The 3 Trombone Mouthpiece Placements
There are three trombone mouthpiece placements. All are correct, you just have to use the one that is correct for you. Most trombone players naturally find the right one, but sometimes they are told to use the wrong one. Teachers tend to think theirs is the only one, which is easy to understand because that’s what they know works for them.
1. High Placement:
The mouthpiece inside rim is very close to the bottom lip. The mouthpiece looks higher on the face towards the nose. This is the 2/3 upper lip, 1/3 lower lip embouchure. As your lips slide up your teeth and your vocal breath goes higher in your throat, the air stream bends down more as you ascend. It bends back towards straighter as you go lower. The jaw tends to be in (or back) for this placement. Also called Very High Placement.
The mouthpiece inside rim is very close to the top lip. The mouthpiece looks lower on the face away from the nose. This is a 1/3 upper, 2/3 lower lip embouchure. It is the opposite of High Placement.
As your lips slide down your teeth and your vocal breath goes higher in your throat, the air stream bends up more as you ascend. It bends back towards straighter as you go lower. The jaw tends to be out (or forward) for this placement. Also called Up Stream Placement.
3. Center Placement:
The mouthpiece inside rim is centered between both lips, so it is or close to a 50/50 embouchure. Center Placement is a bit of a cross between the other two placements. It is like High Placement in that the air stream bends down more as you ascend, but is like Low Placement in that the lips slide down for high and back up for low. The jaw tends to be in (or back) for this placement. Also called Medium High Placement.
Also see Tone Production Steps 1 and 2
Just because a famous trombone player has a particular placement doesn’t make it common or the one for you. Check and see which one you have. You can usually tell quickly. Your goal is to sing the sound in your mind and have it come out of your horn. To me, brass playing is a substitute for singing, using your horn in place of your voice.
Mouthpiece maker Doug Elliott has a great article on embouchure types and mouthpieces here:
Ten Questions with Doug Elliott – Good embouchure information
Also of interest would be David Wilken’s quite detailed article on the three basic brass embouchure types:
I find that these tips apply equally to euphonium and tuba as well as trombone.