Lighting the way through embouchure darkness!
Scroll down the page for the answers
Q: Where are the pro players who use this BE stuff?
Look in the testimonials.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for the vague celebrity endorsements commonly used to promote other methods, you won't find them here.

You know what I mean - the "courtesy testimonial." This is where a famous player lends his/her name to comments like "I've found your book to be a wonderful addition to trumpet pedagogy." But, the player has never used the book!

I find this kind of advertising to be deceptive. A method should be judged on its results, and not by the amount of celebrity networking done by the author.

On this site, testimonials are only accepted from individuals who actually have direct experience in playing and/or teaching the BE exercises.

Q: What are your qualifications for writing this book?
A better question is, what are anybody's qualifications to write a trumpet method? Isn't the overall effectiveness of the method more important than who wrote it? For many, the answer is no. All too often, a method is judged by the playing ability of the author. In other words, if the author is a great player, then he must know what he's talking about, right?

But history tells otherwise. The great players, almost without exception, perform unconsciously, unaware of how they do it. And they've always done it that way, from early in their careers.

Still, great players get asked over and over again their secret, so they start trying to figure it out. Eventually they come up with a method, which is typically strewn with misinformation and a lack of understanding between cause and effect.

For example, suppose a great player has a shot of whiskey before each performance, and proceeds to play brilliantly. In his method he proclaims that a daily shot of whiskey was "the secret" to his development. Under any other circumstances, the reader would laugh, recognizing the foolishness of it all, and move on. However, in the trumpet community, because the man is a great player, anything that he says, however ridiculous, is pondered over with the seriousness of a Supreme Court decision.

Great players sound wonderful. Some of them are even great human beings. A few are even good teachers! But student success is almost totally unrelated to the greatness of the player.

In spite of all the evidence, students cannot grasp this obvious, simple fact. Playing and teaching require different skills. Look at professional sports coaches. With few exceptions, most coaches were bit players at best. Many never even played the game on a professional level.

Even music educators don't get it. I once interviewed to teach privately at a nationally recognized Dallas high school. The band director shook my hand, and asked me how many big bands I had been on the road with. When I replied that I had never been on the road with a big band, the interview was suddenly over! Never mind that his trumpet players were weak (and continue to be so). Never mind that I had a track record for developing trumpeters with powerful embouchures, including players in all-state organizations. Never mind that I knew anything about teaching. If I didn't have road experience, I wasn't good enough.

Perhaps it would be easier to promote this method if I was a great player. Then again, perhaps this book would have never been written if I spent all of my time working on playing ability. My passion is teaching, not performance. For those with a player's mentality, this is hard to understand.

I no longer worry about "my qualifications" to teach trumpet, or write a book, or anything else. There is a lot of irrational bias in this world, which is beyond my ability to change. What I choose to focus on is the end result, which is helping students become successful, irrespective of their physical attributes. Everything else is just excess baggage.

Q: Why another method book?
Embouchure development methods have always been a numbers game. Certain systems work for some students but not for others, for unknown reasons. This mysterious voodoo, which I consider to be a fundamental lack of understanding regarding teaching (and basic mechanics), has lead to common beliefs that either everyone is different (different strokes for different folks) or that only a few gifted (lucky) players have the right kind of lips to successfully play trumpet.

This mindset is so ingrained that when you bring up the possibility of having a particular methodology that works for everyone, players and teachers react with extreme skepticism.

I understand this doubt, having shared it for many years. Even when the complete system became clear to me, I still thought to myself, "Can this really help everyone?"

Those doubts faded long ago. In 2001, I realized that the brass community needs "another method book." After thousands of real world trumpet lessons, I can predict with certainty that any player who correctly practices these basic exercises will significantly improve - and in some cases dramatically transform - their trumpet playing ability.

Q: Is the BE book only for players with serious problems? What if I am already reasonably accomplished?
It's a singular proof of the value of the BE exercises that, when you examine the testimonials, you will notice the stories from great players who experimented with BE and where shocked to find themselves playing much better than before. And, those are just the published testimonials. Many other pros have told me the same thing in confidence.

Q: I saw the pictures on the book cover. What if I don't want a bunched chin?
There are two answers to this.

