Leon Wouters, the principal trumpeter of the National Orchestra of Belgium was told by his doctors that he could not play trumpet for at least 3 months. Can you imagine how devastating this must have been to hear? When my dear friend Hans Wuestenberg of PMS music in Tienen, Belgium heard about his situation he told him about Bahb’s ”MonsterChops” and gave him one. Leon worked his Orbicularis Oris muscles every day for the entire time he was away from the horn. When he got the Okay from his doctors to play the horn again it only took him 2 weeks to get back to his principal trumpet position with the National Orchestra. This testimony was translated to me by Hans during a phone conversation he was having with Leon Wouters at his music shop in Tienen October 2013.
This is an evaluation paper of Monster Chops by Dr. Myer (Mike) Savits Ph.D.
MusB. ,MusM., Manhattan School of Music
M.Sci/Professional Certificate, Queens College CUNY
Ph.D, New York University
Student of Harry Glantz, Nat Prager, Carmine Caruso.Freelance in New York and Florida including Lester Lanin, Industrial shows, dixieland Jazz with Jimmy Chapin, Co-founder of Tradition, club dates.
Teacher of instrumental and vocal music, New York City Public Schools
Director of music, Watertown Mass. Public Schools
Director of music, Herricks UFSD, New York
Director, Division of Music Education, Philadelphia, PA
Adjunct Faculty and Chairman of Music Education, Florida International University
Dean Emeritus, Florida National College
I had lunch the other day with my former student and now great friend, Bahb Civiletti. Bahb is generally recognized as a world class performer on the Baroque natural trumpet and one of the few artists capable of playing in the extreme high register; I’ve heard him called “the Maynard of the natural trumpet.”
Bahb told me that he was watching TV late one night and came across an infomercial touting a face lift product called Facial-Flex that claimed to strengthen and tone the sagging facial muscles and thereby produce a youthful look. “Wow,” he thought, “That’s an embouchure.”
Knowing that my doctoral dissertation at NYU in 1982 was “Muscle Training Techniques Applicable to Methods Incorporating Myological Principles in Elementary Brass Embouchure Training Curricula,” Bahb bought a device and asked me to evaluate it. This paper contains my preliminary evaluation.
What is muscle training and what embouchure exercises seem to have a measurable effect on performance? In other words, after six or eight weeks of practice, comparing a random test group to a random control group playing Arban studies, is there a significant difference in range, flexibility, endurance, power and control?
Muscles strengthen through the process of overload. For example, a weightlifter can press one hundred pounds. He adds five pounds to the bar and lifts again. Some muscles are slightly overloaded and actually break down. After a day or so to recover, the muscles react by becoming stronger.
What do we mean by stronger? A jogger can run a mile in seven minutes. She attempts to run it in six minutes and forty five seconds, run a mile and an eighth at the same pace, or run uphill. Each exercise variation develops the muscles differently, and, yes, they may be combined,
Any muscle may be strengthened by the proper exercise regimen and there are several types of exercises that may be of use to the brass instrumentalist and several that don’t. (The physiology literature usually deals with major muscle groups, aerobic fitness, and a wide range of motion. We are concerned with the embouchure’s small muscle groups and very small range of motion.)
Isometrics. (Pressing against an immovable object) For example, by grasping his hands in front of his chest and pushing together exerting maximum force, the exerciser’s muscles are overloaded. Another example: A girl sits at a table, her hands pressing against the table top with maximum force. It should be noted that there is really no range of motion in this type of exercise. The correct way to do an isometric is to build up the pressure over a period of five to ten seconds and exert maximum pressure for ten to fifteen seconds. Another isometric involves pursing the lips into an embouchure and tightening toward the center.
People who have weak bladder control are often taught Kegel exercises to strengthen the pubococcygeal (sphincter) muscle. The Orbicularis Oris is a complex of muscles in the lips that encircle the mouth. For our purposes, it is a sphincter.
