Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

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timothy42b
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Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by timothy42b » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:47 am

In the recent doodle tongue thread, baileyman talked about tongue level having to be just right for the range.

Some time ago Doug told me if I could get my tongue level dialed in better, it would make things easier.

I believe, but it's not something that's obvious to me. I can't really feel where my tongue is.

So the genesis of this post is several things, including the old anchor tongue discussion, and Wilktone's long discussion about TCE, tongue controlled embouchure (which I read in entirety this morning). Oh, and it being Friday, which frequently produces philosophical posts.

Is tongue position the same as vowel sound? Years ago I experimented quite a bit with vowel sound, and it didn't make any difference. Playing my routine this morning I realized I do make a clear distinction in vowel sound across ranges (it took effort to become conscious of it). I found if I used the vowel shape for low G, I could absolutely guarantee chipping the G two octaves up every time, so something has changed enough to make a difference.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by BGuttman » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:56 am

Each vowel sound has a particular tongue position. You will find that each vowel sound "fits" a particular note best. Then you need to figure out how to adjust the tongue position for the different notes. Don't think too much; play around and develop a feel for it. Otherwise it's paralysis by analysis.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by Basbasun » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:32 am

I don´t think anybody can feel the toungue level. You can check that easily. When you whistle you control the tones with the toungue level right? It works fine. But if you sing a tone, and befor you wistle the tone you try to find the right tongue level for the tone, the without changing the tongue level you just ad the air stream. What happend? Most likely wrong tone. Forget the tongue level, go for the vowels! When you are playing music hear the sound ahead. Like when you are wistling, you don´t thing toungue level you think the melody.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by GabeLangfur » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:33 am

I can feel the tongue level.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by VJOFan » Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:41 am

:clever: I thought this emoji stood for pedantic, not clever.

Saying a vowel's name is a multi-movement process that has the tongue (and various sections of the tongue really)gliding through many positions until, when the sound is complete, everything returns to a neutral position.

Instructions to shape the mouth as you would when saying a particular vowel are problematic because each vowel has several sounds. In simplest terms for English pronunciation there are at least three sounds: short, long and r controlled.

I am just guessing, but I think the tradition of vowel sounds/shapes in brass pedagogy is another one of those short cuts by analogy like "breath from the diaphragm" that are used because they closely express what is meant and generally produce the desired results when teaching.

It would take a lot of verbosity or a 3D diagram to exactly describe the tongue shape necessary to play certain pitches. "Say e to play higher" gets the job done most times.

So in directly answering the OP, I think tongue placement and vowels are not the same thing. If we could come up with a shared vocabulary that was more accurate but as easy to use as "ah for low notes and ee for high notes", it would probably benefit us all.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by LeTromboniste » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:01 pm

VJOFan wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:41 am
:clever: I thought this emoji stood for pedantic, not clever.

Saying a vowel's name is a multi-movement process that has the tongue (and various sections of the tongue really)gliding through many positions until, when the sound is complete, everything returns to a neutral position.

Instructions to shape the mouth as you would when saying a particular vowel are problematic because each vowel has several sounds. In simplest terms for English pronunciation there are at least three sounds: short, long and r controlled.

I am just guessing, but I think the tradition of vowel sounds/shapes in brass pedagogy is another one of those short cuts by analogy like "breath from the diaphragm" that are used because they closely express what is meant and generally produce the desired results when teaching.

It would take a lot of verbosity or a 3D diagram to exactly describe the tongue shape necessary to play certain pitches. "Say e to play higher" gets the job done most times.

So in directly answering the OP, I think tongue placement and vowels are not the same thing. If we could come up with a shared vocabulary that was more accurate but as easy to use as "ah for low notes and ee for high notes", it would probably benefit us all.
Two issues with that.

A) while it's true that the vowel names in English are diphthongs, the same can't be said of some other languages. French and German, for instance, both have simple vowel names that reflect their default in-context pronunciation.

B) The tradition of using vowel shapes and sounds is not based on saying the vowel names, it's based on forming the vowel shape. E.g. when you're told to form A, what is mean is not to say "ey" like the letter name, but "aaaah"

Plus, those instructions are usually given verbally by a teacher, meaning you are replicating what they are saying/singing for you. I've never been confused by what sound/shape my teachers were suggesting when they talked about vowel shapes and I have trouble seeing how one might be aside maybe if they're only reading about it without the verbal cues.

Also if what you said about vowels was true, basic singing technique would be even more of a nightmare than it already is.


