6

So this might be a bit of a newbie question. I'm a working musician who mainly plays guitar and piano, and uses a lot of sampled instruments and synths as well. I don't mean this to be offensive to any players who might play and love these instruments.

I understand how important embouchure is to the sound of an instrument, and I know that different embouchures can result in different sounds.

However my question is would it be possible to create a mouthpiece (say for trumpet), that has a preset embouchure and buzz, and therefore is able to play within of given range of notes, just by blowing into it. It would be like modeling the job of the lips, but within a mechanical mouthpiece. Basically the mouthpiece would provide the embouchure, the player would provide the air.

Is this just super duper complicated and what a trumpet player is doing is too unique to copy into a mechanical function?

But if not, could this thinking also be applied to reeds? Double reeds? A harmonica is a fixed reed (which I know is different), that is resonated by an airstream.

Again, I'm sincerely just curious from a scientific perspective and not trying to take away from the years of effort and training and learning that great musicians put into mastering their instruments.

Thanks!

  • 1
    I wish you luck, but no... that's not going to happen anytime soon. A brass instrument's 'embouchure' is not one single mouth shape. It changes by pitch. – Tetsujin Jul 2 at 18:15
  • 1
    I think the problem is that embouchure is the product of artistic choices made by the player, not the product of technical requirements of the note or passage being played. Well, of course there's a portion of it that is technical to make the correct pitch, but you couldn't create a system that automatically responds to desired pitch, because that's not the whole story of embouchure. The necessary dimensions of input to the automatic system would be so many that it wouldn't really make anything easier for a player, it would just make it sound bad. Same goes for other instruments. – Todd Wilcox Jul 2 at 18:35
  • @ToddWilcox so what you are saying is that the function of different embouchure is much more than just lending different tonalities and playing styles? It also functions as a way to control pitch? Please forgive my ignorance, I'm just interested as a non woodwind player. – Gio Jul 3 at 19:20
8

This has been done, at least as an experiment. There's a paper Artificial buzzing lips and brass instruments: Experimental results (pdf download link) in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America describing how they did this for a trombone mouthpiece.

Mechanical saxophone embouchures have been done before as well. Here's one playing John Coltrane's "Giant Steps"

-1

The mechanical solution linked by PiedPiper is interesting, but it isn't really practical. Another way of thinking about this is via sampled/physical modeling. Using a controller (could be a guitar with a pickup that detects picking sensitivity or a keyboard with velocity sensitivity), and either sufficient samples or a physical modeling algorithm that simulates a players blowing, you can approximate a real player.

Obviously, there are many parameters that go into a brass players playing, and if you wanted to get closer, you would need an instrument that can control several parameters at once, such as the Haken Continuum, which allows for pressure, X and Y control. Don't forget one can always add a foot controller and breath controller (these typically only measure the breath pressure, no complicated embouchure to master).

At this point, you would be investing many thousands of dollars in hardware and software, but you be able to expressively control an amazing amount of sound!

-2

For me, it is not possible to have a preset embouchure in the sense you mean because even in a lab experiments, with an artificial embouchure, it's not possible to just blow in it : it will give you only a single note! While this kind of mechanical experiments are done, for every different note you will have to make a different compression for the air flow ; so if you just blow in it without a good (professional?) air technique, you will stick to a sole sound. In theory I guess it would be possible, but it implies that you would have an amazing air technique to modulate the air stream, and the difficulty of having a decent embouchure is really much more easier, so the benefits would be really inexistent...

  • 2
    You underestimate the abilities of mechanical engineers – Carl Witthoft Jul 3 at 17:29
  • @ Carl Witthoft : I did not ; you just didn't read what I exactly said. I never said that it was not possible for engineers to do so. I invite you to read carefully what I said. Best regards. – Netchaiev Jul 3 at 17:32
  • 2
    if scientists and engineers only tackled problems because of an obvious or immediate usefulness then civilisation would be much impoverished. We don't do it because of the immediate benefits, but to see if we can, and to see what we learn along the way. – Some_Guy Jul 3 at 19:01
  • 1
    @Netchaiev, right so the amount of different techniques would be nearly impossible to replicate in a small mouthpiece, and would necessitate something more like a robot to mimic the function of the human mouth. In which case it's not an ease of use thing, rather a mechanical engineering question. – Gio Jul 3 at 19:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.