Isometrics can be effective in strengthening or rehabilitating a damaged embouchure. The great brass wind teacher, Carmine Caruso, modified the standard long tone approach by his six note long setting exercise. Carmine would have the student play a middle “G” for twelve very slow beats. The student would take a nose breath while maintaining the “G” set. The student would repeat the “G” a total of three times and then repeat the drill on a “G#,” “A,” “A#,” “B,” and “C.” During this entire exercise, the embouchure would not relax but remain tense. Carmine would often have the student play the exercise using air attacks instead of regular tonguing.
Isokinetics provide a form of exercise in which maximum force is exerted by a muscle at each point throughout the active range of motion as the muscle contracts. This kind of exercise usually requires specialized equipment. This sounds complicated, but a well equipped gym would have many machines that are based upon wheels and hydraulics that keep the resistance constant through a range of motion.
Isotonics are active exercises without appreciable change in the force of muscular contraction with shortening of the muscle. Dumbbells are examples of isotonic exercises.
There is a number of devices that claim to develop the embouchure; P.E.T.E. and BUZZARD through Terri Warburton’s Webpage (I have been playing Terri’s 4M10* trumpet and cornet mouthpieces and a 4F flugelhorn mouthpiece for over 20 years.)
I haven’t evaluated these devices, but if Terri would contact me, we might set up a test.
As far as Monster Chops is concerned, there is little doubt that the use of the device will strengthen the embouchure muscles. Does that translate into a significant increase in range, flexibility, endurance, power, and control? I think so, but the proof is in the testing.
The right way to test any of these devices would be to propose a hypothesis such as: The regular use of the Monster Chops device in the brass instrumentalists practice routine would yield a statistically significant increase in range, flexibility, endurance, and power compared to a control group. I would set up a test group and a control group. There would be a pretest of all participants measuring range, flexibility, endurance, power, and control. Both groups would practice a standard routine of long tones, lip slurs, tonguing exercises, etc. from the Arban or similar instruction book. The test group would replace some of the standard materials with exercises utilizing the device. That’s called the dependent variable.
At the conclusion of the study, all participants would take a post test consisting of the original pretest. Comparing both groups, does the test group score significantly higher than the control group?
If you are a somewhat accomplished brass player, you can set up your own evaluation. Construct your own pre and post tests and give yourself six weeks of practice with the device. While not at the efficacy of a formal study, it should indicate whether the device is of use.
p.s. I have Parkinson’s Disease which prevents me from accurately evaluating the Monster Chops device. However, I have distributed several of these devices to some really good trumpet players, and preliminary results are encouraging.
Dear Bahb,It was nice to see you again in Germany, hope you had a beautiful tour.After only one week of working with the Monster Chops, the wrinkles are almost all gone. I’ve got a youthful spring to my step ( I may be mistaken on this) I think my hair is growing back in. Fabulous!! Ha-Ha. By the next time that I see you , you might not recognize me. All kidding aside, thanks for all the help with my chops and Louis’s.
All the best, Jack Wolfinger.
It is always a pleasure to see you teach and make use of all possible knowledge and technology to create progress.With the New TCE Monster Chops I must admit you surprised me. Because of my medical formation and experience I’m not easily convinced about technical aids. But in this case, I gladly admit, the New TCE Monster Chops Technique really works !I can recommend every brass player to use the New TCE Monster Chops Technique as it provides a really good work-out for the most important facial muscles. Power, endurance as well as flexibility are positively influenced.Congratulations with your New TCE Monster Chops. Hope to see you soon in Belgium.
Kind regards ,
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I’ve been applying the Monster Chops routines in my practice for a little over a month. The Facial Flex really develops the lip muscles quickly. The extra development allows me to gain better control of the lip muscles which makes the upper register much easier to play. It is like lifting weights. When you lift weights and develop your chest, back, shoulders and arms you can flex them easier. You can feel the muscle fibers contract and control them. The system helped me get over the double A barrier. I own double C now. My endurance also increased significantly. It makes playing even more fun because I’m not worrying about what high notes are coming. I just play them.
Thank you my master.
Wanted to thank you for the lesson last night. Boy, did the light go on and all my questions were answered when I *finally* got what the Einsetzen/Ansetzen was all about!! Getting the embouchure bunched up around the mouthpiece is what I think I was missing. Wanted to let you know. Will check in after working with it for a while. Can’t wait for the embouchure developer tool to get in.
Best regards, Bill B.