Shofar Blowing Tips and Techniques

Embouchure

Embouchure refers to the manner in which the lips and tongue are applied to a mouthpiece. Embouchure is an important part of playing the Shofar correctly. To form an embouchure there are two groups of muscles that come in to play. Firstly, the muscles that brings the mouth to an extreme pucker such as when whistling- these are the muscles around our lips. The second group of muscles are those used when smiling- the cheek muscles. When one is contracted the other relaxed- when puckering your lips, the cheek muscles relax and the lips contract whereas when smiling the cheek muscles contract and the lips relax.

In order to form the correct embouchure when blowing the Shofar, the actions of smiling and puckering must be combined- too much of either one can ruin the tone of the Shofar note.

Mouthpiece Placement

French horn teachers have been adamant for 300 years that a mouthpiece placement of 2/3 upper lip and 1/3 lower lip is correct. This seems to be the way when blowing a Shofar too due to the fleshy part of the upper lip being responsible for the quality of the sound.

Moist Lips

It is especially important for a beginner Shofar-player to have moist lips as this way the mouthpiece of the Shofar can settle in to its most natural position over the fleshy mound of the upper lip.

Function of Lip Muscles

When forming an embouchure a third set of muscles come in to play in addition to the ones mentioned above- those of the upper lip itself.

Aperture Control

The aperture is the hole through which air passes from the player into the mouthpiece. Playing the Shofar, especially higher notes, depends on aperture control. The aperture needs to be smaller for higher notes than low notes. One should practice controlling the aperture from inside the mouthpiece by making it smaller form the corners and keeping the same shape when playing low and high.

Mouthpiece Pressure

Moderate mouthpiece pressure is needed but not excessively in the high range. Mouthpiece pressure helps in reaching high notes  as the extra pressure makes the aperture smaller. However this comes at the expense of tune and endurance. Such force is not constructive in Shofar playing as one can harm ones embouchure, especially on a Shofar with a sharp mouthpiece when digging ones lips into the mouthpiece.