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Embouchure Work Load


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Oliver Hix
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 1:57 pm    Post subject: Embouchure Work Load Reply with quote

What is the function of the embouchure? Why do muscles in the face engage to play the trumpet? What is the purpose of that?

Does the muscle activity necessary to form an embouchure need to intensify/increase to play higher pitches (i.e. does your face need to work harder when playing higher)? If so, why? If not, why not?
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LH123
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The function of the embouchure is to vibrate. Others can debate the rest of your questions.
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PieterS
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good question! I have thought about that too, why should muscles engage when putting the mouthpiece on the lips? Why not just put the thing on and blow?

My guess is that the muscles have to engage to counteract the pressure needed to maintain an airtight seal when playing higher. If the muscles would not engage when playing higher the pressure would shut down the vibration of the lips and no sound could be made.

On the oher hand, too much muscle action probably also hinders the vibration, so it is a matter of finding the right balance.

Just my opinion...
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TrumpetMD
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some people view the embouchure as tissue that freely vibrates while being anchored at the ends. Something like a string on a guitar. But this likely is not true, or is only part of the truth.

Our lips don't just "flap" aimlessly. The muscles throughout the embouchure are engaged to create and control the vibration when playing.

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Pops
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Only some of the facial muscles are needed to form an embouchure.
Sadly many if not most players make facial isometrics and essentially do nothing but tired themselves out needlessly.

Some muscles pull the lips apart, some muscles make us smile. When either of those are used then we have to use embouchure strength simply to counter our mistakes.

Pro players often play 6-8 hours in a day and need good tone and range on the last song too.

Pro players don't have MAGIC muscles.
They just don't contract a lot of useless muscles.

If I don't contract a "counter" muscle then I don't have to balance that action by contracting my playing muscles MORE. Contracting "counter" muscles causes you to be tense even when playing Low F#. There is never a note where you play relaxed (if you contract these other muscles too.)
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TrpPro
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pops wrote:
Only some of the facial muscles are needed to form an embouchure.

Which ones don't contribute?
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Pops
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TrpPro wrote:

Which ones don't contribute?


I can look at 3 world class players that use the same Farkas embouchure but they will use different facial muscles.

One will use more tongue arch and NOT use the buccinators.

One will use the depressor anguli oris to frown and make compression but another won't.

One will slightly engage the Orbicularis oris but the other 2 won't.

Same embouchure 3 players and they use DIFFERENT muscles to control the lip compression.

Do you know what the buccinators do?
Here is a description from wikipedia:

Its purpose is to pull back the angle of the mouth and to flatten the cheek area, which aids in holding the cheek to the teeth during chewing.
It aids whistling and smiling and in neonates it is used to suckle.

Smiling and suckling are NOT useful actions in trumpet playing. Overall usually the worst muscle to strengthen.

Thankfully most of the exercises that "strengthen it" don't because people substitute tongue arch or jaw motion or the chin bunch or frowning or they contract the orbicularis instead of using the buccinators and smiling.


Look at what the muscles actually do.

Useful for playing

Actual lips themselves
Orbicularis oris ---------- close mouth, purses lips


muscle in middle of chin
Mentalis ---------- protrude lower lip
compression


Under corners of lower lip
Depressor anguli oris ---------- frowning
compression

The following are OFTEN Harmful for playing

Upper cheek
Zygomaticus major/ minor ---------- smiling
thins the lips

between cheek bone and lips
Buccinator ---------- smiling, compresses cheek
thins the lips

runs from ear to mouth corners
Risorius ---------- smiling
thins the lips

(The 1st 3 force you into a smile. No teacher after 1950 thought this was a good thing. However; thousands of players still tense these muscles.)

lip to nose
Levator labii superioris ---------- raises upper lip
parts the lips and pulls top lip above teeth gap


jaw to mouth
Depressor labii inferioris ---------- lowers lower lip
parts lips


neck muscle that goes from jaw to shoulder
Platysma ---------- depresses mandible, lowers lip
parts the lips

(The 2nd group of 3 muscles pulls the lips apart and it is easy to see why these aren't useful. However I often see these tensed and opposite muscles used to counter the action.)

largest cheek muscle
Masseter ---------- closes jaw
chokes the air flow

top of cheek towards back of head
Temporalis ---------- closes jaw (elevate mandible)
chokes air flow

