Personal Embouchure Training Device Review

Personal Embouchure Training Device Review

Personal Embouchure Training Device Review

The concept promoted by the Personal Embouchure Training Exerciser is not new for we have known of the basic concept for a long time. This exercise was first shared with me by an old circus cornet player many years ago. Years later it was shared again when I played under Merle Evans in the Ringling Barnum and Bailey Circus. Mr. Evans shared two exercises which had used for building his “chops” while on the road directing the circus.

The first exercise begins with a telephone directory. Select about a half inch of pages from the center of the directory. While bending forward, place the selected pages between your lips and suspend the book with pleasure on the pages from your embouchure. Suspend the book until you feel the “burn” start to build in your lip muscles. Do this a couple times a day and each day select five fewer pages. Gradually the width of the selected pages will diminish and the benefits of the exercise will increase. Continue this removal of pages until you are able to suspend the directory with only one page.

The second exercise is called “the pencil exercise.” Place the end of a pencil between your lips and through muscle compression; support the pencil so that it points straight out from your mouth. Hold that position until the burn starts in your embouchure. Then rest. Do this several times a day making sure that you don’t over do the exercise. This will also build strength in your embouchure.

Personal Embouchure Training Exerciser

This device is based on the previously mentioned “pencil” exercise and should be considered as a third possible routine even though it follows the pencil concept.

When you purchase your new P.E.T.E., the package will include the device and an instruction sheet. It is very important that you read all of the information for there are a few warnings and suggestions that should be followed. You are often told in the instructions that the device is not a substitute for real practice. Good advice! This tool is to be used when you are away from your instrument; it is not a substitute for your instrument. Another suggestion is “do not practice your horn immediately after using the device”. This is also good advice for after your routine on the PETE, your embouchure will be fatigued and any playing on your mouthpiece could cause a problem. The manufacturer suggests that you wait an hour or two before playing your instrument.

Exercise #1 is something new to me and I was very skeptical until I tried it. Whereas the pencil exercise works primarily on the center of your embouchure, exercise #1 develops what the manufacturer calls the muscles used for “power and stamina” which affects more of the facial muscles around the opening of your mouth. The larger end of the device is placed between the teeth and the inside of the lip to execute the first exercise. Place the large end into position and “gently pull the exerciser forward with your thumb and forefinger. You will feel the disk pulling your lips away from your teeth. Resist this action with your lip muscles.” This is obviously an addition to the old pencil exercise for it requires you to use additional lip muscles.

Exercise #2 is identical to the pencil exercise with the exception of the weight of the device. The PETE device is much heavier. When I started working out with the PETE, like most people, I didn’t read the instruction and immediately placed it and began to use it. I quickly determined that the instructions are there for a reason. A few days after starting the exercises, I noticed that the strength in my lip was increasing and at the same time my lower lip was being forced up into my mouthpiece. Strength is good; an excessive amount of lower lip in mouthpiece is not good. I then decided it was a good time to read the instructions. Sure enough, I had overlooked an important suggestion in the instructions. It stated, “Note: It is not necessary to let go of the PETE to support it solely with your chops.” That was the reason I was starting to reposition my lower lip when playing. I was building the strength in my lower lip faster than the upper in order to suspend the added weight of the device. VERY BAD IDEA! I took a couple days off the device and reestablished my original lip position, then began following the instructions. It is very important that you also follow the included instructions.

Bottom Line

“It works, but follow the instruction.”

  • Is it worth the cost? Yes.
  • If money is tight, could I get equal benefits from the telephone book or pencil exercises? I can’t say.
  • Will I benefit from the telephone book and pencil exercises? Yes.

Cost of Personal Embouchure Training Exerciser- $39.50

Cost of telephone book- $0.00

Cost of pencil- $0.02

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.

16 thoughts on “Personal Embouchure Training Device Review

  1. Ole

    Good article Bruce,

    I have been using P.E.T.E. since spring (almost 1/2 a year).
    Have it at work – did 60 slow counts while reading your articel now.

    I do that 3 times during my work day at the university (no playing). Also do som buzzing with the BuzzMaster and a trombone mouthpiece.

    I only use the pull away (with dial inside lips) exercise.

    When I met Terry Warburton in Scotland this summer, he told me that he only did that exercise and not the “pencil” exercise (using opposite end). Funny I had come to the same conclusion.

    In his clinic he also demonstrated only that single pull away exercise.

    I feel that this exercise really do things with my chops, but that the “pencil” do not.
    (I can hold the PETE as a pencil for 4 – 5 minutes, btw)

    Several years ago I did Pops pencil exercise and I developed strengt, but did not feel much in the chops. With P.E.T.E. I feel so strong when playing later in the day.