That being said, tongue placement and vowel shapes are indeed different, although closely related. You can change the color of a vowel by changing the tongue placement somewhat without changing vowels altogether. Vowel shapes also imply changes in jaw position which combined by the tongue, increases or decreases the amount of space in the oral cavity.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by imsevimse » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:18 pm

I think Sabutins thread about overtone singing was good on the TTF.

It was good to focus on one tone at a time and experiment with the mouth cavity to make an overtone sing, the fifth in my case, but could probably be the third or any other overtone you want.

You will change the cavity and use many things to do so including the cheeks, jaw and tongue. The method helps to discover how to take control over ones sound.

When I do this I focus on the fifth. To me a strong fifth overtone in the sound makes the sound (my sound) darker so that's what I want. I don't know where my tongue is I just listen and play.

The problem is when you play the next note because every tone needs its individual care so the sound is the same character though the whole register. In my case I do not study every note on the horn although this might be a good idea. No, I play a few long notes to set the sound and after that I just focus on maintaining that same feel and sound on what ever comes after.

/Tom
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by Basbasun » Fri Jun 15, 2018 2:14 pm

Well, I was not clear in my saying. Of course you can feel you tongue level when you think about your tongue as being a muscle. But to place your tongue in the "right" place for to play a high G is another thing. Like in whistling you pre-hear the tone (hopfully with a good sound) in your innerear and the tongue will find its place, after practise. It is true that wovels doe sound different for different words and dialects. Actually to learn to play trombone after instructions on the net is not the best way. All instructions can be followed in ways that does not work, even with the best instructions. If you try something for sometime with no possitive result, just stop it. You may try it latter in you life with a different atitude, and maybe it works that time. There are some x-ray videos around on youtube and at Wilkens site shoving tongue levels that supriseingly do not show the "right" tongue level for higher tones.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by Doug Elliott » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:34 pm

You can sing one pitch and produce different vowel sounds (tongue shapes) while holding the note - that's how we speak and sing words.
However you can't whistle one pitch and change the vowel tongue position - the whistled pitch will change. The resonance cavity of your mouth has a huge effect on playing a brass instrument, just like whistling. When that resonance cavity matches the resonance of the note you're playing, it's in focus. The wrong cavity (vowel/tongue position) will cause an unfocused sound and instability - or a bad whistle.

It's all about muscle memory. When you learn what a good focused sound feels like on any given note, learn to replicate it, memorize what it feels like. But you have to do your own experimenting to find it, just like learning to whistle - you're not going to learn much by reading about it.

This is just ONE piece of the puzzle, but it's an important one.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by Pre59 » Sat Jun 16, 2018 4:31 am

I don't think about the tongue position at all, it'll go where it needs to with enough practice. The proof of this is to be able to play throughout the range with no tongue at all. By practicing the usual ex's and striving to achieve really accurate attacks using "air notes" (no tongue) starting with low volumes, lip sensitivity and strength should be improved. Add the tongue later but try not to think about it.
This was shown to me when on holiday by a Pro trombonist in a holiday centre big band sometime around 1966, and I've practiced it on and off ever since..
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by Basbasun » Sun Jun 17, 2018 4:17 am

The question is, witch comes first, the egg or the hen?
I tried to play with my tongue locket at the wovels "A" "O" "E" and "I", in all wovels I could play all over the range, pedals, middle and altissimo, yeas the sound was different.
If I play with as good sound I can get, I don´t know my tongue level, but I believe the tongue find the place that make me find the sound I want.
The similarity with whistling is that you can not find the right tongue level for a specific tone except by wistling the tone. I think that experiments like what Tom is doing can make you awere of that the tongue level has move to the level that is best for the sound. Allways practise with the best sound sound you can get. If the sound is good the level is right.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by baileyman » Sun Jun 17, 2018 6:31 am

Okay, I think I understand the question a little better now.

Just playing around with partials 3 4 5, 6 5 4, 3 in a triplet doodle, my tongue moves forward and higher through the triplet, and then reverses back down. Now trying the the same thing but speaking the vowels, it's something like duh-dul-i dee-il-uh, and it's all pretty well jammed forward, and the vowels are weak, not like ordinary speech, and the back of the tongue is high.

Trying single tongue the vowels seems to go duh, d*, di, dee where * is some kind of in between uh and i, again, well forward, high rear.

Trying slurs the same movement up and forward happens and the same weak vowel sound path happens, and the tongue drives the partial change.

