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I've been stuggling playing the trumpet because of the lip position. Do woodwind instruments have less pressure on the lips or have easier embouchure compared to brass? If you had to rank the difficulty for the embouchure, what would it be?

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  • I see many answers that share different opinions, but nothing fully answers the question because it is too broad. Can you clarify what you mean? Which instrument has the easiest embouchure TO START as a beginner trying to produce a tone? Which has the least pressure on the lips? Rank the difficulty of embouchure of players at a professional level?
    – nuggethead
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 15:07
  • I would like to know what is easy for beginners! I played percussion for 3 years and tried trumpet for around a bit more than half a year. I am still struggling to make a good sound due to the pressure on the lips/hard embouchure. I was thinking of trying out woodwinds.
    – wendi
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 1:47
  • Hi! I thought I'd explain my vote to close. We discourage questions to which the answer is a simple list, for a number of reasons. I suggest editing to focus more on what you're really looking for. Maybe tell a bit more about exactly what about trumpet embouchure gives you trouble, and ask about how you can either overcome it, or how you can pick another instrument based on this issue. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 20:37

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It depends on how you define 'easier', but if you are having problems with the trumpet you might have more success with a woodwind instrument.

In terms of physical effort and pressure on the lips the flute is easiest, although it can take a long time to get a good sound.
Bassoon and the larger saxophones have a mostly relaxed embouchure, clarinet and the smaller saxophones rather less relaxed.
If you are having trouble with the trumpet, you certainly won't want to start on oboe, probably the most difficult of the woodwinds.

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  • I'm sceptical concerning the ranking of bassoon, which I would have placed as a bit easier than oboe. I consider mostly relaxed as misleading, even if admitting that it varies significantly between the different registers.
    – guidot
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 10:24
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    For me the answer is definitely bassoon, and definitely not flute. Flute is the only instrument to make me want to cry with frustration. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 10:43
  • @guidot My experience was that air and flick keys are the challenges on the bassoon in the upper register. Either way the bassoon embouchure is more relaxed everywhere than clarinet is everywhere. Oboe I never really was able to play very high. Nor flute. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 11:00
  • All I remember of our saxomophonist is waiting a half an hour for them to get their reed wet. Maybe try the recorder.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 3:32
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The difference between a brass instrument and a woodwind is that on a brass instrument the lips themselves need to create the pitch (so in some sense the lips are part of the instrument). This is not the case with woodwinds. Woodwinds have some sort of mouthpiece that creates the sound, with the pitch depending on the tube.

This does of course not mean that embouchure does not matter. On a woodwind you need to use embouchure to control the mouthpiece. The probably most easy instrument with regards to embouchure is the recorder. The recorder and capped reed instruments do have the least requirements on embouchure, as you do not have direct contact to the element creating the sound. Traverse flute is more special, as you need to direct the air properly. Uncapped reed instruments will require you to control the vibration of the reed using your embouchure. Generally single reed instruments are less demanding in terms of embouchure.

Another aspect is the resistance of the instrument, so how much force you need to blow the air through. This depends very much on the type of mouthpiece. The recorder is easy to blow, the traverso does not even have this problem. But with reed instruments the reed will partially close the mouthpiece, increasing the pressure necessary to get the air flowing. Especially on the Oboe you’ll blow the air through a very thin tube and a very narrow reed, which means it is relatively hard to push air through (on the other hand this means you need very little air to operate the instrument. But this then also depends on the mouthpiece and on the reed. You might find that two different reeds feel completely different.

So you see there is multiple things that go into how hard an instrument is to blow, which makes it hard to give a definite ranking. Each wind instrument will have very specific demands to embouchure, and this differs vastly between woodwinds and brass. So if your problem with trumpet is maintaining specific pitches then no woodwind would have that issue. If your issue is that you do not have enough strength in your lips you’d probably prefer a flute. If you do have strength but lack the control to properly coordinate them a flute would not be the best idea, rather you might go for a clarinet or a saxophone.

But then the problem might come from a different source. Often beginners will use much more force than what is necessary, and maybe your struggle is that you do not need as much force as you think you do.