(The last 2 close the jaw and often chokes the air flow. This isn't a useful action. So as you can see a great number of our facial muscles are NOT useful to playing and often end up just doing isometrics against opposing muscles.)
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TrpPro
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Facial muscles look to be all interconnected like a bunch of rubber bands. Can one muscle exert itself without having any effect on the others, especially ones that are directly connected to it?
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Pops
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 12:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TrpPro wrote:
Facial muscles look to be all interconnected like a bunch of rubber bands. Can one muscle exert itself without having any effect on the others, especially ones that are directly connected to it?


An effect is that the muscle group is pulled on by the next closest group.
That does NOT make the muscle contract, nor does it take the place of that muscle. It just gently tugs on it.

If you had connected some rubber bands, you would have seen exactly what I described. When 1 contracts it gently tugs on the next one. That next one doesn't contract along its muscle plane though. It merely distorts toward the plane of the contracting rubber band.

Your face is 3 dimensional and you aren't thinking in 3D. Each muscle is set to pull in a certain direction and on a certain plane. Tugging from the side, front or back won't accomplish that motion.

So yes the neighboring muscle effects it minutely but that doesn't create a contraction. In fact these effects to neighboring muscles of the face are often in opposition.

For example pulling your mouth corners in to make a pucker, tugs on muscles that make us smile. It doesn't make those muscles contract, but you can feel them being pulled.

Another example is 1 muscle pulls the chin down, yet another creates the chin bunch and pulls the chin up. Neither causes the other to contract. There are more examples but this is a post and not a book.

Most of our playing habits start forming when we are 11 or 12. We have NO idea what we are doing or how we should do it. Many players never revisit the basics to fix their early mistakes and just fight easy to fix issues forever. I see it all of the time.
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Wilktone
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From a paper titled Visualization of Trumpet Players’ Warm Up By Infrared Thermography, by Dr. Matthias Bertsch and Dr. Thomas Maca. The full paper doesn't appear to be up online any longer, but any academic library should help you get a hold of it if you're curious to read the whole thing.

Quote:
During the warm up of trumpet players, face muscle contractions with increased blood flow result in a higher temperature of the overlying skin. This effect can be visualized and quantified by infrared-thermography. The analysis demonstrates that the main facial muscle activity during warm up is restricted to only a few muscle groups (M.orbicularis oris, M.depresor anguli oris). The “trumpeter’s muscle” (M.buccinator) proved to be of minor importance. Less trained players expressed a more inhomogenous thermographic pattern compared to well-trained musicians.

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Pops
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The entire paper that Wilktone is quoting from can be found here.
http://personal.mdw.ac.at/bertsch/MB-PDF/1999e_MB-trp.warmup.pdf

There are several reasons why 100 and 200 year old outdated ideas persist in trumpet teaching.

One is that teachers like to quote their mentors. This is often a good thing but we need to be mindful of their mind set when we do it.

We need to remember BIG things like the teacher being quoted was teaching the "Smile" Embouchure and we don't do that now. (That means we need to filter out some quotes because they don't fit now.)

The second is that they will ask thousands of strangers for advice and since none of us have seen them play it is all guess work. Even educated guess work is still guessing.
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Oliver Hix
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is the embouchure a balance of smile and pucker? Does a sound happen because the lips are fighting to stay closed against air that is trying to push them open, or because they are held in a position that allow them to vibrate when interacting with the standing wave created in the horn?

The main question- does the face have to work harder in order to/in response to playing higher notes?
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oliver Hix wrote:
Is the embouchure a balance of smile and pucker? Does a sound happen because the lips are fighting to stay closed against air that is trying to push them open, or because they are held in a position that allow them to vibrate when interacting with the standing wave created in the horn?

The main question- does the face have to work harder in order to/in response to playing higher notes?


There is no answer to this.
All of those are true of some players and not of others.

I wouldn't use a puckered smile because there is a lot of isometric tension that literally does NOTHING but tire you out. Many people have problems concerning retaining tension. They build and build and increase until they freeze up. Also when we use opposing muscles they get stronger and our base starting point gets higher and higher. This leads to problems for many people.

As for the standing wave there are players who use the standing wave to complete their embouchures and players who don't.