Trying the rush of air though the naked aperture I get the impression there is an octave difference in the spread sound of the rush.

Trying a whistle I think it goes up a sixth.

(I should have discussed these in reverse order, as most all my good results have come from working from the simple to the complex, from breath attacks and slow patterns and then adding complexity bit by bit.)

I can't think of any reason to expect any two person's results to have the same description. But some things seem likely to be constant. It seems to me broadly there are three basic methods people use for partial change, breath, lip tension, and tongue position (but that's really mouth resonance since in partial 1.5 there's a weird volume add for me that occurs by yanking down the lower lip and a little tissue under the tongue, and that's more than tongue movement). Less broadly, I think it's lip tension vs resonance. For me, lip tension is like doing chin-ups for every note, and I'd rather not work so hard. Resonance is just providing air to the system and then managing it. Yet it seems to operate on top of a level of basic tension that adjusts for ranges. (I am tempted to think I can hear the difference between players who play basically one way or the other, and world class guys seem to do both.)

These weak vowel sounds illustrate to me the difficulty of saying something useful about how the horn works using ordinary speech as an analogy. The sounds I'm getting are not in my vocabulary. All instructions I have heard over the years about vowel sounds seem to me in retrospect to have been misleading and confusing. More valuable to me would have been an instruction like, play F and find every possible way you can to get to Bb and back.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by blast » Sun Jun 17, 2018 6:46 am

Pre59 wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 4:31 am
I don't think about the tongue position at all, it'll go where it needs to with enough practice. The proof of this is to be able to play throughout the range with no tongue at all. By practicing the usual ex's and striving to achieve really accurate attacks using "air notes" (no tongue) starting with low volumes, lip sensitivity and strength should be improved. Add the tongue later but try not to think about it.
This was shown to me when on holiday by a Pro trombonist in a holiday centre big band sometime around 1966, and I've practiced it on and off ever since..
You are still using your tongue when you play, even when you don't start a note with it. It will change shape whether you are aware of it or not. Some people have more sensory feedback from the tongue than others. Everybody can use vowel sounds to become aware of tongue movement ... best done when singing. I just try to think like a singer when I play. Keep music and sound quality uppermost in your mind.

Chris
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by GabeLangfur » Sun Jun 17, 2018 7:52 am

Here's a very practical way to practice it. The video is a little long, but it's worth the time.

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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by Pre59 » Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:01 am

blast wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 6:46 am
Pre59 wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 4:31 am
I don't think about the tongue position at all, it'll go where it needs to with enough practice. The proof of this is to be able to play throughout the range with no tongue at all. By practicing the usual ex's and striving to achieve really accurate attacks using "air notes" (no tongue) starting with low volumes, lip sensitivity and strength should be improved. Add the tongue later but try not to think about it.
This was shown to me when on holiday by a Pro trombonist in a holiday centre big band sometime around 1966, and I've practiced it on and off ever since..
You are still using your tongue when you play, even when you don't start a note with it. It will change shape whether you are aware of it or not. Some people have more sensory feedback from the tongue than others. Everybody can use vowel sounds to become aware of tongue movement ... best done when singing. I just try to think like a singer when I play. Keep music and sound quality uppermost in your mind.

Chris
I am able to move the tongue around while sustaining a note, but I don't pre-shape it to deliberately aid playing a higher note, I tend to make an aperture adjustment for that. I'm using a small bore horn and a 6.5AL.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by blast » Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:49 am

Yes you can move your tongue.... but when moved up and down, back and forward, it will change the sound and ease of vibration. I don't think about any of this.... it is far more organic. Check the Doug Yeo video posted elsewhere on here.

Chris.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by imsevimse » Sun Jun 17, 2018 12:07 pm

The tonge can be in any place just as this discussion is about this subject.

It seams some in this thread are talking about (1)The use of the tongue in articulations, others talk about (2) The tounge as giving help to the high and the low register and others (3) The use to control the quality of the sound.

The discussion is all over the place because the tonge is involved in all these things and there is no quick single fix that gives a simple answer. The moves of the tonge is acrobatic and it has to do a little bit of everything to make it work.

I think to solve the puzzle we have to practice each of these aspects separately as we do when we play as high and as low we can, as fast as we can, as articulate as we can, as smooth as we can and with as good sound as possible. In time our tongue, cheek, lips, chin, neck, throat and rest of body will coordinate its moves to a good result. The key must be to experiment with all this and use our ears to guide us because our ears is the only thing that can tell us if we are on track as we solve the puzzles.