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  • “if your problem with trumpet is maintaining specific pitches then no woodwind would have that issue.” I’m assuming I don’t understand what you’re trying to say here because what I think you’re trying to say is not in any way correct from my experience. All of the woodwinds have pitches that are difficult to maintain. They also all have easier pitches. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 11:02
  • @ToddWilcox From my experience the hard notes on woodwinds are not hard to maintain, but hard to get sounding in the first place. But my point is that while on a brass instrument you need to maintain a specific pitch with your embouchure, on woodwinds you do not. It is not intended to mean: All notes are easy on a woodwind.
    – Lazy
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 11:25
  • I think I still don’t understand. “Maintain a specific pitch with your embouchure” has two interpretations I can think of. One is required on both woodwinds and brass, and the other is required on neither. Perhaps you mean that on brass, unlike woodwinds, one’s lips are actually opening and closing at the fundamental frequency of the note? If that’s what you mean, of course it’s true but doesn’t relate to the difficulty either way, as far as I can tell. The resonance of the instrument does a lot of the work of making the lips open and close on brass (“slotting”). Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 11:32
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Clarinet is generally reckoned to be the 'easiest' wind instrument to get started on. (Unless you include recorder, melodica, harmonica etc. of course.)

But whatever problems you're having with trumpet, pressure should be among them. The idea is to NOT press hard...

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    Oh I disagree. I mean, it’s small and portable and the fingering is easier than oboe or bassoon, but the embouchure is hardest of all of them except maybe flute. Bassoon was easiest for me in terms of embouchure but even plastic student bassoons are very expensive, heavy, and unwieldy. Also bassoon fingering is a bit out there. But the question is specifically about embouchure and clarinet cannot be the easiest embouchure. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 10:45
  • Recorder is easier to start on than clarinet, I think. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 13:28
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Embouchure only, easiest to hardest:

  • Bassoon
  • Low saxophones
  • Flute low register
  • Alto sax and clarinet low register maybe tied
  • Oboe low register
  • Higher saxes and higher registers on saxes
  • Flute higher registers
  • Oboe higher registers
  • Clarinet higher registers

However, fingering difficulty is another matter - easiest to hardest:

  • Flute
  • Saxophones
  • Clarinet
  • Bassoon
  • Oboe

Overall I found bassoon easiest to play despite fingering and oboe hardest, without any doubt.

All woodwinds are easier for me than trumpet or French horn. I can’t compare with trombone, euphonium, or tuba. I do think you’ll find that any woodwind except perhaps the flute is less frustrating in terms of embouchure than trumpet. I felt like the trumpet was trying to kill me. For air pressure demands, I don’t think you’ll find the oboe to be more relaxing than trumpet. Bassoon if you have money and space to carry and store something large, clarinet if you don’t mind horrible squeaks for the first 12-24 months. Flute if you’ve never gotten lightheaded from hyperventilating. Saxophone if you love rock or jazz.

But the best thing to do would be to rent each one for a month and try them out.

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    Recorder is a woodwind. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 13:29
  • @BrianTHOMAS Yeah, my first thought as well, and it's by far the easiest in terms of embouchure. There's a reason they give them out to preschoolers as a sort of "my first instrument". It takes basically no effort to make a sound out of them, though fingering requires some skill. You might want to spring for a quality wooden one rather than the plastic junk they give to little kids though. It's not that expensive to get one that's out of the "trash" range. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 14:30
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    @DarrelHoffman Actually, better-quality plastic recorders, like the Yamaha 300 series, are better than a lot of the low-end wooden recorders out there. I totally agree about the junk that little kids get, though.
    – Dalbergia
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 18:40
  • I find bassoon fingerings a lot harder than the other woodwinds, especially in the higher register. Other woodwinds have been improved over the years by designers such as Boehm and Triebert to make their fingering systems simpler and more rational, but bassoon, for whatever reason, has not seen as much improvement, so its fingerings are IMHO more difficult. C#, I'm looking at you...
    – Dalbergia
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 18:43
  • @Dalbergia I agree, for me oboe fingers are just slightly more confusing and challenging. I mean two octave keys? Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 19:18

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