Don't forget your tongue position!

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harrisonreed
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Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by harrisonreed » Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:25 am

I have just returned from a trip down the rabbit hole. I have been playing in a small ensemble consisting of Tuba, Euphonium, Fench Horn, and Trombone (arts subsidies...). Anyways, I subconsciously was taken over by the huge conical / diffuse sounds of these instruments and did not realize that my tongue position had been getting lower and lower in my mouth in order to try and fit into the sound. I was practicing at home and it eventually dawned on me that something was amiss in my playing. I had a bigger sound than I've ever had before, but I could no longer play with any sort of endurance whatsoever. This was alarming, as I depend on playing to earn a paycheck.

I didn't know what had changed! I finally figured it out a few days ago, and now all is back to normal. But, I figured I'd post a little warning here! It is really difficult to remember what "right" feels like if a non-standard ensemble gets you off your groove!

I now realize that I have been playing my entire life in a way that was described by Sam Burtis in a video he did a few years ago. Namely, he describes that the tongue position should be set in a way that is harmonically in line with the pitch being played, and he uses "whistle throat singing" to demonstrate it. I understood his video at the time, but now I think I realize I have been doing that for two decades now and not really realized it.

In any case, this has got me back to normal and now the compression is correct and my endurance is nearly back to normal.
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Burgerbob
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by Burgerbob » Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:00 pm

Yup, this is what I realize when I double heavily!
Bass Trombone
DL Band
SLO Symphony
timothy42b
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by timothy42b » Sat Dec 08, 2018 4:44 am

I wonder if that is why marches can be so tiring to play. (probably not for you military bandspeople, but for community band types it is)

We subconsciously revert to the tongue position from our junior high days, plus we want a brassier sound, and we move the tongue. Maybe? I dunno.
Basbasun
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by Basbasun » Sat Dec 08, 2018 6:15 am

I hade a radiation therapy on my neck (tonsillcancer) I still have som blisters under my tongue. When I try to play high tones I get a wery strong pain in my tongue. So for some time I try to avoid high tones.
cozzagiorgi
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by cozzagiorgi » Sat Dec 08, 2018 6:45 am

Never really thought about my tongue position. Yes I think open throat etc, but not tongue position, have to think about it.
harrisonreed
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by harrisonreed » Sat Dec 08, 2018 9:07 am

I wish I had a link to Sabutin's video. It was pretty cool.
Redthunder
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by Redthunder » Sat Dec 08, 2018 9:12 am

These videos?



harrisonreed
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by harrisonreed » Sat Dec 08, 2018 11:22 am

Exactly! ! Those vids
baileyman
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by baileyman » Sat Dec 08, 2018 2:13 pm

harrisonreed wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:25 am
...I subconsciously was taken over by the huge conical / diffuse sounds of these instruments and did not realize that my tongue position had been getting lower and lower in my mouth in order to try and fit into the sound. ...
Meanwhile, the other players are likely playing the sabutin way, but it comes out of their horns "conical / diffuse". Pity.
BurckhardtS
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by BurckhardtS » Sat Dec 08, 2018 2:46 pm

This is a huge one for me. Practically any part of my playing can get all over the place if I'm not getting the right tongue position, and it always kind of comes down to getting my tongue higher than I think (especially in upper ranges) and out of the way of the air quickly.
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Wilktone
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by Wilktone » Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:24 am

There's a lot of variety in how good brass players use the tongue in their playing. Donald Reinhardt identified and described a bunch in one of his books. It's certainly an important mechanical issue in trombone playing and worth considering. If tuning your tongue position for trombone is similar for you to harmonic singing, then you might find that analogy useful. Others, not so much.

Tongue position is one of those things that is personal to the individual. The general guideline of letting its position raise to ascend and lower to descend seems to be common, but some player's sensations may be different.

Dave
David Wilken
www.wilktone.com
bcschipper
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by bcschipper » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:46 am

I don't understand how the tongue position could affect endurance. Usually, if people talk about endurance issues, they refer to their lips.

Perhaps it affects airflow. Less airflow may result in more pressure. But a lower tongue should help with better airflow. Perhaps the air speed is to low in the upper range with a low tongue position. Did someone experimentally measure air speed in various ranges and whether it can be manipulated effectively with the tongue?