If we don't know what to strive for then we absolutely are in need of a teacher. If we have a goal and a plan on how to fix things and have a clear picture of what we want in all these aspects then we can take care of all this our selves.

/Tom
"Do your best and then do better" ttf_watermailonman
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by baileyman » Mon Jun 18, 2018 5:57 am

GabeLangfur wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 7:52 am
Here's a very practical way to practice it. The video is a little long, but it's worth the time.

This guy is pretty close. But he introduces some errors that may make it harder for someone else to get onto the basic point, that the tuning of the mouth parts makes the pitch.

First, he has an idea of "air speed". Unfortunately for him, the vibrating lips act as an air flow meter. The speed of the air is fixed, so forget about it. The idea is a dead end. He draws a great diagram showing a pipe entering a variable volume vessel and a pipe exiting and make the point to be the speed of flow in the exit pipe. Meanwhile, the real point is the resonance of his variable volume and the communication of that resonance through the exit pipe, and in fact he spends the rest of the film on that point without retracting the air speed silliness.

Second, he assumes the resonance of the volume is 1:1 direct with the pitch of the horn and spends quite a bit of time illustrating vowel pitches in a 1:1 way. However, he himself shows at last the relationship is not 1:1 when he "finger breaths" the Til Eulenspiegel piece. Note the pitches of the sound of the rush do not match the piece. I think the reason why is that the mouth volume operates in the context of lip tension (and perhaps other things) so that a given mouth volume influences pitch differently for different tensions in different ranges. Thus the pitch of the rush of air is compressed by itself.

Note his focus on American English vowels and his jaw movement. It may just be that to get those low pitches on a horn it takes jaw movement that happens to correlate with American English vowels, but the same pitches on my trombone do not require such movement. And my vowels do not sound American English down there.

All of this stuff is a distraction. If you can pop from one partial to another using tongue tuning alone then the rest falls into place. It is entirely intuitive and requires none of this analysis. His really great point is that awareness of tongue tuning leads to pitch accuracy, a big problem on horn.

There are a couple aids to practice and exploration, though. If you have a really good practice mute, try using it and listen to the noise in your head. I find the brighter and richer the noise in the head the closer I am to good resonance and the ability to change partials. Try the same thing with ear plugs. Pretty soon the whole thing is bloody obvious.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by GabeLangfur » Mon Jun 18, 2018 8:17 am

You can pick apart the physics of what he presents, but Eli is one of the great horn players and teachers in the world, and his method WORKS.

Look...string players, pianists, percussionists can see everything relevant to their tone production. We can't see what we are doing, so we have to deal in metaphor. Air speed is a metaphor, and it can be a very useful one.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by timothy42b » Mon Jun 18, 2018 9:00 am

He does get a bit confusing though, and if we're talking about using the pitch of your mouth cavity to adjust, the resonance cavity concept makes a little more sense. It very well could be a metaphor as well. All those tongue adjustments pull on embouchure muscles, who knows what really happens?

But we do seem to agree tongue level and mouth cavity size and shape do have an effect on sound production.

Then the question of how to add it in to the rest of the mix. I tried his finger breath during my morning routine today but I'm not sure how much it helped.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by Basbasun » Tue Jun 19, 2018 4:38 am

Now I did take the time to look at the wideo. Eli is imdeed a great player.
In music the use of metaphor to teach has en very old story. Sometimes the metaphor works for some and not for others. Sometimes the metaphor is built of what actually happens sometimes not, and it still works for some.
This thread has been about just tongue. The talk of speed of air is one those metaphore that work for some and not for others, it is very difficult to know the speed of aire when you play though. The diagram Eli draw does not prove that to raise the back of the tongue speed up the air, his pipe goes from small to large and back to small, the air speed is the same. At 4.20 he say something very important. His jaw move up or down when using different wovels. Now you are talking! Watching him play I say that in his playing the tongue/jaw and lips (watch his chin) are very important tools. He talk about that the inhale should not make a sound, only in the fingerbreathing exercise. Good.
He is an excelent player, his method is actually the same as for many good players. Still, you must know what you are aiming at, tone and sound.


this trumpet player actually lower his tongue level for the higher tones.
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by afugate » Tue Jun 19, 2018 5:00 am

Basbasun wrote:
Tue Jun 19, 2018 4:38 am

this trumpet player actually lower his tongue level for the higher tones.
Watch the back of the tongue...

