I have learned that there are different kinds of muscles needed for obtaining strength and endurance. Some muscles are good at much strength, but for a limited amount of time. Other muscles gives more endurance, but do not have that explosive strength.

A lead player must be able to play high for short periods of time. And a gig may last for 3-4 hours, so must the lead player too. Obtaining this strength, relaxing is as important as the playing itself. Some go as far as to recommend playing only every other day (Double High C in 37 Weeks .)

Normal playing does not exercise the muscles enough. The embouchure must be trained using hard load for short periods of time so that the muscles gets really tired. Then, time off is needed to rebuild the muscles to a stronger state. Practising this way will make the player able to give maximum effort in short bursts. Specific exercises for this purpose are found in many books.

Strengthening exercises

To develop a strong embouchure, special exercises might be needed. It is not enough playing your instrument the usual way.
I most often use two exercises :

Two octave valveless scale

These exercises give the chops the workout they need, exercising the whole face. I feel that muscles are being strengthened that I didn't know even existed.

Balancing the practise is most important, playing pedals and other relaxing exercises in between strenuous exercises. Also, plenty of rest is needed.

These two exercises build strength very fast. The first time I used them after not playing for several months, I actually felt getting stronger from day to day. And after two weeks, I played lead on a big band gig with reasonable success. (I was not great, but I could do it.)

Using a big mouthpiece that demands strength might be a good idea when doing this exercises.
Bill Carmichael demonstrates how to gain strength using hard tonguing in his video.


"Isometric" is the popular name for exercises that can help strengthening the embouchure away from the horn.

Some excellent isometrics are found at Ole's site :
From Jeanne Pocius and Bruce Richardson.

Copyright (c) Rune Aleksandersen 1997 - 2002