How I came to BE

October 9, 2009

Val w/ horn 






Hello and thanks for stopping by.  I’m a horn player starting this blog to share my success using The Balanced Embouchure and to provide a place for other horn players to share their positive experiences with BE. The Balanced Embouchure (BE for short) is an embouchure development system originally written for trumpet by Jeff Smiley. 

In high school I played a variety of brass instruments, but excelled on horn so decided to study it  in college. In my college  admissions audition, I was told, “Nice tone, but you look like you’ve been playing trumpet.”  So they set to work transforming my embouchure into a classic Farkas French horn embouchure.  Guess what?  It was not successful, I got frustrated & dropped out of music school after my sophomore year thinking I’d never be a decent horn player.   But I never stopped thinking of myself as a horn player.

After retiring from nursing and rearing a family, I indulged myself  by purchasing a horn and hiring a private instructor in Januray of 2006.  Thinking that I’d probably done something “wrong” in college, I redoubled my efforts to develop the perfect Farkas embouchure.  I practiced hard & soon regained my previous college playing level which, unfortunately, included my range & endurance limiting embouchure.

Out of sheer frustration I decided to search the internet for solutions.  I found a few websites that parroted the same old stuff I’d heard decades before.  But, I was looking for something else — I didn’t know what — but I knew IT had to be new and different.  I found IT on Jeff Smiley’s website.  His message resonated with me.  And, most importantly he had the guts to promise that BE would work for every player, even a French horn player.  I figured, “what have I got to lose?,” so I ordered the book.

To make a short story even shorter, I experienced almost instant success with BE.  Everything quickly fell into place.  My private instructor was so pleased with my progress, she ordered the book herself.  I’ve been playing now for less than four years and, of course, I still have many technical obstacles to overcome, but there’s one obstacle I no longer wrestle with, an inefficient embouchure.  I can play the full range of the horn with a pretty decent tone and I’m no longer afraid of high notes or running out of steam half way through a concert.  Thanks to Jeff Smiley, range & endurance are no longer holding  me back.  Whoo hoo!

I have been so successful in promoting The Balanced Embouchure within the horn communty, Jeff Smiley honored me with a request to handle sales and consultation for French Horn players.  “The Balanced Embouchure” is available directly from me.  My exercises adapted for French horn are available at no extra charge with the purchase of the BE book.    

Please visit my new blog address:

Valerie Wells    ValerieW78 “at” gmail “dot” com

PS  It is not my intention to trash the Farkas method or my university horn instructor.  They did the best they could with what they had at the time.  It would be over two decades before Jeff Smiley would publish the method that could help me.



4 Responses to “How I came to BE”

  1. Lyle Sanford Says:

    Great! I think your doing a blog is a wonderful way to share your work with BE. The blog looks great, and having your photo right there at the top is very welcoming and helps folks connect with you. Really enjoyed reading your whole story all straight through. Totally get your take on music educators. They can be subject to a weird tunnel vision and can be very touchy about it being pointed out. Mr. Rider’s book is already on my list of things to get because of what you’ve said and because of a comment of his Jonathan West (Horn Thoughts) cited to me here recently. Jonathan, Jeffrey Agrell (Horn Insights) and the Horn Matters guys, Bruce Hembd and John Ericson all seem to be very open minded and following their blogs might give you some good ideas to bounce off of. It’s been the interaction with other bloggers that’s been the most surprising plus to blogging for me. It has helped me better understand what I have to offer to the conversation and how to better say it.

  2. How I came to BE The Balanced Embouchure for French Horn is an interesting name for a blog, keep up the good work, thanks, from Rhoda Mccormick

  3. rpalmerhrn Says:

    This is really good work. You know, I came acrosss some comments by Mark Taylor that referenced to this blog and BE. I am the Horn player that gas Lupus and suffered som muscle mass loss awhile back. I got this “program” and it has worked to help me to find my focal point for my embouchre. I am teaching it to some of my brass students, although they don’t know it yet. It’s interesting to read Mr. Smiley’s and your perspectives and then to learn my own way to make BE for Horn work for me with find my focal point. Once I did that, it has been smooth sailing for me. I have not distributed either of your materials to my students, that’s why I say that they are using BE yet. When they get better, I will incorporate this into their lessons, and suggest thay they invest in a system that I now know works.

    • beforhorn Says:

      WONDERFUL! Thanks so much for your comments. I’m tickled you took the time to share. BE always amazes me. I don’t think it will ever get “old” to me.
      A good embouchure is a good embouchure regardless of how it is achieved. I believe when any two great brass players play with good chops, 99% of what they are doing is the same, yet they will have vastly different subjective “impressions” of their experience. Oft times their descriptions of their embouchure’s function vary SO widely, it leads to interesting and “vigorous” debate between them. Sadly, this sometimes leads to confusion for the student. The beauty of the BE exercises is that they clearly, almost magically, communicate the how-to’s to the student in a way that can almost NOT be MISunderstood (if you understand my double negative!). Most of this communication is to the subconscious, gently & quietly guiding the chops to make good choices, self correct, etc. for better results.

      Please see my other blog. It is more complete and contains shared testimonials from lots of other horn players.

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