How do I fully relax my tongue?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Vstern, Oct 5, 2010.

  1. Vstern

    Vstern New Friend

    Jul 25, 2010
    I never thought about fully relaxing my tongue until after I read this post, which was on another messageboard. You can find it through googling (relaxation is passive trumpet), but otherwise, the mind-changing post (shortened, of course) follows:

    "I can't believe how all this bad advice keeps circulating about an "Open Throat".

    If you try to do the same action as yawning while you play you will be putting a lot of unproductive energy into your playing and just adding a different kind of tension. The best thing to do is to only "relax" the throat. Relaxing is passive, that is, a complete absence of muscular action. Any muscular effort to try to force open the throat such as yawning action, dropping the jaw etc. will do nothing to improve the sound...The quality of sound is defined almost solely by the ability of the embouchure to vibrate at various frequencies. All that is required is to apply air flow...Of course the volume of the sound is a function of the air velocity. An efficient vibration point will also yield greater volume for a given velocity of air...

    It kills me how all these students and teachers talk about is air, how to use more, how to create more abdominal pressure and all that, as if that is what defines and creates the sound. It does not.

    Fact: Air flow and the pressure behind it only provide the power for the sound. It does not provide any tone color or any effect to the frequency content of that sound..."

    If you google the above mentioned phrase, you'll find it. The guy, in summary, said that to open the throat, you need to relax. Opening the throat through yawning just "moves" the tension. Air only provides "power," while the vibrating lips provide the note. (He later went into an example that compared an amp, voice coil, and speaker cone to your lungs, embouchure, and trumpet.) Some of this stuff was really new to me, in that I had never thought about it. I mean, I knew that faster vibrations were key, but not that you had to relax and not yawn to open up.

    What this guy says is true. When I really focused on relaxing my tongue, my sound opened up, although flattened somewhat (due to the embouchure), and the pressure that was always present disappeared.

    Before I tried fully relaxing my tongue, I would always feel pressure when playing, and the back of my tongue would feel warm and uncomfortable as I breathed when not playing. However, I relax easier when I'm lying down. Any tips on how to relax when not lying down? How I should I hold my jaw? When I'm not focusing, my tongue will creep back up into that same uncomfortable position when I breathe or play. Sometimes, the discomfort won't go away (if I can't relax) unless I physically push my tongue down with two fingers (like now).
  2. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    Since the tongue is like any other muscle group that's voluntary, you have to pay attention sometimes to things. One such thing is the tongue stiffening up when a tough highly tongued passage is played. As you know, it is important to keep the tongue relaxed and light. It needs to be light and flick like a rapier and not like a jackhammer. I sometimes have this problem and one of the tell tail signs(other that a stiff tired tongue) is hard nail driving attacks. What I do is to stop playing, roll some r's like "ruffles have rrrrrrrridges" and this helps reset the tongue (for lack of a better term). Then when I start again, I make sure the tonguing is light and relaxed.
    Hope this helps.
  3. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    Go to the dentist and have him shoot it up with that long needle of his, dead-tongue city!
  4. tptCarl

    tptCarl Pianissimo User

    Jan 17, 2006
    Cottonwood, Arizona
  5. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Alex C's idea isn't all that bad--just let your imagination do it, rather than a dentist. I like the concept of letting the tongue "melt in your mouth," when playing. Works for me!
  6. ska

    ska Pianissimo User

    Sep 12, 2009
    Fully relaxed down could be same as "effordless play" - no tension, fully relaxed, blowing the note out of the horn.
  7. Clarion

    Clarion New Friend

    Oct 3, 2010
    N.E. Ohio
    Minimizing excess tenson is important for playing any instrument. Excess tension can effect the sound, reduce speed and endurance, and possibly lead to injury.

    I'm not sure who is making some of the statements in Vstern's posting, but they sound entirely too simplistic to me. Every link in the chain has some effect on the sound to some degree.

    Proper (or improper) breath support affects the sound. The size and shape of the resonance chamber of the mouth and throat and position of the tongue have a profound effect on the sound. The embouchure and lips determine more than just the frequency. And, obviously, the build of the horn has its effect.
  8. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

    Oct 18, 2007
    The Wide Brown Land
    ..... alternatively, alcohol - lots of alcohol. (I just don't like needles, much). :-P see, this is what a relaxed tongue looks like.
  9. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    A fully relaxed tongue serves no purpose at all. The tongue is VERY active when playing and does its job properly when trained with hundreds to thousands of repetitions. There is no way to get accuracy of motion without training it. Training muscles means clumsy at first until synergy starts taking effect, then refining until everything gets good.

    It is not possible to use mind over matter as a substitute for LOTS of practice. It is a cool idea to try and figure this stuff out before doing something wrong, the problem is that our bodies can't jump a stage of development.

    If you want to tongue, don't worry about tense. Add intelligent articulation to your daily routine and after a while, the clumsy tension starts to reduce. After enough repetitions, many of the motions become "natural" and relaxed. Then you can tell the next player the truth that relaxed is EARNED and not intellectualized.

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