I think of the tongue position more as a way to influence sound color. By thinking about different vowels like in ta, tue, to, tu, tae the sound color changes. But again, I don't know whether this is just my imagination or something that could causally effect sound color.
harrisonreed
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by harrisonreed » Thu Dec 13, 2018 12:13 pm

So, yes, I have found that it does affect endurance. And yes, it is not obvious and I hadn't thought about it before this little "whoops"

I have never had an issue with endurance prior to playing in this group. This is what I found:

1. The tongue position has a massive effect on compression in the instrument. It changes the air direction and speed. When you get the right compression for the dynamic and the tessitura that you are playing using the tongue (and not the face), you will not get tired as easily.

2. The tongue gives you a great deal of control over the "color" of tone, which is also very much related to control over intonation. I have always had good intonation -- I thought this was because I have good control over the slide. But an equally important part of this was that I was using my tongue to easily get notes into the sweet spot. In the low brass group, the intonation started to suffer and I didn't know why. Moving the slide is part of it, but I was also trying to use my face to adjust as well. This has a massive negative effect on endurance.

So, in my mind, the tongue is a critical part of getting the right compression and getting the overtones/intonation (basically "color") to happen the way you want. I never thought about this until I started having issues with my playing. And it's more complex than just "do this with your tongue". What is actually happening is that the tongue is a part of changing the entire shape of the oral cavity, and the compression is essential for correctly forming the embouchure. There's no such thing as a static embouchure.
baileyman
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by baileyman » Fri Dec 14, 2018 7:53 am

harrisonreed wrote:
Thu Dec 13, 2018 12:13 pm
...What is actually happening is that the tongue is a part of changing the entire shape of the oral cavity, and the compression is essential for correctly forming the embouchure. There's no such thing as a static embouchure.
This shows up especially well in slow glisses, where to tune the mouth to the pitch the tongue subtly adjusts to even the smallest slide movement.
harrisonreed
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by harrisonreed » Fri Dec 14, 2018 7:58 am

baileyman wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 7:53 am
harrisonreed wrote:
Thu Dec 13, 2018 12:13 pm
...What is actually happening is that the tongue is a part of changing the entire shape of the oral cavity, and the compression is essential for correctly forming the embouchure. There's no such thing as a static embouchure.
This shows up especially well in slow glisses, where to tune the mouth to the pitch the tongue subtly adjusts to even the smallest slide movement.
Yes! Like in "Harvest Concerto"!

I was doing all this for years and years, but I didn't know about it.
bcschipper
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by bcschipper » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:03 am

This morning in front of the mirror, I checked whether my embouchure visibly moves when I move my tongue up and down. When I move it down, it seems that the corners of my mouth loosen a tiny bit. They firm up when I move the tongue up. Did somebody else observe this? I am not even sure whether this is causally related in terms of anatomy or just a correlation with subconsciously thinking of "lower" bigger sound while moving the tongue down.

Now clearly the corners of the embouchure are important and firming or loosing them up my affect endurance. But I would expect that firming them up over a longer time reduces endurance. So at a first thought a lower tongue position should perhaps increase endurance, contrary to what to what harrisonreed describes. But this doesn't take the range of playing into account. Too loose corners at a higher range may decrease endurance because the player my compensate with mouthpiece pressure or something else. But in such a case, it is not the low tongue position that directly causes the endurance problems but rather the something that is correlated with the low tongue position. If you would learn to decouple this something from the low tongue position, then a low tongue position my coexist friendly with good endurance.
harrisonreed wrote:
Thu Dec 13, 2018 12:13 pm
...
2. The tongue gives you a great deal of control over the "color" of tone, which is also very much related to control over intonation. I have always had good intonation -- I thought this was because I have good control over the slide. But an equally important part of this was that I was using my tongue to easily get notes into the sweet spot. In the low brass group, the intonation started to suffer and I didn't know why. Moving the slide is part of it, but I was also trying to use my face to adjust as well. This has a massive negative effect on endurance.
...
A lot of the conical brass instruments like the french horn slot less well than cylindrical instruments like trombone or trumpet. (I believe this has to do with overtones, which points to a possible connection to tongue position.) When playing together with those instruments, it may be better to not adjust to their intonation but to help them by setting the pitch and let them adjust to you. I recall that you tune with the slide rather than with the tuning "bow". This is like being the piano tuner and piano player at the same time. But in playing with conical instruments, it may be better to just be the piano player.

