The Extraordinary Carmine Caruso
Lucinda Lewis, French hornist with the New Jersey Symphony and author of Broken Embouchures, discusses how to apply famous embouchure methods to your playing. She quotes from an interview she conducted with Laurie Frink, Carmen Caruso’s protégée, and warns against using Caruso’s exercises without fully understanding his entire method or working with a properly-trained instructor.
I’m often asked about various “embouchure methods,” such as the Caruso method or the Arnold Jacobs method. My response is, “Whatever works for you is the best method.” It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about a chop therapy – how does it work for you? The only caveat I would offer is to be wary of anyone who tells you s/he is qualified to teach someone else’s embouchure system. There are many, many players who, at one time or another, studied with Caruso or Jacobs. Studying with someone to overcome your own playing problems is not quite the same as actually working with someone to learn every level of how his method works and is to be taught. So, it’s good to take a buyer-beware approach when looking for a qualified Caruso or Jacobs instructor.
Most brass players have heard of the Caruso method but actually know less about it than they think they do. Carmine Caruso attempted to explain his concept in a book he wrote shortly before his death. Unfortunately, the book, which is now out of print, does not completely explain his unique approach. To get a more accurate picture of this process, I asked Carmine’s best-know protégée and Caruso expert, Laurie Frink, to describe how his method actually works.
The Caruso method, she said, isn’t composed of generic, one-size-fits-all playing exercises; rather, it is made up of prescriptive exercises that are designed specifically for each individual player’s needs—exercises that can “link” a player’s good mechanics into his/her problem area. It is sometimes necessary for the exercises to be adjusted, based upon what is working and what is not. These exercises can only be devised by those few players who have a thorough understanding of Carmine’s technique. Frink cautioned that the exercises in Caruso’s book are largely worthless and perhaps even a bit dangerous without a concise understanding of his whole method.
The Caruso method can help players overcome their various embouchure and playing problems, but only when it is based upon the proper application of the system. It is an approach that requires an instructor with specific knowledge and expertise for it to be beneficial. Merely doing the exercises that Carmine Caruso or Laurie Frink designed for someone else will do nothing for you. Know what it is that you want or need to fix or improve in your playing before you decide to undertake any therapeutic method.
Copyright© 1995 by Lucinda Lewis