouchure muscles was recorded using surface electromyography in 7 conservatoire trumpet students and 3 elite professional trumpeters. Each played a set of simple exercises, tongued and slurred, including single notes of different pitch, upward and downward transitions between notes a fifth apart, arpeggios, and a short musical piece. RESULTS: Muscle activity was initiated 0.4-2.0 s before the beginning of a note. In some players this was at a higher level than needed to sustain the note, while in others it was not. Levels of activity in all muscles generally increased and decreased together during arpeggios, in line with changing pitch. The sound was terminated by an abrupt fall in muscle activity. In many players, transitions between notes a fifth apart required no change in muscle activity, though in others this was marked by a sharp increase or decrease. CONCLUSION: Though levels of muscle activity rose consistently over large pitch ranges, there was considerable variation in the degree to which this occurred over smaller intervals. Even among the 3 professional players, the embouchure muscle activity showed clear individual patterns, suggesting that high levels of performance can be achieved in different ways. Further investigations will be needed to clarify how embouchure activity changes with proficiency.

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