The last question also depends on how a player uses their embouchure. A Smile player needs a lot of muscle contraction but some embouchures substitute lip curl or lip compression or tongue arch to do what you are doing just with facial muscles. In those cases they don't get tight on the sides of the face because they use the muscles under the chin to create compression.

The posts about the useless muscle contractions were an attempt at showing you why you won't get any real answers.

From a stand point of endurance it doesn't make any sense to just use facial muscles. Using facial muscles like this also hinders the tone, the range, the endurance and flexibility.

Tension is the 1st thing a beginner discovers and it is very inefficient. Tension is what kids teach themselves and NOT what teachers show them. Maybe a band director who was a drummer, or a sax player said tighten up but that isn't a trumpet teacher.
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Berrylkr319
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:32 am    Post subject: fundamentals Reply with quote

what role does the lower lip and jaw play in forming an embrochure? and how much lower and upper lip is ideal?
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:56 am    Post subject: Re: fundamentals Reply with quote

Berrylkr319 wrote:
what role does the lower lip and jaw play in forming an embrochure? and how much lower and upper lip is ideal?


These also depend on what embouchure you are asking about.

The jaw is very important in the Stevens. They use the jaw motion to create compression.
It is less important in other embouchures that don't use the jaw this way.
Then you can ask about jaw motion front to back, up and down and angular. Different embouchures allow and even encourage motion in different directions for the jaw.
But again with most embouchures you still have fixed jaw players (no motion) and floating jaw players and both groups have some monster players in them.

The amount of lower and upper lip depends on embouchure AND relative lip size. A player with a small top lip and big lower lip will have a different ratio than a player with a big top lip and a small bottom lip. Lip shape is also a factor as is relative tooth length between top teeth and bottom teeth.

As for the lower lip. It usually is involved with making compression but the ITG Journal did a write up on a player who doesn't even use his bottom lip. He vibrates his top lip against his tongue.

The worst thing that could have happened is that someone could have answered these questions in this thread.

They would have answered based on 1 specific embouchure and 1 specific facial makeup. Then you try to conform to something that doesn't fit you. Too many people thinking one size fits all is why the failure rate on trumpet is so high.

It takes years of training before you know how individual, playing really is.
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Wilktone
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I agree with pretty much everything Clint wrote above, I have a different take on this and feel like he may not be quite answering your questions, in part because it's not too clear if you're asking because you're simply curious or if you have some practical purpose for wanting to know. If you have some specific reason for asking your questions, it might help us if you clarify so we can target our responses to your situation.

Quote:
What is the function of the embouchure?


The embouchure is what creates the vibration. Strictly speaking, the brass instrument isn't an amplifier for the lips, but the vibrating lips is what sets the column of air inside the instrument to vibrating, which is analogous to the vibrating string on a violin. The lips also help to adjust the pitch through increasing or decreasing the speed of the vibration.

Quote:
Why do muscles in the face engage to play the trumpet? What is the purpose of that?


The embouchure muscles do the work of drawing the lips in closer towards the teeth and gums while playing, reducing the vibrating mass, creating the faster vibrations that result in higher pitches. When the embouchure muscles relax somewhat (they are always engaged, even for low notes) the lips get blown forward into the cup more and more surface area of the lips vibrates. The resulting vibrations are slower and create lower pitches.

Furthermore, firming the embouchure muscles also helps protect your lips from damage that can be caused by excessive mouthpiece pressure. Your lips can take a great deal of pressure when the muscles are held firmly, but if your embouchure formation is flabby and too loose you can risk damaging them from mouthpiece pressure.

Quote:
I can look at 3 world class players that use the same Farkas embouchure but they will use different facial muscles.


I'm sure there is variation among how players use their embouchure muscles, but I got a different takeaway from the article by Bertsch and Maca. Experienced players appear to have a homogenous pattern to the muscles they focus their effort on, generally located around the lips themselves and at and just under the mouth corners. The less experienced players used more unnecessary muscles, or perhaps were using additional muscles in order to compensate for weakness of the muscles that need to do the most work.

Quote:
Is the embouchure a balance of smile and pucker?