    A friend ovedid the exercises and put it on the shelf. When we met Terry, he realised that he had not read the instruction. Now he is using P.E.T.E again and getting results (he is a lead player)


  2. David H. Bailey

    From my experience with PETE over the past 8 months, I have to say that your observations seem right on the mark, Bruce.

    I think the most important thing for everybody to remember, as you point out, is that using PETE is not a substitute for practice time. It’s a tool to keep the embouchure in shape when life simply won’t let us practice, but there’s nothing like actual playing to really keep us in the best shape.

  3. Fred Moose

    Hi Bruce,

    I was just wondering if you have any experience/opinion about the Chop-Sticks embouchure training stuff?

    • Bruce Chidester

      Thanks for visiting our site.
      I have not used this system but have ordered it after reading your question.
      In the advertisement it points out the fact that the P.E.T.E system creates stiffness and after testing the PETE, I found this to be true. The Chop Stick approach is obviously an exercise on pinching the lips together and makes more since to me. I would expect that the Chop Stick system would be an improvement on the PETE system but until I get mine and test it, I can’t recommend it. Keep checking back for after I try the Chop Stick, I will post my thoughts on it.

      Thanks again for pointing me on to something new and have a great day.
      Bruce Chidester

      • Vanessa

        Hello Bruce,

        Have you tried the Chop Stick system yet?

        I am a beginning trumpet player. I just started playing several days ago. I played flute for 8 years, but that was 34 years ago; the last time I played a wind instrument (prior to trumpet).

        I’m really interested in building my embouchure quickly, so I’ve been practicing every day and simply holding a pencil for a few minutes here and there. So I really want to make the best tool choice possible here. P.E.T.E. or Chop-Sticks?

        Thanks for your input!


        • Bruce Chidester

          Good morning Veronica and thanks for stopping by.

          I have tried all three methods and the one I got the best results with was the BERP for it was the most versatile of the three.
          I’m glad that you mentioned that you played flute in a former life for there are some issues when switching from flute to trumpet. I doubled on flute for a while in my early days and found the embouchures were not very compatible. My secondary instrument in college was clarinet and that was even more of a problem.

          If you intend to be serious about learning the trumpet, I would suggest that you put the flute away for some time. At least until you feel comfortable with your new trumpet embouchure. Everyone is different so you may not have a problem. If you do have a problem, that might be the cause.

          Best of luck and “soft long tones” will be your best chop builder.

  4. ted hobart

    I stumbled across the pencil excercise about a year ago,I use it at the end of the day when all playing has ceased..I Started at 30 seconds and over time have increased it to 3 minutes.
    I have tried every form of practice procedure to improve range and stamina over 43 years as a pro player,and this simple procedure has beat everything.
    I have also changed my practice habit by having every other day off as a rest day,( unless performing) .this enables the chops to recover, and enables the lips to vibrate better

    • Bruce Chidester

      Thanks for checking out our site and if you have been playing for 43 years as a pro, your background and mine are very similar. I would be interested in knowing if you have had the chance to try the Personal Embouchure Training Device and if so, how it compares to the pencil.

      Another trick that I have tried is the “Telephone Book” exercise. I heard of this from an old circus trumpet player many years ago.

      1. Take a local telephone book and select about ¾ of an inch section of pages.
      2. Place the selected pages between your lips (not your teeth).
      3. Bend over and suspend the book with only your lips.
      4. Gradually increase the amount of time you suspend the book and each day remove pages until you can hold it with only one page.


      Let me know what you think….

  5. Anders

    Hi Bruce!

    Interesting test! Do you know if there are different sizes available since I am a trombone player?

    All the best,

  6. Don Witt

    Before I shelled out the $40, I took a 10p nail, drilled a hole in both a dime and a nickel (2 different size options), put them both onto the same nail, and built up the pointed end a narrow long strip of black tape… voila.. not a ‘PETE’, but it works!

  7. Gordon

    I used to do the pencil exercise daily and when I stopped I found that my sound got airier in the upper register. Possibly I had lost control a bit in the centre of my lip.

    I do it when I am away on holiday and I find that it speeds up my recovery after the lay off.

    • Bruce Chidester

      Thanks for your comments. Practicing does not always have to be with the horn.

      I just got back from a cruise and the only practicing I got was doing isometric exercises on the corners of my chops.

      I hit the horn tonight and found that I had not lost too much during the week off.

  8. mike palmere

    ah use the pete every a.m. then play ma horn later..makes sense and keeps things focused ah think..

    • Bruce Chidester

      Sounds good to me.
      Each person must be consistent and evaluate his/her own progress.

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