Teaching Bassoon Embouchure

A correct bassoon embouchure is not something that students figure out on their own. While there are multiple acceptable embouchures (dependent upon teacher, country, reed style, bassoon setup, etc.), the embouchure most beginning bassoonists default to is incorrect. A thin, wide, lips around teeth, biting embouchure is never appropriate.

I guarantee that you will have to correct a student’s embouchure sooner or later. (I’m working with over half of my students on it currently.) Here are some embouchure teaching strategies I’ve collected. Keep trying new ones until your students finally get it! It is worth it.

From Strategies for Teaching the Bassoon Embouchure by Michael Burns:

For a great many years it was thought that the bassoonist should cultivate a pronounced overbite (i.e. the lower jaw is noticeably further back than the upper jaw.) I do not advocate this type of embouchure and the vast majority of professional players and teachers that I know also do not. Instead, we advocate a rather neutral lower jaw position with teeth aligned such that the lower teeth are only slightly behind the upper, forming what I will call a “natural bite…” I have found two wonderful descriptions as analogies for the embouchure shape that work well with my students, as they are shapes that most or all people already know:

1. The Drinking Straw Embouchure. The shape our lips make when we seal around a drinking straw is almost perfect for the bassoon embouchure: Round with just a little roll-in of the lips or pucker, and relaxed. Of course, we will be blowing into a reed rather than drinking in a liquid.

2. The Whistle Embouchure. The other good analogy is the shape that your mouth makes when you whistle. Again it is a round, puckered, relaxed shape. Not everyone can whistle but they usually understand the shape you would make if you did.

Usually one or the other of these analogies will strike a chord with the student and help have them produce the correct type of shape for the embouchure. Now it must be monitored to see how much lip is rolled in and to ensure that the student is not “biting” the reed.

Link to the rest at michaelburnsbassoon.com.

Kristen Wolfe Jensen gives a beginning lesson to two sixth graders in a video at www.musicandthebassoon.org. Her discussion of embouchure begins at 3:00.



3 thoughts on “Teaching Bassoon Embouchure

  1. Reply
    Alicia - February 22, 2016

    This is wonderful! I am glad to be aware of these analogies. I remember being taught early on about embouchure and I think I was taught about the extremes (the bad embouchures, per se) being the grandfather (too pinched, too much biting) and the duck (too loose, too fleshy). I like how you described the middle-ground.

  2. Reply
    Mia - February 22, 2016

    I have never been taught any specifics about embouchures other than in middle school I was told to loosen up when I play low. This is really good information for me to know.

  3. Reply
    Cole - February 22, 2016

    I started playing bassoon with only a little guidance to embouchure. Only since I have been to college and on to my fourth teacher since I started playing bassoon that anyone ever really taught me. It has been a pain. So this is a great reference in what a good embouchure should be like.

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