Hornmasters Extra: Clevenger on Tonguing


I recently (2011) became aware of a new resource that has some very interesting pedagogical notes from Dale Clevenger, longtime Principal Horn of the Chicago symphony. Credit James Boldin for noting this new resource, a 2009 Doctoral document by Margaret Tung (the same Margaret Tung featured in the infamous Rice “Horn Crew” video**, more at the end of this article) titled Dale Clevenger: Performer and Teacher. Boldin first saw the document noted in the site of Ricardo Matosinhos, and it is high time to mention it here in Horn Matters as it is a very significant paper.

As I did not study with Clevenger the two main pedagogical topics presented, “Synchronization” and “Pursing,” are particularly interesting to read about. As Boldin also quotes in his article, Tung introduces the concepts as follows.

Two elements of fine horn playing that must be in constant balance are Synchronization and Pursing. Synchronization involves the process of beginning to play a note, in which the mouthpiece and horn connect to the face. Many factors must simultaneously occur, or inaccuracies on the horn will result. These factors include pressing in the mouthpiece, breathing, forming an embouchure, and placing the tongue for articulation while releasing the air. Pursing, or facial isometrics, involves changing the oral cavity of the mouth as well as the shape of the lips and embouchure to enable more air to flow through the lips, which produces a rich and centered tone. Synchronization and pursing, two unique teaching emphases of Clevenger, involve both physical and mental aspects of playing which improve sound and consistency on the horn.

Where the discussion got especially interesting for me was the description of the fourth step of Synchronization, starting on bottom of page 73 of the document. For what Clevenger describes is quite a bit different than Farkas in terms of tongue placement when tonguing and also motion. There is a photo of his recommended placement in the document on page 75 and of it Tung writes,

Position the tongue at the bottom of the top teeth to articulate. The cleanest articulation is produced when the tongue meets the bottom of the upper teeth. If the beginning of the note is fuzzy or unclear, most likely the tongue is making contact too high back on the back of the upper teeth or even on the roof of the mouth, which may interfere with the flow of air. At the point of sound, the tongue should already be in place at the bottom of the top teeth, and it should move backwards to create an articulation when the air is released.

The statements above move the discussion of tonguing way beyond Farkas. My main note being that many horn players struggle trying to do what Farkas said on this topic without realizing that his method as published does not line up with the methods of other great players and, while perhaps helpful visualizations, are not physiologically accurate. If you are working on tonguing, really think over what Tung reports of the method of Clevenger, as it is certainly an accurate description of how many fine horn players approach tongue placement and motion.

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In closing I will echo Boldin as well; I hope to see more from this document published in some form. It is one that contains a lot of information that is new to me that will be of interest to many horn players. The direct link to the full document is here.

**The Rice Horn Crew video (VerMeulen/Tung) dates to 2005 and was finally posted to YouTube recently. VerMeulen is playing the part of an over the top caricature of an extreme horn teacher in the video, which was made to advertise her upcoming recital. While it seems very believable, don’t take it too seriously, I have it on very good authority (from VerMeulen himself!) that it is in fact just humor.  The link is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6q3ZfCi3tc&feature=plcp Well worth watching for fun.

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