What is the TCE?

Some background information – the state of affairs:

The big elephant in the room at all meetings of brass players is embouchure. Most players know nothing about it and many are scared to teach or learn about it. In fact, some famous teachers even discourage understanding brass player’s embouchures through fear of “paralysis by analysis”. Embouchure is not on the syllabus at any major music college for the simple reason that you need to already be a competent player to even get in to music college. Once enrolled, the course of learning is focused upon music and performance. The subject of making your instrument function is entrusted to laborious routines and gimmicks such as mouthpiece buzzing and breathing exercises. At the end of this process very few players are actually prepared for life as a professional instrumentalist and even fewer can ever dream of becoming a virtuoso soloist. The vast majority of brass teaching is just the perpetuation of anecdotes and myths, and players are not taught the critical self-analysis that enables them to understand why their development stops.

It is important to realise that embouchure is only one component in a player’s overall technique. But it should also be acknowledged that embouchures do not develop by osmosis as many brass teachers believe. If you have a strong embouchure then you can practise any technical exercises or music for as many hours as you wish. It never works the other way around.

Enter the TCE:

The Tongue Controlled Embouchure, or TCE for short, is an embouchure system suitable for all brass-playing musicians. It is also system that relies on a number of simple ideas that enable a player to identify key areas of their development and grow into a powerful brass musician.

The core teachings of the Tongue Controlled Embouchure can be summarised in four concepts:

  1. Correct sound concept – working with your instrument, not against it.
  2. Use of the tongue – anchored on the bottom lip.
  3. Einsetzen/Ansetzen – double pedal note exercises.
  4. Correct use of air – quality not quantity.

Advantages of learning this playing system include, but are not limited to:

  1. Strong, clean articulation and resonant, projected sound.
  2. Vastly improved centring of pitches and intonation.
  3. Increased stamina and range as a result of a highly efficient set up.

TCE (and Jerome Callet’s Superchops) has often been seen as a ‘high note method’ but this interpretation is misleading. A famous American trumpet pedagogue once said that given a player has good technique then high notes are inevitable. This is certainly true, and it may be that this technique is the best of them all.

Disclaimer: There is much discussion on the internet, most of it reactionary, in which people argue whether aspects of this system are right or wrong. This form of argument is not productive and wilful ignorance of the different ideas in a field of study only serves to stifle personal development. Genuine understanding of the Tongue Controlled Embouchure can only be achieved through its practice and all of TCE’s critics are people who have not taken the time to understand and master the technique. Please refer to the FAQ page for more information.