It would be interesting to see the tongue level and action of someone like Wayne Bergeron. It seems most lead trumpet professionals say they use tongue level and air pressure to produce the fast air they say is necessary to get the "burn" or "sizzle" required to play in the stratosphere.

--Andy in OKC
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by Basbasun » Tue Jun 19, 2018 7:54 am

Don´t know, maybe Tom know, he had a chat with Wayn a week ago.

Funny when you read someth about embouchure how that interfere with your thoughts when you are practising.
I tried different aproaches on making trill or flair (I consider flair a fast oscilation between two tones more than a second apart) For me trying to use just the lips, does not work, to use just the tongue with a perfecltly still jaw, does not work, to us just the jaw with a perfectly still, not moving tongue (the tongue must be above the bottom jaw to be still) does not work, to use the jaw, tongue (and lips ?) together, yes it works beautifully. Over the whole range.

Thoughts?

There is absolutely a higher speed of vibrations when you are playing higher. The speed of the air flow does not have to be higher unless you want to play louder. I feel that having the the tip of the tongue close to the opening (just under) of the embouchure helps the high range. Speed of air and speed of vibrations are not conected.

But if you believe that and it works, well, don´t change anything just because I say it does not work that way.
Do look at video, lots of good stuff! (even though I don´t believe the air speed stuff)
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Re: Tongue level, vowel sounds, thoughts

Post by imsevimse » Tue Jun 19, 2018 9:48 am

Basbasun wrote:
Tue Jun 19, 2018 7:54 am
Don´t know, maybe Tom know, he had a chat with Wayn a week ago.
Well I did attend a clinic with Wayne Bergeron a few weeks ago. The man is interesting enough to have his own thread but I include my recap here since it touches the subject.

Wayne was really a very generous and fine man and of course a monster player. He described his first years in music, how he started on a marching horn with a big bell, so big his face could not be seen on stage. He played in the beginners band until he had to move to another school. There he was asked if he could play any of the instruments they had need of, and he said he had his own horn. He was very surprised when told it wasn't a french horn that he had.

At the new school he learned french horn but wasn't very happy about it, but since he was the only boy in a group with all girls he felt "this might not be as bad", but it was strange to have the bell pointing backwoods and to block the sound with the hand. He played french horn until a weekend when some people broke into the school and vandalized all instruments. The school then bought trumpets instead. That's how he ended up on trumpet.

After all this background information Wayne moved on to talk about his playing. How to vary ones sound, the importance to know the style of the music to play, how to become successful and remain in business and special episodes and learning experiences he had.

He said he did not practice his highest notes much. I think he saves those to the situation. When he warms up and there are a lot of musicians around he cannot play full volume because of the others but he still has the need of playing loud and playing full volume. He said he then played the things he had to play using "half valves".

He told us he right from the start on trumpet was a natural talent for high notes. He astonished the teacher with his first notes that were very high. The teacher had to check the sqeeks on a piano. Then he said he had not the whole body behind those notes and had to work for years to connect the body to his playing. He was no athlet in school and had problems with coordination. He was the guy who tried to catch the ball and got hit in the head from it instead. He said while playing he had problems with breathing correctly and to be relaxed.

When he discovered his talent was high notes he put high notes in everything and was told not to, but could not resist and just had to put them everywhere.

He did talk about the raise of the tongue when he switched register. He said he changed the position from low c to middle c to high c, but he did not include any extreme high register playing while he showed this. He also showed us he could do it without the raise of the tongue. Acctually I don't remember his recommendation about this, if he did a recommendation.

Then he talked about the (horn) angle and the use of a slight pivot to play higher. Some raise the horn up when going higher and some lowers when going higher. He said low c was no pivot, a blow straight through the trumpet/mouthpiece.

I do not actually remember any specific talk about vowels other than when he told a story about when he had asked Maynard Furgesson about what syllables he used "up there" to make such a full sound and Maynard had not understood the question. What syllables I use? It is just "Aaaahh" all the way "like an opera singer". Wayne then got a question from somebody about tonguing in the high register if that would change the tongue to a higher position. "Yes of course" was the answer and then he showed us.

He also talked about Arturo Sandoval and that you could see he did a change in embouchure before he changed register as if he prepared the extreme register before he actually went there.

My memory is not perfect but I think I got most of that right. He was very entertaining 😊

/Tom
"Do your best and then do better" ttf_watermailonman
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