Input Please: Why Is The Tongue Used In The Upper Register?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Pedagogy' started by Dr.Mark, Mar 6, 2015.

  1. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    whistling is fine --- and I can whistle --- been trying this for the last year or so, as a method to "feel the air" through my lips without the mpc mechanism to get in the way of that feeling. I have also tried "buzzing" the lips without the mpc. the only thing I can really say, is that I have so much difficulty in buzzing the lips (Wilmer - RIP) had a video a year or two back in which he buzzed like 3 octaves in tune, and even a song on just his lips ----------ole KT can barely get a buzz out of the lips when I try, but I can play the trumpet.
    so the same thing goes with whistling ----- I can whistle, but even arching the tongue I find that I am somehow NOT ABLE to whistle the higher notes with much effectiveness ------- I think my theory is going to be that my oral cavity (although physiologically the same as every other person) is somehow impeding the flow of air, or the coordination between flow of air and the lip aperture ----- ((maybe my cheeks are too fat on the inside)) and perhaps that adipose layer is somehow dampening the frequency or movement of the air ------------- I have all my teeth, although at 50 they are starting to gap some between them
    thanks for listening to my ramble here
  2. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 5, 2011
    Hi keigoh,
    The two basic schools of thought are:
    1: The pitch is manipulated by what's going on inside the mouth via the tongue.
    2: The pitch is manipulated by the size of the aperture(buzz hole).
    The new fly in the ointment?
    The tongue is a muscle that has connections to the mandible. When the tongue is moved when whistling or playing the trumpet (especially in the upper register) it seems reasonable to suggest that the mandible will be effected. As the tongue goes up and forward, the mandible is pulled along. This possibly causes tension between the lips to increase or decrease effecting the size of the hole. If this idea holds water, it means that what we feel (the air speeding up against the lips, pressurizing the air, air force, focused air) to achieve a register and what actually goes on are two completely different things. Do I use my tongue in respect to register? yes. Do I believe that speeding up the air, changing the oral cavity or any of the other things that go on in the mouth the direct thing that changes the pitch? no.
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006

    I have been fairly quiet in this thread, but I want to make clear that the tongue is NOT part of any definitive solution for anything except articulation in my world, I have done extensive research with many practical studies that without a doubt prove to me that air speed is a non issue, rather air PRESSURE. Pressure CAN result in more speed BUT only if other parameters let it. I have repeatedly discussed the basic flaw of using any example of blowing into free space and comparing it to the trumpeting total system. It simply serves to get the whole discussion off track and I refuse to go there. My studies show that reducing tension in the face increase our ability to play high. The freedom of the embouchure to float in equilibrium (similar pressure behind and in front of the lips) is what my world and success is about. If we increase pressure from our breathing apparatus, we only succeed in blowing the lips into the mouthpiece unless we have an equal "force" in front of the lips (resonance of the horn) or embouchure tension to compensate. When we stop "forcing" high register, and let the air pressure and resonant resistance of the horn do the rest, we get to where we need to be far more quickly than any other method that I have taught or been exposed to.

    Feel free to follow your hunch, I can't provide any proof for what you are doing and have enough evidence (for me anyway) that shows that we do not have direct control of the aperature - and don't even need it when we reduce tension to the absolute minimum necessary to get the job done. The height of the tongue only seems to change color, not pitch on any horn except my natural trumpet. The arch does not improve the upper register, rather only the speed of my lip trills.

  4. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 5, 2011
  5. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    For what it is worth, "moving the mandible" leads to more missed notes on the natural trumpet. Case in point of a non-moving jaw:
  6. dangeorges

    dangeorges Pianissimo User

    Oct 20, 2010

    I can tongue any note I can reach, high or low.
    For me, double-tonguing gets more difficult for me in the upper register (above the top-of-staff G/A range), but I can still easily tongue the notes, all the way up to my usable range.

