How does the oral cavity change tone quality?

Discussion in 'Orchestra / Solo / Chamber Music' started by gzent, Nov 15, 2004.

  1. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    OK, so in the last couple years I've been practicing on my own and improving steadily. I regularly perform mostly big band / jazz charts. Occasionally, tho, I play more legit accomp. at Church and other places.

    Here's what I've discovered. I can vary the sound quality of my playing anywhere between 3 distinct 'flavors'. First is my standard jazz sound, second is a more chamber / classical orchestra type sound and 3rd is a deep almost flugel sound. Now, I don't know how I exactly do this. I guess I just played around with the shape of my oral cavity until the sound came out the way I imagined it.

    So, does anyone have a good explanation as to how changing the oral cavity effects the sound quality and acoustics?

    Any advice is appreciated.

  2. Bourbon City

    Bourbon City Pianissimo User

    Jun 8, 2004
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    I don't have an answer but I have a related question. Doe the oral cavity shape have a bearing on one's tone, range, articulation, etc?

    My doctor, because of my sinus problems, wants to open my nasal passages and remove some tissue from my oral cavity where my nasal passages open into my throat. This is to improve my ability to breath.

    Will this effect my my ability to play in any way? Has anyone had this procedure done?

    Greg, I hope I'm not stepping on your question too much, but I can see a common or related answers for each of us.
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    If I were you, unless you are a monster of a player and have screaming lead chops, I would go ahead and have the procedure done. It's better to breathe properly and not suffer rather than worry about your trumpet playing.

    I think that the size of my oral cavity is what has made it to where I really never had to work on sound too much. When I had a night-guard made because I grind my teeth in my sleep, they used the second to largest tooth mold for my choppers because of the way my mouth is shaped, and the size and placement of my teeth. (which are naturally straight by the way - they came in straight and I had more than enough room for them) But combined with the rest is the fact that I also have a very high arch to the roof of my mouth, it has always given me an open sound.

    Greg, I think I understand what you are talking about. You raise and lower your jaw as well as changing the arch of your tongue, and it changes your sound. I don't know the physics involved, but I can do the same thing.
  4. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    Sounds to me like y'all are talking about "Resonant Intonation", something that Mark Van Cleave writes about at . Shaping sounds with manipulation of your lower jaw and tongue etc. while playing.

    Wah wah sounds.

    Best of luck with your decision (one way or the other) on that procedure, Bourbon. I think I'd have to be in some terrible pain to go that far.

    Edit: Whups... I should have said "resonant oral cavity"... check out his paragraph just a bit more than 1/2 way down that article!
  5. gregc

    gregc Mezzo Piano User

    Apr 5, 2004
    New York, U.S. of A.
    I have the same type problem. After seeing a noted specialist I was told I would have a 50/50 chance of it making a real difference and that after the surgery I had a 100% chance of absolutely hating my surgeon for the next two weeks. He left the decision to me, said he's do it if I wanted. I opted out.
  6. dcstep

    dcstep Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    Dale, Pops had some work done on the back of his oral cavity to reduce sleep apnea, I believe. Anyway, he told me that it prevented him from playing trumpet for a long, long while. (I can't remember the exact time frame, but it was at least months and maybe a couple of years). Maybe he'll chime in here with more specifics.

    I'd discuss this potential side effect with your surgeon before going ahead.

  7. Bourbon City

    Bourbon City Pianissimo User

    Jun 8, 2004
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    I feel bad about swiping this string from a fellow trumpeter but maybe many will learn something new about this kind of surgery. Greg, forgive me.

    Dave, I would like to hear from Pops. This sleep apnea thing is what the doctors want to test me for. If I test positive then the doctors want to talk to me about the work on my nasal passages as well as the throat surgery.

    I will proceed with caution.
  8. dcstep

    dcstep Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    Dale, here's Pops web site. You can email him there, or look him up on the memberlist here and PM him. Here it is:

    Good luck with your issues.
  9. Brian H. Smout

    Brian H. Smout Piano User

    Sleep Apnea

    Hi All,

    I have suffered from profound sleep apnea for many years. The surgical solution is not one that was recommended to me. The specialist gave me a 50/50 "cure" rate. The CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine was a better solution for me. Getting accustomed to the mask is a challenge but comparatively pain free. I recognize that all sleep apneacs ? are not the same but the CPAP device was, quite literally, a lifesaver for me.

    Brian Smout RN, BSN
  10. WAKeele

    WAKeele Pianissimo User

    Sep 30, 2004
    The Wild West
    I had a pretty long conversation with Winston Morris (one of the tuba gods) when I was at Tennessee Tech and he brought this topic up. I was asking him about tuba playing, because I really love the tuba and low brass in general next to the trumpet, and some other stuff.

    Well he told me that the oral cavity plays a big role in sound production. He says some people just aren't designed well for playing brass instruments. Does this mean a person with a small oral cavity won't be able to be successful...not really. They will probably have to work harder in certain areas to get results someone with a larger one might not have to.

    I have a pretty darn large oral cavity I've found out. Tone has always been one of my big pluses. Does this support the above statement...sure. But it's only one example. Also, tuba is an instrument that comes pretty natural to me, sound wise and everything. The first time I picked one up back in high school, I sounded better than most of our tuba section--not my words, but the words of the first and second chair guys. Well that's not saying all that much in my opinion but another example nonetheless.

    Gary Armstrong of the Nashville Symphony is a big believer in "Resonant Intonation". And the way he put it and demonstrated, sounds like an efficient way to go. Make the horn and your oral cavity work for you and not against you. I think this is a big part of Dave Monette's work, not too sure though.

    Well I've gone on enough about this. Hopefully this has helped a little. Has anybody else heard some stuff like this or experienced anything like this?

    P.S. I think this might be something opera singers deal with too.

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