Issue: Jul-Sept 2006
Bandworld Magazine Page


20 Years Ago in Bandworld
Tuba Embou-Sure (continued)
by Stuart Turner


If possible have an embouchure visualizer or mouth-piece ring available to aid in forming the embouchure. This will make it easy for you to see what is taking place inside the mouthpiece area. Ask the student to place the mouthpiece ring on his lips and say, "OH" and then gradually change to an "OO" sound. This will form the lips into the correct position.

Now have the student grasp a small tube or pen (about 1/8" in diameter) in the center of the lips. This will cause the lips to tighten toward a central point and will also bring the corners of the mouth to a firm set.
Remember: "OH-OO-SQUEEZE THE TUBE WITH THE LIPS." Once you have gone through this procedure carefully, the student is ready to make the first sound on the tuba.


Ask the student to take a deep breath, completely filling the lungs with air. This sounds awfully basic in nature, but it is amazing to me how many students prepare to play tuba by taking a very quick, shallow breath. . .air can not be blown out which has not first been taken in.

So, have the student gulp air with the same feeling in the throat as when yawning. This opens the throat and permits the student to take in large quantities of air in a very short period of time. There should not be a hissing sound as the student inhales, for this indicates that the tongue is arched up near the roof of the mouth. Further- more, if the tongue is arched during inhalation, it will likely remain there during exhalation.

Now ask the student to put the tuba in position with the mouthpiece near the lips. With the young student, instruct him to place the mouthpiece so that half is on the top lip and the other half on the bottom lip. This is not the most desirable mouthpiece position but about all that will be physically possible with small children. Ideally, the mouthpiece placement should be 2/3 on the top lip and 1/3 on the bottom lip.

Now, take a deep breath, re-form the embouchure ("OH-OO-SQUEEZE THE TUBE") and blow, expelling the air as rapidly as possible.

#1 - CORRECT RESULT More often than not a reason- able tone will result. The particular note produced is not important at this point. The student will generally produce a second line B-flat or the F directly below the staff. Let the student center whichever note comes naturally.


#2 - NO TONE, RUSHING AIR In this instance, there are two possible causes:

a. Embouchure not formed tightly enough.
b. Air stream restricted by closed throat and/or raised tongue.


REMEDY: Re-form the embouchure ("OH-OO- SQUEEZE") and tell the student to grip more tightly on the imaginary "tube in the center of the lips." Also stress the importance of saying "OH" to keep the throat open and the tongue down.

#3 - THIN, PINCHED TONE This sound:


is caused by a combination of the following:

a. Embouchure formed too tightly; lips pinched together.
b. Insufficient volume of air passing between the lips.

"Loosen the grip on the tube."

REMEDY: Instruct the student to "loosen the grip on the tube in the center of the lips." Also, reiterate the concept of taking a deep breath with the "yawn" type of feeling in the throat and then expelling the air as rapidly as possible. A relaxed diaphragm is especially important to allow maximum expulsion of air.

#4 - GARGLED TONE This "split" tone is a result of:

a. Lips not "gripping the tube" tightly enough to center the pitch.
b. Lips folding over the teeth causing a double vibration.


REMEDY: If gripping the tube more firmly does not solve this problem, have the student re-form the embouchure using the mouthpiece ring and check to see if the lips are staying even with the edges of the teeth, not curling over the top. (When the "OH-OO-SQUEEZE" embouchure is formed correctly, the lips will not curl over the teeth.)

#5 - STOPPED or INTENSE AIR ONLY This less frequently heard sound:


is a severe exaggeration of #3 (THIN, PINCHED TONE). The lips have been pinched completely together and only extreme force of air causes any sound whatsoever.

REMEDY: Instruct the student to "loosen the grip on the tube in the center of the lips." Stress only "OH-OO" in this instance.


  • Make sure the corners of the mouth are not drawn back into a smile type of set. The corners should be very firm but held in the natural, lateral position.
  • The angle of the mouthpiece to the lips is very important. Problems here can be spotted quite easily and very simply corrected. The mouthpiece should be placed against the mouth while holding the jaw in a very natural position. The angle will vary greatly from student to student, depending on the degree of over- or under-bite of the teeth. Don't let the student jut his jaw forward to meet the mouthpiece. Have him lean slightly forward or backward with the tuba to the point where the mouthpiece sits at a natural, comfortable angle.
  • Don't allow the student to puff out the cheeks. When the cheeks are puffed, the corners of the mouth can not set firmly and the basic embouchure set and control are lost. With emphasis on gripping the tube, the cheeks will not puff.
  • Using the mouthpiece ring, check to make sure that the lips do not go into a radical pucker. Sometimes, if there is too much emphasis put on the "OO" sound in formation of the embouchure, there will be a tendency to push the lips too far forward into an exaggerated pucker. This will result in loss of control and "bracky" tone quality.

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