Stratos is the brainchild of trombone player Marcus Reynolds who suffered a terrible accident when a stage collapsed while the band was playing. This left Marcus with serious facial injuries which devastated his playing and career. He invented Stratos to enable himself to rebuild his life as a musician.
“Following a serious stage accident that led to major reconstructive surgery, he had to battle to learn to play again. This struggle gave him insights about the brass embouchure that he used to develop the STRATOS system. The development and refinement of STRATOS took nearly 3 years but has resulted in a system that is used successfully by hundreds of brass players world-wide to improve their embouchure and playing.”
In a nutshell, Stratos is a small device that attaches to the instrument or mouthpiece and regulates the amount of frontal pressure the player may place on the area of contact with the mouthpiece. This has the immediate effect of freeing up blood flow to the delicate musculature of the embouchure and lip tissue, thus allowing improved endurance and sustainability of playing. Jaw alignment is also a result, causing the airstream to flow directly into the centre of the mouthpiece, thereby maximising tone and the weight of sound. A more relaxed embouchure develops, improving flexibility, slotting and range. The air stream is more effective as a result of continued use, making the whole brass playing experience much easier, which, in turn, lets the player focus more on the music and less on the physical aspects of brass playing.
I personally use Stratos in my warm up each day to set the embouchure ready for my practice session. I then play a variety of exercises:
- Claude Gordon Systematic Approach lessons 2 and 7
- Charles Collins Lip Flexibilities Etude 1, Etude 5
- Max Schlossberg (various exercises)
- Valveless scales
- Cat Anderson Whisper G
I use Stratos during my session when practising a lyrical phrase. I play the phrase once then remove the plunger on the device and repeat. The freeing effect is immediate and causes the muscle memory to ‘kick in’ when playing that phrase.
Teaching beginners with Stratos is brilliant as you can set up a student’s embouchure correctly and most effectively from the outset. Their progress is faster, more sustainable and ultimately more satisfying for the new player.
Finally, it is my opinion that Stratos is the simplest yet most brilliant addition to the brass playing world, bar none. As with all great inventions, it is often necessity that gives birth to a new concept and if it wasn’t for Marcus having to rebuild his playing from scratch, we wouldn’t now have this asset to our brass playing lives.
Roger Moisan LTCL PGCE