Farewell to Blogging about the Embouchure (for a while)


The last few weeks of teaching and playing have been very interesting, as I have arrived at several key insights into my own playing with practical applications to my students. What are they? I don’t want to get too specific at this time but they have to do with tonguing and high range

On tonguing, I am now more aware of the real mechanics of what I do than ever before. While I always knew that I did not tongue exactly as Farkas described, with this new awareness I know even more clearly that “traditional” descriptions of tonguing don’t quite fit reality. Tongue physiologies vary, and eventually you are looking for a result. Methods are also variable depending on the musical context. Clues to what I am thinking about may be found in this post, in the quote from Milan Yancich, where he demonstrates four different manners of tonguing.

To give readers a little foundation as to how to use this information would be an experiment I have shared with students. Play your horn backwards–put your left hand in the bell and blow. Can you suddenly feel the air and the sound waves hit your hand? Yes, you can! Put it back in the normal position, can you feel them now? No, not really. Why? Because your right hand has been desensitized to the sensation and no longer “feels” it.

In the same manner, I am sure our tongues and lips have been thoroughly desensitized as to how we are really tonguing notes, the real mechanics for us up inside our mouths. Sure, a fine player will produce articulations that sound right. But we have difficulty in perceiving exactly why we get that result and how we can get different results in different situations. Because of this we end up relying on statements from our teachers, believing that we are doing the same things they said we were supposed to be doing. But are we?

As to the high range, clues to things I am thinking about may be found in this post quoting Fred Fox and also in this post on Caruso. Except that I am looking at a different way of thinking about and teaching elements of these ideas.

If you are one of my current students, I will go over all of this very clearly in your upcoming lessons. I saw some amazing results late last week. If you are a former student, I am rethinking some things and I would love to meet you to talk some of this over. If you never studied with me you have two options, either study with me at ASU or wait a while! But for now I am not posting more on this topic online, I need a bit of a personal sabbatical from postings on this topic to ponder and apply the new approach more fully. And, really, there are some elements of brass playing that really can’t taught very efficiently through written words alone, especially something as complicated as embouchure and tonguing mechanics.