Hi! Jeff Smiley here, bringing you up to date.

In the mid-1990's, I awoke one morning with a startling thought - a completely new approach to brass development appeared to me, right down to the title, The Balanced Embouchure.

I wondered aloud, "Is this the answer?"

Until the BE principles arrived that day, my decades-long teaching experience - with trumpet - was clouded by a secret frustration: I could help most players, but a group of kids would stubbornly refuse to improve. I was starting to wonder if these students were beyond my help.

NOTE: The ego loves to rationalize. Over time, it becomes easier to look away from a problem, and accept it as a "normal deviation," rather than admit any personal responsibility for finding a solution.

But, I was also skeptical of the revelation. Past programming filled me with doubts. The new BE approach seemed...strange, very different from what I had been led to believe was "truth." I certainly didn't want to create more difficulty for anyone. Learning to play a brass instrument is difficult enough.

And so, timidly at first, I began to teach the principles in trumpet lessons.

The results astounded me.

In a few short weeks, ALL of the struggling players started to improve.

It snowballed from there. Over the next several years, I systematically introduced the principles to all of my students, in the course of more than 3000 lessons. Magical transformations became a daily experience. Beyond all doubt, this was the real deal.

Armed with overwhelming proof, I began writing down my experiences. Nine months later, in 2001, I self-published the BE book, put up a website, and went public.

The response?

Most of it was positive. Obviously, it took a while to get the word out - an ongoing process - and even longer for players to actually learn the exercises and report back their results.

But predictably, there was also fear. If you understand the BE approach, you know that it has to ruffle some feathers. Part of understanding why BE works is to analyze why other approaches either fail or only work in part. A few educators were outraged by some of my conclusions, an outcome that I regret. However, I continue to believe that
you must understand the basic problem in order to grasp the logic of the BE solution.

So, you are probably wondering, what is the basic problem?

In the educational community, there is a reluctance to deal with the mechanics of embouchure - which of course, is the focus of BE - in any way other than what has been considered "tried and true."

In general, the subject of embouchure - especially regarding any kind of lip movement - is swept under the carpet in music education. There exists an unspoken fear, a concern that stirring the embouchure pot inevitably leads to greater confusion. Truisms such as "overanalysis equals paralysis," both justify and reinforce that idea.

Substituted in place of embouchure study is a hodgepodge of vague or inflexible techniques, loosely organized into a mainstream pedagogy by well-intended players and educators, which systematically cause a high percentage of hopeful students to mistakenly focus on effect rather than cause. Focus on the perfect breath. Focus on the perfect sound. Focus on less pressure. Focus on soft playing. Focus on arching the tongue. In other words, analyze anything else, but stay away from the lips! From a BE perspective, this is backwards and unnatural, and leads to an epidemic of students with weak mechanics.

The consequences cannot be underestimated. In the early stages of music education, hundreds of thousands of students suffer unnecessarily, and either quit in frustration, or are switched to a different instrument. This attrition is considered "normal," a kind of negative "bell curve" where most players simply give up hope in ever mastering the range, flexibility, endurance and tone necessary to play at a satisfying amateur level, much less that of a professional.

For many readers, these are bold statements. I agree. And, if changing the focus to embouchure and lips had little success - and instead created more confusion, as many believe it does - then my words here would be empty.

You be the judge. I ask that you read through this website, and weigh the evidence for yourself.

Please be clear. I do not claim that BE is the only way to brass playing success. Every method works for a certain percentage of players. And indeed, there are even some players who need very little help with mechanics, as they are blessed with a particular physical structure that promotes an ease of playing. For them, ANY method will work.

For everyone else, there is BE. Three things make it different.

First, from an educational point of view, BE is very easy to understand, and can even be taught in the classroom by teachers who don't play brass instruments. Second, is the breadth of success. In my experience, BE is the most effective approach to brass development over a wide student population. Third is the transformational power. Read through the testimonials to see how players who were stuck on a plateau for years, suddenly began making progress.

It is my hope that you too will eventually apply the principles outlined on this website, and discover how to achieve the real goal of every brass player - a balanced embouchure.

Jeff
NOTE: Life keeps me busy, and I can go for months without posting anything new on this site. As a result, people sometimes contact me, wondering if the book is still being sold. Rest assured, book sales and site activity are not connected. The BE book has been on the market 13 years, and it continues to grow in popularity. If you are reading this, the book is available.
8/26/13 - Added Christof Zellhofer in Austria to the teachers page. Welcome Christof!

8/31/12 - Added story to Tales From the Front, and added Alexander Shuhan to teacher page. Welcome, Alex!

1/2/12 - Updated copyright and added new testimonials and added Daimon Brunton to the teacher page. Welcome, Daimon!

1/24/11 - Added new testimonials, new question to the Q&A page, and added Steve Park to the teacher page. Welcome, Steve!

6/21/10 - Added Zach Enos in Tennessee to the Teacher page. Welcome aboard, Zach!

12/21/09 - Added video page link to a Yahoo video of John Graas, a renowned French Horn player, who was comfortable in either an orchestra, a jazz club, or the studio. Thanks Valerie!

11/14/09 - Added article to Resources page, "I Am Not A Guru," which finished the initial set of articles I had planned for the new site.

11/02/09 - Added video page link to a YouTube of Philip McCann. a legend in the British Brass Band world. Thanks, Bert!

11/01/09 -
Major update of the website. Changes include a more useful user interface, better organization, new developments regarding the application of BE to other brass instruments (especially French Horn), a listing of BE-oriented teachers, mp3 and video files, new articles, and a special health section which offers a dramatic solution for chronic conditions which challenge brass players.
The Balanced Embouchure, trumpet, trumpet playing, trumpet lessons, trumpet instruction, trumpet embouchure, trumpet chops, trumpet range development, trumpet high notes, trumpet screaming, double high C, triple high C, super C, super chops, Jerome Callet, Louis Maggio, Claude Gordon, Earl Irons, Doc Severinsen, Maynard Ferguson, Armando Ghitalla, Carmine Caruso, trumpet pedagogy