    If you can't tongue a note because it's too high, you're probably putting way too much pressure on your lips - mashing it against your face - thereby preventing any sort of real movement required to tongue the note.
  7. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    My medical concept of the tongue is that it serves two main purposes for our ADULT species. it keeps the lips moist (I stated this before on post regarding dry lips), and it is used for articulation. As form me, I use it the same no mater in what range I am playing, and find for playing high notes, I keep it the hell out of the way through the majority of my phrasing. I third somewhat vital function is to direct food down the right pipe. Speaking of food: FOR infants, it's to provide alternating pressure when the mother is lactating to provide the perfect suck that maintains the flow of milk. These reasons provide the most vital needs for our tongue. Every thing else is just tongue in cheek.
  8. tjcombo

    tjcombo Forte User

    Nov 12, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia
    My thanks Dr Mark for kicking off this thread - fascinating reading and so much room for opinion because I suspect that there are several areas where there are more than one ways to skin the proverbial cat. Likewise, whilst there are multiple types of wind instruments from whistling, to flute to reeds to brass, the place where we generate the sound/resonate/excite the oscillator will likely be different. We should therefore be careful about drawing parallels between say whistling and blowing a trumpet.

    Back to the tongue level discussion, a few months back in a interview on a Bob Reeves trumpet podcast, The Other Side of the Bell Trumpet Podcast: Wayne Bergeron Wayne Bergeron said something like "I'm not really a tongue level guy" and "you can hear someone that's using that (tongue level) in their sound".

    I think that VB and Stumac alluded in an earlier post to differences in starting a note verses holding it. Maybe the extra compression from using tongue level helps start the "oscillation" or setting up the standing wave at a particular frequency and after that we can back off the tongue level to open up the tone at the upper level. I'm certain that as my range has increased over the past couple of years, the pitch at which I have to consciously raise my tongue has increased too. I don't know what that says about tongue use, or says about the way I'm playing, but it seems to point out that tongue level is part of the mix but not the be and end all.

    I hope the thread kicks along, there's a lot of mileage in this chat.
  9. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    The first pass approach I take to systems like this is to ask myself where the energy is coming from, and where is it going to. Most 'imaginative' layman's theories collapse at this initial step, when they require:

    - additional energy to appear from nowhere
    - surplus energy to disappear mysteriously
    - energy to vanish suddenly from one part of the system only to reappear spontaneously in another
    - an energy transformation prohibited by the 2nd Law

    Air compression requires energy, and quite a lot of it as it's a fairly inefficient process (the 2nd Law requires that much of the input energy dissipates as heat). But we can fill our lungs with fresh air and perform work on it by contracting our body muscles to raise its pressure. So far so good, and for the likes of me who have no great ambitions beyond a high E, that's easily enough pressure to get where I need to be.

    Now if a circular breather made a claim that he could fill his cheeks with air at maximum lung pressure, and then get a pressure boost by compressing his cheeks, I don't think anyone would have reason to object on grounds of basic physics. Further work is obviously being done on the already compressed air by the cheek muscles, and this would be expected to generate additional pressure in the oral cavity. May also be expected to lead to medical complications, but that's by the by.

    But can we perform something similar with the tongue?

    Can you trap pockets of air against the roof of your mouth, compress and somehow squeeze them forward in some sort of wriggling conveyor belt like a peristaltic pump? If you can then that's a really neat trick. But I don't believe that's what people do - at least no one so far as I know has claimed to do this.

    And without this sort of work process there is no new energy available to the air to raise its pressure above your basic lung pressure limit.

    So where does the extra compression come from?
  10. tjcombo

    tjcombo Forte User

    Nov 12, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia
    No but, yeah but... :-)

    We're not talking about big changes in air pressure. Unless I'm deluded, I swear that it's possible to move back and forth between a couple of partials - say Bb and C above the staff by varying either tongue level or aperture. The note can change too rapidly to be caused by variation in the air supply from the lungs. Once the standing wave is established I'm guessing that the system locks onto the note until the next (relatively) big change in the form a tongue being lifted or the aperture tightened.

    BTW, a useful visualization for the kind of variation in embouchure that I'm talking about came from Greg Spence - he mentioned thinking of the aperture like an upside down Vee formed with your index and middle fingers. As pitch goes up, as with your vocal chords the gap reduces. The idea is to stop compressing your lips vertically and cutting off air supply.

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