Singers have a similar problem. They are also like piano players and piano tuners at the same time. When singers play together and want to make sure of their pitch, they stick their finger into their ear: to hear themselves better but also to partially shut out the sounds from others with whom they play.
harrisonreed
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by harrisonreed » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:46 am

I don't think you can decouple the tongue from the rest of the "greater" embouchure. It's all part of the same system. The air supply plays a part, and the tongue shapes the air and the resonating profile of the oral cavity, the lips focus it, and the instrument interacts with it to create a tactile compression, and if any of these pieces change shape or force, the entire system compensates to accomodate it.

This is why playing pianissimo and fortissimo feels REALLY different.

bcschipper
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by bcschipper » Fri Dec 14, 2018 12:36 pm

Nice "fMRI chamber music".

The tongue moves up for
- high notes
- piano
- the second syllable of double tonguing (up and back).

One does not see much interaction with lips and tongue though.

Here is the brief background movie from Sarah Musik:
harrisonreed
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by harrisonreed » Fri Dec 14, 2018 1:23 pm

I see it change shape for every pitch. Also, you can see when she plays a few pitches out of tune by accident the tongue isn't in the same spot where it was when the note is in tune.

The tongue doesn't have to interact with the lips directly to affect them. Don't forget that you noticed that the tongue position changed the corners, and also that the lips are held in position/balance/flux by the air stream and the resistance or compression pushing on that air stream in the horn.

The Willis video is very telling, if not very definitive or explanatory.
cigmar
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by cigmar » Fri Dec 14, 2018 2:26 pm

bcschipper wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 12:36 pm
Nice "fMRI chamber music".

The tongue moves up for
- high notes
- piano
- the second syllable of double tonguing (up and back).

One does not see much interaction with lips and tongue though.

Here is the brief background movie from Sarah Musik:
Toward the end of the video they identify the tongue creating a channel, as they called it, when ascending into the upper register. Makes me wonder if people who are genetically capable of rolling their tongue having an advantage in playing in the upper registers.
harrisonreed
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by harrisonreed » Fri Dec 14, 2018 2:42 pm

Well, I'm glad this at least started an interesting discussion. Thanks so far guys and gals!
baileyman
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by baileyman » Fri Dec 14, 2018 2:45 pm

Remember Doug Yeo's blog:

https://thelasttrombone.com/2016/08/02/ ... lications/

https://thelasttrombone.com/2017/08/22/ ... y-project/

Wow, Sara looks to have a huge amount of facial tension in the previous vids. It could be her muscles just look that way when moderately tensed, but it looks huge. This is why I suggest finding a note that can be played with what feels like zero tension. Try it with just the piece then find it on the horn. For me it was 3rd partial F. Tuning partials with the tongue enabled that tensionless note to move both lower and higher.

She gets a very different looking cavity slurring or tonguing. Exercises using rapidly alternating articulations would likely see her converge on a more consistent cavity. The key to finding good tonguing motions seems to be to find ones that do not interfere with the tuned cavity, causing notes to collapse. This also migrates for every pitch. The solution to collapsing notes is not more facial tension.

Teeth do not show up. When watching these you have to imagine the rear of the tongue usually being sealed against the rear teeth.
Doug Elliott
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Re: Don't forget your tongue position!

Post by Doug Elliott » Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:09 pm

I see a couple of things that I think others are missing.

Notice especially on lower note attacks, how long it takes for her to move the tongue toward the final position, and you can hear the sound AND pitch change during that time. I realize she may or may not do that on her standard horn - this is modified with flexible tubing to fit in the chamber. But it's worth noting that if you want clean starts to notes with full resonant sound you need to learn how to get there quickly after the attack.

Also watch the back of the tongue at the throat, and how that correlates to the sound, volume, and pitch, and the front and middle of the tongue. It's all about tuning the entire oral cavity to support the note. And you have considerable flexibility internally to affect the sound quality and pitch.

Learn to use tongue shape and position effectively. It can make everything easier, or everything harder. Your choice.
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