This is how Philip Farkas describes it in his book, The Art of Brass Playing, however this doesn't appear to be verified by later research. Specifically, the muscles that are responsible for pulling the corners back (located mainly in the cheeks) don't get used by the experienced players in the study by Bertsch and Maca.

Quote:
Does a sound happen because the lips are fighting to stay closed against air that is trying to push them open, or because they are held in a position that allow them to vibrate when interacting with the standing wave created in the horn?


There have been some studies that show that a pitch can be produced with the lips starting in an open position and the standing wave can initiate the initial closure, whether or not that's a recommended way to play is somewhat controversial. What I do think shouldn't be questionable is that the lips do need to be firmed against the ram pressure of the air striking them. Once the lips are vibrating they do need to help control the pitch with the embouchure muscles, it's not just the standing wave creating the vibration, the vibration of the lips controls which partial you're playing. The standing wave influences the speed the lips vibrate, which is why our lips slot on the different partials. But you can also force them to vibrate slightly differently and bend the pitch with the embouchure. Being able to control the muscular effort of your embouchure efficiently to the standing wave is what makes for a full and resonant tone.

Quote:
The main question- does the face have to work harder in order to/in response to playing higher notes?


Yes, I don't think that this can be seriously disputed. Some players will state that this is all done with the air or tongue or something, but it's my opinion that these people are confusing playing sensations with what actually happens. It's one thing to say that you're relaxed when you play in the upper register if you've been playing for decades and have a finely tuned embouchure. If you haven't developed the muscular strength and control to play, however, you will have a different sensation and possibly use unnecessary muscles to take up the slack.

Quote:
what role does the lower lip and jaw play in forming an embrochure?


The role the lower lip plays will depend on certain embouchure characteristics that can vary from player to player. These characteristics are determined by a player's anatomy, not how they want to play or any particular instructions or practice methods. This is a little more detailed than I have time to get into right now, but I have some resources on YouTube or on my web site that you can look for if you're curious. The jaw's role is to help provide a somewhat stable surface for the lower rim of the mouthpiece. Jaw movement is personal and also depends on the player's anatomical features. Some players will have a lot of jaw motion forward/backwards or even side to side, some have less. The general position of how the jaw is held (receded or protruded) is also dependent on the player's anatomy.

There are many players who drop the jaw for very low notes, some consciously some not. In general I personally encourage players to reduce or eliminate this habit because it can make for a reversal in embouchure form at certain registers and/or risks pulling the mouthpiece placement lower on the lips than where it should be for the player.

Quote:
and how much lower and upper lip is ideal?


This depends completely on the player's anatomy and isn't something that you can generalize. Most players play better with more upper lip inside the mouthpiece and many universally recommend this out of ignorance of a minority of players who play best with more lower lip inside. This particular feature is what I was referring to above about the role of the lower lip being different for different players, so if you want to learn more please visit my web site or let me know and I'll try to post something for you here when I have more time.

Quote:
These also depend on what embouchure you are asking about.


Unlike Clint, I don't define embouchure types by practice methods (Farkas embouchure, Stevens embouchure, etc.), but rather by the physical features of the player's embouchure and how it can be observed to function. But I do agree with him that these things are personal and really hard to generalize.

I think you ask good questions, but if you can let us know why you have a specific interest in this it might help us offer better answers to your questions. Are you simply curious or are you trying to learn a more efficient way to practice? Are you getting advice that doesn't seem to be helping you because you find the reverse happens to work better for you? Are you interested in learning to teach trumpet better eventually?


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kalijah
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wilktone wrote:

Quote:
The embouchure is what creates the vibration. Strictly speaking, the brass instrument isn't an amplifier for the lips, but the vibrating lips is what sets the column of air inside the instrument to vibrating, which is analogous to the vibrating string on a violin.


The pulses of air through the aperture feed the standing wave in the instrument. The aperture determines the frequency of these pulses. The smaller the aperture the higher the frequency.

The air in the instrument is not completely analogous to a string on a violin. The Violin string does not vibrate in various "modes" but only one, that is, a node at each end and an anti-node in the center. (Like the embouchure works.)

The air in the instrument can have standing waves with various integer values of nodes, giving the harmonic series.



Quote:
The lips also help to adjust the pitch through increasing or decreasing the speed of the vibration.


They control the "frequency" of vibration.

