Question from the Mailbag: How do I Overcome Embouchure Lockdown?


I am an undergraduate at [academic institution name withheld] studying horn with [a well-known horn teacher].

I read your article, “Valsalva Stuttering and Embouchure Lockdown“, and I seem to be having this exact problem. Your article was very helpful. I was wondering if you knew any ways to overcome this issue, or could direct me to someone who could help.

It is ruining my playing and the few teachers I have seen have been unable to help me.

I can imagine the frustration you must be feeling and can empathize. From afar I am afraid that is about all that one could do, but you might check out these articles for starters:

One article has a video, and the other gives highlights from the video. Dr. Peter Iltis has compiled a lot of data to think about. He also has a good article in the recent Horn Call publication from The International Horn Society.

A comment thread on this site that might also be of help:

And this category tag of articles on Horn Matters might also inspire some ideas.

When seeking out help from a teacher I would caution you to be somewhat wary of claims that you can be cured or that the teacher knows exactly what is going on. A patient teacher familiar with these issues can certainly help, but ultimately this could be any combination of elements – psychological, physical and technical.

Tips and hints

If I were to give any advice it would be this – avoid the mindset that working harder and practicing more will fix this. That can be a bit of a trap and may perhaps lead to making the problem worse.

This condition is generally not a sign of physical weakness or a lack of mental fortitude. Patience is key – you might explore options from other teachers in another city or state near to your location.

Famous players and teaching

A famous player may or may not be the best guide in this particular pursuit. Not all of the great players in our field excel at teaching beyond their own scope of personal experience.

You might explore the possibility of seeking references. Ask a teacher or colleague you respect about other teachers that they would recommend who could help.

I would also urge some caution in this quest. Some individuals might feel threatened or insulted when asked for second opinions. Use good judgement and trust your instincts when asking for outside help.

This caveat aside, a teacher that knows their limitations, has the best interests of students in mind, and remains somewhat detached from emotional drama should be able to point you in a good direction.

Good luck and best wishes.

University of Horn Matters