1. The odds are, you won't get one. Some of the BE exercises involve bunching - as you saw on the cover - but only a small percentage of players noticeably bunch their chin while playing outside of the exercises. The exercises are designed to primarily be a means to an end, rather than an end unto themselves.

2. As long as you are playing well, why would you care what your chin looks like? Most players who worry about this have been conditioned by the near-worship of the flat, downwardly pointed chin.

One of the biggest problems in the trumpet teaching world - if not the biggest problem - is the counterproductive obsession on flattening the chin. If you aren't aware on the fanatical degree that primary educators continuously intone "tighten the corners and flatten the chin," then you probably have never taught in a public school environment. It is a common mantra that seeps so strongly into a young players mind that it becomes very difficult to remove. The problem is that most kids do not need this advice, and it strongly inhibits their growth.

Nor should they be told to "bunch your chin," even though it works very well for a certain percentage of players. But you don't see chin-bunching advocates on every street corner, do you? The advocates of unnecessary chin-flattening, by contrast, dominate the early years of learning the trumpet. It's a faulty emphasis that has gone on far too long. I believe that Philip Farkas, who unintentionally started this whole thing, would be mortified by the current state of trumpet and horn beginner pedagogy - how it has twisted his observations into dogmatic rules.

The chin needs to be allowed to develop naturally, and not be forced into some preconceived mold.

The pictures on the book cover were placed there specifically to help counteract the misperception that an excessively flat chin is some kind of truth. The truth is, excessive chin-flattening causes far more problems than it solves.

Q: My lips hurt from crooked teeth. Can BE solve this issue?
In general, the more range of motion you have with your lips, the more cushion that you can create against sharp teeth (or braces). In other words, you have a more active buffer between the teeth and the mouthpiece. If your lips are weak or thin, you are more at the mercy of being helplessly caught between the hard teeth and the hard mouthpiece.

That, of course, is a general answer. Will BE specifically and completely solve your issue about teeth pain? There is no way to be 100% sure. However, a vast number of players have found that BE does wonders for removing mouthpiece discomfort, including solving issues with braces, and there are logical reasons for this experience (not wishful thinking).

Q: The concept that I can't get out of my head is that of tightening my lips as I go higher. I get too tight, and shut everything down. I keep hearing that I should relax but isn't that counterproductive?
It is less about "tightening," and more about changing the shape of your lips. When your lips buzz from a greater position of leverage, then a lot of the muscles that you used previously will need to relax. With a leveraged setup - achieved through developing an expanded range of lip motion - it will naturally feel more relaxed, even though a lot of tension is still present.

Tension is part of the balance. Without the right kind of tension, you wouldn't be able to play at all.

Q: Does it work for all brass?
Yes. The BE book was optimized for trumpet, but specific "tweaks" are now available for French Horn. Other tweaks will be coming for other instruments as more players adopt the exercises.

Q: Why can't I buy it locally?
See the order page.

Q: How long does it take to fix my problems?
If you were in a cave, and the roof collapsed, how long would it take to dig you out? It would depend, of course, on how deep you were buried. It's the same with BE. There is no average time frame, as players face different issues.

And if there was, I wouldn't tell you! Predictions can harm as easily as help. If I told you "six months," it could set up your expectations for that period of time, and actually hold you back from faster achievement.

Better to simply do the exercises, and see what happens. The idea is to get going more or less in the right direction, and get on the road to progress. Progress is really what players want to experience.

Q: How can a method work for every player?
I've written about this many times, but I'm working on a version which will hopefully answer this question once and for all. Coming ASAP.

Q: After many months, why haven't I seen any results?
Have you contacted me?

There are three categories of players who develop with BE.

First, there are the people who read the book and do the exercises, and make steady progress with only a few issues. The majority of players have this experience.

Second, are the ones who need some extra support. Not everyone can put information from a book into the proper physical context. There is no shame in this. For those people, we offer free email and phone support, and video analysis, as well as the occasional skype session.

Third, in a small number of cases. it may be necessary for some players to get hands-on instruction and see a teacher who understands BE. A good teacher can help a student pick up on the subtle ways in which the exercises need to be done to insure success.

Whichever level you need, the buck stops here. If you are sincere, I will do everything in my power to help you properly learn the exercises.

Q: Is BE available in other languages?
Not at this point. The problem is support. I feel strongly about making it possible for everyone who gets the BE book to succeed. This includes giving the various stages of support outlined in the question above. At this point, if the player doesn't speak or read English, there is no way that I can help him/her if problems arise.