The instantaneous speed of a vibrating medium is always changing. The average speed is usually zero.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the clarifications.

kalijah wrote:
The pulses of air through the aperture feed the standing wave in the instrument. The aperture determines the frequency of these pulses. The smaller the aperture the higher the frequency.


In this particular case, I don't this is accurate. The lips vibrate at the same (or near enough) frequency of the pitch. The frequency of the vibrating lips opening and closing is (essentially) responsible for the pitch that the standing wave creates. When there is more lip mass vibrating, the frequency is slower and the pitch is lower. Drawing the lips in closer to the teeth and reducing the amount of lip mass that vibrates results in a faster frequency and higher pitch. At a single dynamic level (or amplitude, if we're going to use the physics jargon here) this results in a smaller aperture for higher pitches, but the volume of the pitch changes the aperture size. A soft low note may have the same size aperture as a high low note.

Quote:
The air in the instrument is not completely analogous to a string on a violin. The Violin string does not vibrate in various "modes" but only one, that is, a node at each end and an anti-node in the center. (Like the embouchure works.)


Entirely true and I could have been more clear earlier. My point, however, was just to point out that the instrument, strictly speaking, is not amplifying the buzz but that the tone we're hearing is created instead by the standing wave, excited by the vibrating lips.

Quote:
They control the "frequency" of vibration.

The instantaneous speed of a vibrating medium is always changing. The average speed is usually zero.


Yes, also true. I was using "speed" of vibrations colloquially to refer to what is more properly called "frequency."

Terminology nitpicks aside, I think the points that I was making about the function of the embouchure muscles remain valid. The muscles do get involved in the production of the embouchure, there are a certain group of muscles that appear to be more important for good trumpet playing, experienced players are better at controlling this muscular effort, and playing higher requires more muscular effort than playing lower.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 7:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
At a single dynamic level (or amplitude, if we're going to use the physics jargon here) this results in a smaller aperture for higher pitches, but the volume of the pitch changes the aperture size.


It is likely that it does not. Loudness depends on the air pressure being applied by the player.

Thereby a louder sound can be generated by no change in aperture opening "amplitude", but only air pressure pulse amplitude.

Also, the standing wave pressure in the mp cup has a "closing" effect on the aperture. This "balancing" of the air pressures would mean you would not see as significant a variance in the opening size on a pitch over a loudness variance if at all.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wilktone wrote:

Quote:
The main question- does the face have to work harder in order to/in response to playing higher notes?


Yes, I don't think that this can be seriously disputed. Some players will state that this is all done with the air or tongue or something, but it's my opinion that these people are confusing playing sensations with what actually happens. It's one thing to say that you're relaxed when you play in the upper register if you've been playing for decades and have a finely tuned embouchure. If you haven't developed the muscular strength and control to play, however, you will have a different sensation and possibly use unnecessary muscles to take up the slack.


The word face is troubling to me.
There are many muscles in the face that untrained players tense up out of habit or because they don't know those muscles don't help.

Plus there are obvious embouchure exceptions like a lip overlap where simple mouthpiece pressure supplies the extra strength and not extra muscle engagement.

I would also much rather they key in on the role of pucker/lip curl than stress and facial tension.

Then we haven't even addressed the problem of so many players who already use enough tension on low C that they could more than likely play high C with the exact same amount of tension. This starting tension level is the limiting factor for a lot of players. We have all seen the player that tightens everything from ear to ear and then plays a low note.

Once they have contracted every muscle that controls the embouchure, they are done. So they have to learn other tools to use before all of those muscles are contracted.

Also tension driven playing is prone to sound quality jumps when they cross open notes. G to A, C to D, E to F, G to A, B to high C. When they solely rely on tension the sound quality shifts make you want to run away.
This is the overdampening issue that comes with improperly using facial tension to drive the embouchure.

I think answering this one question hinders more players than could be helped because telling them it is OK to tense up isn't serving them well as a teacher. I often answer most of a post a not 1 question because I don't think it is in their best interest to answer it.

So while I would agree that for a pro player a high c would require more muscle use than a low C; with many if not most players, they are already using enough strength. They are just using it incorrectly.

I also really think that using other tools like lip curl, compression... vastly slows down the need for more muscle engagement. That is something players need to think about.
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