Back of tounge technique

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by snf1694, Oct 16, 2010.

  1. snf1694

    snf1694 New Friend

    Sep 15, 2010
    Hello, I was taking a private lessons with my band director and he told me the best way to play the trumpet is to keep your lips the same tension( He said keep your lips as tight as you are saying M and M) and use the back of your tounge technique ( like saying He) does this make sense at all.


    P.S. sorry for the spelling errors
  2. dhbailey

    dhbailey Piano User

    Jul 28, 2009
    New Hampshire
    Yes it makes sense, but it's incomplete. Your band director was really talking about "tongue level" -- if you say the sound "oh" the back of your tongue is really flat allowing for a large air flow of relatively unpressurized air. If you say "ah" your tongue is at it's most normal, relaxed position (that's why doctors ask you to say "ah" as they stick a tongue depressor down your throat to examine you) and if you say "ee" the back of your tongue goes up making for more pressurized air.

    This needs to be coupled with changes in concept of the pitch -- you need to "hear" the pitch you're trying to play in your head as you play it. Regarding the idea that you don't change the tension in your lips, that's not true -- you need to change the tension so that the lips can offset the changes in air pressure and speed and thus vibrate properly. But these changes are very slight, and if you practice regularly and carefully they will take care of themselves, which may be what your band director was trying to get at with his suggestion that you simply set them as if you were saying "M."

    Too many trumpet players put far too much importance on their lips at the risk of ignoring the truly important factors of air speed, air flow and air compression. They don't get very far as trumpet players because successful trumpet playing is all in the breathing in (to make sure you've got good supply of air in you with the proper muscles extended to push with) and in the way you compress the air and control it on the way out of your mouth into the trumpet.

    To get back to the tongue -- lip slurs are controlled by raising and lowering your tongue while also increasing or decreasing your air pressure slightly. So, with no valves down, shape your mouth as if you are going to say "ah" and you can play the 2nd line G easily. Now change that shape as if you were saying "oh" and it's easy to slur down to the written middle C. Change back to "ah" with a very slight increase in air pressure and it's easy to get back to the G. Change to "ee" with a very slight increase in air pressure and you can slur up to the 3rd-space C.

    If you experiment with the various ways of saying "ee" you can see that there is a huge number of variations in the sound, with your tongue going higher or slightly lower to get the various "ee" sounds. Use this tongue motion to slur from the 3rd-space C up to top space E and then up to the G above the staff. Reverse the process, along with slight drops in air pressure to slur back down again.

    Practice this procedure with all valve combinations (there are 7 of them) and you've got a great foundation for learning proper combinations of tongue level, air speed, air pressure, air flow and embouchure.

    If you don't think about the embouchure at all and if you don't squeeze your mouthpiece into your lips at all, you can turn this into an excellent way to help your trumpet playing improve immensely, simply by working at these lip slurs every day.
  3. Cloud_Strife

    Cloud_Strife New Friend

    Oct 7, 2010
    dhbailey is defenitely right. Most trumpet players focus only on their lips and wonder why they aren't really accomplishing anything. I use to be 1of those trumpet players. Doing lip slurs really does help. I'm able to play louder and I can hit the high notes without squeezing, just use good air.
  4. ottoa57

    ottoa57 Pianissimo User

    Feb 15, 2010
    Macomb, Mi
    DH...bravo...your post was one of the very best explanations I have heard. I myself have been working with this...I have a bad habit of moving my jaw too far forward...something I was told to do 30 years ago...what I have found is; a "too far forward" jaw position has "locked" my jaw in that position..which has limited my ability with do tongue level has been a big revelation to me...(lately)..I read somewhere that Allen Vizutti said...whats wrong with playing with a slightly receded jaw?

  5. ottoa57

    ottoa57 Pianissimo User

    Feb 15, 2010
    Macomb, Mi
    One more thing to add...whistle....whistle intervals...use a piano..for pitch or a pitch pipe...the tongue has to adjust and compress the air to go higher in'll get a pretty good " feel" for tongue level with whistling.
  6. Jerry Freedman

    Jerry Freedman Piano User

    Mar 4, 2005
    Your band director may be right, but I advise you to get a good teacher before you start trying this stuff or, at the least, get one of Claude Gordon's books.
  7. SCV81

    SCV81 Pianissimo User

    Sep 10, 2010
    Bay Area, Northern Calif.
    I agree with this
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I don't agree with any of the "generalizations".

    The embouchure is a complex thing that synchronizes body mind and soul. The air is affected by body use as well as tongue, lip tension, efficiency of the horn/mouthpiece and finally the resonance of the room that we are playing in.

    First myth: The tongue has to compress anything. If you look at the size of the aperature (space between the lips when they flap open), you will see that this is far smaller than anything the tongue could do. If you look at the throat of the mouthpiece, it is even smaller. Their is no effective compression by the tongue. Even if there were some venturi action, it would be negated by those other spaces. The tongue actually does control the size of the "chamber" behind the lips. When we use the eee syllable, the tongue is higher, the chamber is smaller, making the air acoustically "stiffer". This makes it easier for our air to force the resonance of the horn to do something else.

    The second myth that is covered elsewhere is air speed. We can measure the quantities of air that we can inhale and the time it takes to deplete that quantity. We discover very quickly that when we play higher, the air actually lasts a lot longer than when we play low notes. It is not the speed, rather the compression of the air that creates the tension required. The compression is a function of our breathing and aperature control as well as the efficiency of the horn mouthpiece system.

    A controversial point is air flow. I was also taught this in music school, in the mean time I have discovered that it is an antithesis of articulation. True staccato means separating the notes - what happens to flow? If we listen to truely fine orators, we discover how they play with their air for best effect. My personal opinion is that flow studies are an important part to learn how to use the body (big relaxed breath, lowest possible impact exhale). It is not THE technique to make articulated music however.

    My hunch is that snf1694 was told about the tongue to reduce the amount of effort with the lips. There is a lot of truth in that. The same tension approach for the lips is impossible. I find it odd that breathing was not mentioned in the same breath as the tongue level. I would be interested in what the teacher recommends for exercizes to train this same tension /tongue level approach.

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