Eventually, there will be enough BE experts in different countries to resolve this issue.

Q: Why don't you offer videos?
See article "The Limitations of Video" on the Resources page.

Q: RO's seem easy, but why can't I do RI's?
First, Roll Out exercises are not typically "easy." It may be easier to get a sound - than with RI's - but achieving a focused RO sound and the proper lip positioning is altogether another story. That takes time.

Roll-In-exercise-sound emerges immediately for about half of all players, with almost no instruction needed other than "roll in the lips and blow." [Note - that number increases to 80% in younger players, as they don't carry any embouchure baggage]. Another 30% of all players have some difficulty, but the hints provided in the book usually get them started. The final 20% are the ones who must go the extra mile to solve the RI puzzle - or not.

What I mean is, the player needs to determine, from regularly doing the other BE exercises, how important the RI component is to his/her playing. Some players, because of their lip architecture, need very little RI to play well. They find that Lip Slurs or the RO exercises, particularly #4, boost progress tremendously.

However, if it turns out that more RI is crucial, then more experiments are in order. A live teacher may even be necessary, as not every player is good at exploring muscle movements and putting them into a context. Typically,left-brained-dominant engineering-types have the most difficulty, as they have a preconceived notion of how the exercise needs to be done, and will not go outside that boundary. I have taught quite a few in that category. What I do is basically "give them permission" to move their lips in unusual ways. Almost without exception, when we find the "sweet spot," they exclaim, "That feels different from what I expected."

Q: Are you available for a private lesson?
Yes. The majority of players who come specifically for BE advice - not my regular students - want to know if they are doing the exercises correctly. I offer a "BE Comprehensive" lesson, which covers everything in the book, lasts at least 2 hours and costs only $50. Weekends usually are the most convenient.

Q: What mouthpiece works best with BE?
The exercises can be done on all mouthpieces, so there is no such thing as "best mouthpiece." In the BE book, I mentioned a mouthpiece that I found useful for advanced students, especially regarding ease and sound in the upper register. But that mouthpiece - which is no longer available - was not "the secret." It's better to get it out of your mind that any mouthpiece is going to solve your problems.

In the beginning, I recommend staying away from the extremes. A mid-sized mouthpiece, such as a 7C, provides
a good starting point. The individual player can then choose to go bigger or smaller as the need becomes apparent from doing the BE exercises.

Q: How can I teach a young player to avoid mouthpiece pressure?
The best way to create a player with a lifelong obsession with pressure, is to introduce the idea of pressure at an early age.

Pressure is a symptom, not a cause.

If you give students rewards for not using pressure, you have essentially locked them into a way of thinking that is very difficult to overcome. Such students will tend to always be stuck at the level of the symptom.

The Balanced Embouchure approach is to simply show the students how to move the lips in order to get the higher notes. Thus, pressure is never the focus, and is rarely mentioned, if at all.

I have worked with professional players who ask how to reduce the pressure. When I tell them that they are focusing on the wrong thing, at first they resist, as they have been indoctrinated since a young age to be wary of dangerous pressure. But typically, they eventually discover that proper movement of the lips alters that whole concept, and that pressure is no longer the monster hiding in the closet.

Q: What is the biggest limitation of the BE method?
It only works for people who have lips!

Bert's FAQ

Michael's FAQ

Interview with Ole Utnes (2001)
Where are the pro players who use this BE stuff?

What are your qualifications for writing this book?

Why another method book?

Is the BE book only for players with serious problems? What if I am already reasonably accomplished?

I saw the pictures on the book cover. What if I don't want a bunched chin?

My lips hurt from crooked teeth. Can BE solve this issue?

The concept that I can't get out of my head is that of tightening my lips as I go higher. I get too tight, and shut everything down. I keep hearing that I should relax but isn't that counterproductive?

Does it work for all brass?

Why can't I buy it locally?

How long does it take?

How can a method work for every player?

After many months, why haven't I seen any results?

Is BE available in other languages?

Why don't you offer videos?

RO's seem easy, but why can't I do RI's?

Are you available for a private lesson?

What mouthpiece works best with BE?

How can I teach a young player to avoid mouthpiece pressure?

What is the biggest limitation of the BE method?