The A.P.E (Anti Pressure Exerciser) is an idea that had been evolving in my head for a few years. The all-too-frequent use of excessive mouthpiece pressure jokingly referred to as the “Armstrong Technique” is a bad playing habit that is shared by most if not all brass players. It decreases blood circulation to the lips resulting in poor endurance, and adversely impacts sound and intonation.
I was driving home from work one evening buzzing my mouthpiece and came to the realization that even without the horn, I was using excessive pressure. The loss of response and focus, poor endurance and ultimately lip pain and discomfort, as well as the burn in my right bicep, were big clues! As soon as I got home I began sketching crude drawings of an idea that was materializing in my head: A device that would prevent me from buzzing with too much pressure and ultimately, teach me to play with the right amount of pressure. I neatly crafted a “back of the napkin” drawing, emailed a pdf to Terry Warburton and the A.P.E. was born!
I have been using the A.P.E for the past several months and the results have exceeded my wildest expectations. First of all, Terry turned my drawings into a product that is well-designed and precisely manufactured as one would expect of a Warburton product. Secondly, the A.P.E really works! I’ve been using it daily with my mouthpiece and also with my Warburton A.T.V with great results!
When I first started buzzing on the A.P.E. I was surprised at how quickly the A.P. E. hole closed up as I ascended into the upper register, preventing me from further buzzing. After a few practice sessions I began to get the hang of it and gradually started to increase the upper limits of my buzzing range as well as the amount of air I could move through the mouthpiece without having it close from too much pressure.
Back on the horn I began to get a better sense of when I was using too much pressure which was exactly what I was hoping would happen. What I didn’t count on was how much more focused my sound was becoming due to the proper buzzing of the upper notes. My corners and other embouchure support muscles were becoming stronger and were learning to really buzz the upper notes now that the crutch of excessive pressure was being broken. In just a few of months I’ve improved many aspects of my playing related to sound, endurance, articulation and range.
Here is a summary of some of the benefits I’ve experienced using the A.P.E. that hopefully you will too:
- Learn to play with the appropriate amount of pressure.
- Develop a better awareness of when excessive pressure creeps into your playing.
- Improve the clarity and focus of your sound throughout your range.
- Develop better flexibility and execution of lip slurs due to the improved buzz.
- Improve your range and purity of sound in the upper register.
- Increase your endurance.
- Improve response and articulation.
- Improve accuracy and feel more secure in tricky passages and entrances.
- No more lip pain!
The A.P.E. together with the P.E.T.E, and the A.T.V. are essential practice tools to help develop strength, endurance and the correct approach to playing brass instruments. I’d love to hear about your experiences with the A.P.E. Please feel free to email me at
or post your comments to Warburton Music on Twitter or Facebook.