The TCE Method

The Basics

Of all the principles covered in “Trumpet Secrets”, none is more central and important than understanding the tongue function in forming the strongest and most efficient embouchure. What follows is a list of basic ideas to be learned and mastered.

  • Relax the mouth before placing the mouthpiece on the lips. Do not preset the tension.
  • Place the downward-pointing tongue tip on the top, inside of the bottom lip.
  • Arc the tongue so the top surface of the tongue touches the cutting edge of the top teeth and the bottom, inside of the top lip.
  • To “spit-buzz”, imagine spitting a hair off the top of the tongue but the hair never leaves the tongue.
  • Start by “spit-buzzing” lower scales in one octave ranges, then increase the range.
  • Relax the shoulders, arms and neck.
  • Keep the teeth wide open so the full width of the tongue can remain between the teeth.
  • Maintain a thick and fleshy feel in the lips in all registers.

The top of your tongue should strike the sharp cutting edges of your top teeth. This must be done with the top of your tongue. The tongue should feel this point of contact in about 1″ back from the tongue tip. Keep the tip of your tongue on top of your lower lip. Keep spit buzzing; think of spitting a hair off your tongue. Learn to spit buzz low register scales and chords with your tongue in this manner.

Faults to Be Avoided

  • Do not squeeze the lips together or pull them in tightly against the teeth.
  • Do not push the top lip upward with the bottom lip as if to form a sneer.
  • Avoid tightening the mouth corners as in a smile.
  • Do not clench the jaw, but instead keep the teeth wide open.
  • Do not overblow.
  • Do not accept a spread sound.
  • Do not allow the tongue to disconnect from the bottom lip, or the pitch will go flat.

Historical Facts and Background

Though skeptics may try to refute the tongue-controlled embouchure, it is difficult to refute the power and control which the great cornetist Herbert L. Clarke possessed. Possibly the greatest cornet player in his lifetime, Herbert L. Clarke used his tongue in the same manner that tongue-controlled embouchure requires.

Here is some proof of this fact; this letter dated November 3, 1939 was written by Herbert L. Clarke to Fred Elias. The bold and underlined sentence below is just what BAHB Civiletti says; the tongue must be between the teeth and touching the bottom lip. This is the tongue-controlled embouchure. Please read below.

“Dear Fred,

Up to your old tricks again with your betting on high tones. I wrote you last Monday from my country home in Garden Grove, posted it in Santa Ana where we had dinner and found yours of the 4th when I returned Tuesday at Long Beach.

So you still want to increase your range of the cornet, especially at your age. Well, there is a trick I used to practice when traveling with Sousa, when my lips did not seem to respond after being up all night with local town bands and playing my usual solos the next day. You know the condition, eh? Well, by producing this “Stunt” carefully, knowing just how to get each interval correctly from high ” C ” up, I have often reached two octaves above ” G ” in the top space of the scale… sometimes higher.

This takes no strength, power nor strain. It is so simple that one is astounded at the results. Of course one must have a good embouchure and control of the lip muscles. It is difficult to explain but easy to demonstrate and is scientific. When you form your lips to produce the above ” G ” just touch your tongue very slightly to your bottom lip, the tip, which throws the tip of the lower lip up towards the tip of the upper lip using much power. The tone is produced to the inside of upper mouthpiece at an angle of 45 degrees instead of blowing straight into the throat of the mouthpiece as one does in playing the cornet.”

Try it, after you have gotten the idea. I can do it without any embouchure, any time. But it must be practiced to get results.

Daniel Speer a musician, teacher and writer who was born in 1636 in what is now Wroclaw, Poland stated in “grundrichtiger Untericht der Musikalischen Kunst oder Vierfaches Musikalisches Kleeblatt” issued in 1697,

” Ine Trompet ist ein solch Instrument so mit der Zunge regieret und mit dem Athem in die Höhe muss erzwungen werden”

Which is translated into,

” a trumpet is such an instrument which is ruled by the tongue and obliged in the high with the breath.”

Another perfect example of a world-class trumpet player who also used his tongue in the same way taught by BAHB Civiletti is Harry James. In fact, Jerome Callet, the man who re-discovered the tongue-controlled embouchure and BAHB Civiletti often refer to Harry James as the role model for the tone and control which the students should strive for.

Jules Levy, another one of the greatest cornet players of all time also used his tongue the same way that is taught in the tongue-controlled embouchure. In fact, in his “How I Learned to Play the Cornet” published in 1895, he tells the student to tongue between the teeth. In the book he writes:

“The proper way to obtain a note, is to imagine you have something on your tongue, say for instance, a hair. You may try time after time to remove it, but only with your tongue.”

This fits the description of the “spit-buzz” perfectly. In an interview with Jerome Callet when asked to describe how to perform a “spit-buzz” he says:

“A spit-buzz must be done by placing the tip of your tongue on top of the lower lip and then spitting a hair off the top of your tongue.”

The main reason to learn how to use the tongue properly is to be able to play with a good sound that is brilliant, focused and without spread.

Players one should listen to in order to hear this type of playing are Harry James, Randy Brooks, Charlie Shavers, Peter Masseurs, Conrad Gozzo, Gunter Beetz and Horst Fischer. The tongue-controlled embouchure method can be taught to people of all ages and experience. The only requirement in learning this method is an open mind.