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[Solved] Air column direction

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Topic starter

I’ve noticed that when I practice slurring through partials, I tend to angle the trumpet downwards. E.g. if I slur through open partials C4-G4-C5-E5-G5, then when I hit the E and G at the top, the trumpet is at a slight downward angle rather than being straight. 

That suggests to me that whatever I’m doing with my embouchure and tongue is causing the column of air to exit my lips at a downward angle. 

What am I doing wrong? Should I be pushing my lower jaw slightly forward to correct for the direction of the air column? Is it a problem that the air column is leaving my mouth at a downward angle as I ascend? 

Many thanks in advance!


This topic was modified 2 years ago 2 times by Max Manders
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9 Answers
Topic starter

I know this is a dead-thread, and once I'm back from vacation (~1 week) I'll be in a good place to start with a new embouchure... *BUT* I wanted to say thanks again Estela, because this time away from trumpet has also reminded me how much I enjoy trombone. I'm dedicating myself to doubling with both, and have realistic expectations about getting in to shape on trumpet. During this time off, I've been playing trombone, and I've found that my range has increased a little. I used to struggle with F4 (bass clef, on the second ledger line). I've found that I'm hitting that without even thinking, and I'm working on consistently hitting the G4 now. So every cloud has a silver lining, and while I might need to persevere from square one with trumpet, it will be worth the effort. I'm looking forward to being able to transcribe some tunes for both parts, and multitrack them both together!

TrumpetHeadquarters 02/08/2021 7:55 pm

@maxmanders Great to hear! Have a fun rest of your vacation!

Topic starter

That's good to know, thanks again for all the help and the words of encouragement. I'm going to try my best to ignore my trumpet for a few weeks. I'll post a new thread when I'm ready to start with a new embouchure, to looks for some feedback. You rock Estela!

TrumpetHeadquarters 22/07/2021 4:36 pm

@maxmanders Perfect! I look forward to it!

Topic starter

Ooh, a thought… Given trombone has a different embouchure, will continuing to practice trombone hinder this process? Should I ignore trombone for a few weeks too? Will playing trombone and trying to learn to double on trumpet make this harder, confusing for my muscle memory?

TrumpetHeadquarters 22/07/2021 3:19 pm

@maxmanders Hi again Max, I guess all those famous players with large lips didn't get the memo! 😂

The most important part of the embouchure for any brass instrument is the aperture. The trombone aperture is bigger and more relaxed, and uses much more lip. Because of this a lot of people do perfectly well doubling on these two instruments. The trick is to practice more on the instrument you're trying to develop, don't go back and forth without breaks and really hone into the aperture. If you keep the trombone aperture as small as possible while still sounding good it could actually aid your trumpet playing.

Topic starter

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply with such a thorough and personal response Estela! I think that’s worth the price of membership alone 🙂

I have a vacation coming up soon, so that will be the perfect opportunity to take some time away and reset.

I’ll follow your advice carefully, and come back with an update when I’ve had some time to unlearn and relearn. And yes, an individual lesson / consultation may well be exactly what I need.

As an aside… I started playing trumpet in school, must be 25 years ago. As a young person I think I lacked patience, and I think so too did my teacher. After a few weeks of little progress, my teacher suggested I try trombone. His reasoning being that my lips were too large for trumpet (he used a horrible redial epithet, looking back on that always sickens me!) I’m 37 now, and have a lot more patience! I think psychologically I always thought I couldn’t play trumpet. Trombone has always been special for me. Looking at many trumpet players with fuller lips, I realise now that’s not a hinderance, and hopefully with your guidance I’ll get back on track. 

Many thanks again,


Topic starter

And another one, with a bit of warm up. Didn’t manage to slow-mo it, but it shows me forming my embouchure.

TrumpetHeadquarters 21/07/2021 7:58 pm

@maxmanders Great thanks! So there are two problems with your embouchure that are, and will continue to, hold you back unless addressed. Luckily, they're not impossible to fix, but do require a LOT of patience. A realistic expectation for how long it will take to fix this embouchure is 8-12 weeks, then another 8 weeks to fully get comfy with it.

1) top lip needs more roll. Right now you're playing in the red of the top lip, causing the sides to bulge as pictured below. It puts a lot of strain on the top lip, keeping your tone from opening up and range is always hindered. This a very unstable embouchure and one that does not vibrate well. Check out this video on the topic here

2) your bottom lip seems to rolling in too much and it rolls in more as you ascend. This is very common with this type of embouchure. This issue could very likely be due to a a retracted jaw, bringing the bottom lip back and hiding it being the top one.


1) take two weeks off the horn. You have to do this to let the muscles weaken from the incorrect positioning.

2) start with the new embouchure. Top of the rim should be on the skin above the lip, NOT on the lip. Top lip needs to roll in 10-20%. Bring jaw forward to align the teeth (though make sure not to over do it and go too far) You should feel the weight of the mouthpiece evenly on both top and bottom teeth, or slightly more on the top. There should be no straining, no excessive pressure. Picture below showing where that mark should be.

3) Do NOT move your head to change registers. This is a big deal. One thing is to pivot the horn, another to move your head. When you move your head you change the embouchure.

4) very long....very very long, long tones, second line G to low Gb and breathe only through your nose for now to avoid moving the new embouchure. Two long tones per note. So G, G, F#, F#, E, E etc. You should do this twice a day for 2 weeks, then upload another video so I can advice then.

5) REST when you feel even a tiny bit tired. This is important. Your new muscle set will have no strength and it is best to play in short spurts than long ones.

Definitely watch that video I linked. Using a mirror might help you see what you can't feel. Tone is everything!

Let me know if you have any questions. If you'd like to setup a 60-min consultation after the two week break to make sure you start correctly just check out this page here


Topic starter

As requested, one slow motion cringe fest showing my embouchure set up. I recorded this during a work break so I've not had much of a warm up. Thanks in advance!

Topic starter

And this one from a while ago...

TrumpetHeadquarters 21/07/2021 12:18 am

@maxmanders Great! I think I've identified the problem, just need one more thing. Can you upload a quick vid of you putting the mouthpiece on your face in SLOW MOTION? Unfortunately I didn't get to see that in these. I want to see how and where you place the mouthpiece. A close-up would be great. Then we'll get some answers and solutions!

Topic starter

I've cut together some video, removing some of the particularly cringe worthy awfulness. Roast me... what am I doing wrong, is there anything I'm doing right?


Hi Max, it's not a problem as long as your flexibilities are sounding good for you level 🙂

It's actually called a pivot and it is advocated is some methods. It's a natural byproduct of range change, meaning let it happen on its own, not to make something happen.

Now, if something doesn't SOUND right in the upper register when you pivot then maybe there's a problem at the embouchure but I'd have to see a video to diagnose that. Feel free to leave one here by attaching a short file to your post.

More often than not, a mild pivot is nothing to worry about. Great question!

ps: players have different air columns and that is normal. The air doesn't have to aim right into the center of the mouthpiece and this is actually very uncommon. The air will either be upstream or downstream, and pivoting in certain ranges will change it. So no, do not move your jaw position unless the instrument is not responding to you, tonguing is unclear, tone is unclear etc. All of that also depends on level and what can be realistically expected at any stage. For a diagnoses leave a video!

Max Manders Topic starter 20/07/2021 4:45 pm

Wow, thank you so much for the quick reply! I’m hoping to get some videos up soon!

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