Lip slurs – range, flexibility and strength can be yours!

Lip Slurs

Doing lip slurs on a daily basis will help you to develop embouchure control and strength allowing for great control and range.

There are a number of ways of completing lip slurs and the different types of lip slur can help with developing a greater, more rounded technique.  There are slurs that can be completed in 5ths, 4ths and 3rds and it is possible to work on these in different ways.

Lip Slurs – 5ths

This is a larger jump and can help to focus on your control of air and tongue placement.  Start with middle C and then slur up to the G as shown below:

lip slur 1

Make sure that the note doesn’t bend upwards from the middle C or G and that the notes are well centred and played smoothly.  Playing these slowly and really focusing on your sound will ensure that the correct air support is provided and that the lips are working as they should.  For the lower note think Tah (or dah), keep the air going and change the sound to EEE whilst allowing the embouchure to adjust to change the note.  Using Tah-eee in this way should produce a controlled and centred sound.

Continue with lip slurring over a 5th by pushing down the second valve and going to B and F sharp, then the first valve (playing B flat and F), then first and second valves (playing A and E), then second and third valves, first and third valves and then all three valves.

Play this deliberately and slowly listening to the quality of sound and smoothness when changing notes.  After this, play them again starting from C (going up to G) as quickly as possible.

This can be extended by using the following exercises:

lip slur 2

Lip Slurs – 4ths

As before, we will work slowly on these initially and then play them faster.  Start with D and lip slur up to G using valves one and three, then use valves two and three (E flat and A flat), then use valves one and two (E and A), then use valve one (F and B flat), then use valve two (F sharp to B) and finally no valves (G up to C).  This exercise is great preparation for working on lip slurs over a 3rd.

lip slur 3

Again, it is possible to extend this further by the exercises shown below:

lip slur 4

Remember to transpose these using the different valve combinations.

Lip Slurs – 3rds

For this the aim will be to focus on control and sound at slower speeds before increasing the tempo.  Start with the following exercises:

lip slur 5lip slur 6

Aim to keep the jaw as still as possible and always focus on the quality of sound that you make.  It is very important to avoid the sound becoming squashed or pinched as the lips slur upwards (or even downwards) and the air is allowed to flow freely.  Always ensure that the pressure applied to the embouchure is kept to the smallest amount required, and at all costs avoid pushing the mouthpiece into the embouchure as you get higher.  If you see a dent on your top lip then it is very likely that you have applied too much pressure.  This is bad as it will stop the blood flow to your lips, eventually making them go a little blue in colour and can damage your teeth.  Using too much pressure will lead to the potential of bruising your embouchure which will cause lots of further problems and is best avoided!

Here are some exercises that combine the use of 4ths and 3rds and help to build strength.

lip slur 7You will notice that these exercise only cover the middle register (and upper lower register for some instruments) and that is entirely intentional.  It is far better to start off these exercises in a comfortable register than to mindlessly play through a series of exercises with less focus on the control, sound and flexibility in a register that is not comfortable.  When the strength has built up it is then possible to extend these exercises both upward and downward maintaining focus firmly in the point and value of the exercises.

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