Pitch center and articulation

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Pedal C, Nov 22, 2009.

  1. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

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    Jan 24, 2005
    A question about articulation and pitch center.

    When my sound is centered and most resonant (as judged by trusted ears, in all kinds of rooms), I have a hard time articulating clearly. I get a lots of, for lack of a better word, fluffy articulations, both first attacks and continuing on.

    When I focus on the articulation, the tonguing sounds good, first attacks and otherwise, but my pitch gets squirreley (high on the pitch) and I'm out of tune with myself (not to mention others).

    Other people I trust agree with all of the this, but no one really know what to do about it. It seems to stay the same no matter how or what I practice. It's been a consistant problem for a very long time, regardless of horn or mouthpiece, so I doubt it's equipment related.

    My pracitice does include soft long tones and slurs (sluring is harder in the center of the pitch too), and lately I've been playing more articulation related etudes (softly) but the pitch center/clarity thing hasn't changed. Playing lyrical tunes is where it's the most obvious. I'm always able to get one or the other, but not both.

    Any thoughts? Thanks.
     
  2. DaveLindgren

    DaveLindgren Pianissimo User

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    For me, my articulation is best when I'm playing higher on the pitch. The first time I was ever able to articulate well was the same day a teacher told me to let the note float up to the top. I have a suspicion that maybe there is a feeling that you are losing your sense of security when you let the pitch float up causing you to subconsciously start trying to either manipulate the pitch back down to where you feel comfortable with either your chops or your air support fluctuating.

    I do this a lot, and it's really hard to let go of, but when I am able to let it go EVERYTHING is better. When I'm having a good day, I like to play some of the easier excerpts from Pictures at an Exhibition to lock in what good efficient playing feels and sounds like. Then when I'm having a bad day and the tension creeps in or my chops are trying to undo all the good work the air is doing, I can return to those excerpts to help my body remember what it feels and sounds like to let the air(and the ear) drive the chops.
     
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  3. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

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    Hey Dave,

    I see what you're saying. I'm actually more comfortable when I let the pitch slide up where the articulation works. The trouble for me is that as I play higher like that, I go sharper and sharper. If I keep it in tune (compared to the mid register), the articulation gets muddy.

    I could be letting the pitch sag a little in the mid register. Maybe if I let the sound be a little sweeter, things will match up better.

    Thanks for responding!
    Jason.
     
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    It sounds to me like your "most centered pitch" is realized with the tongue "artificially parked". It is possible that other embouchure and breathing factors also come into play as they are all linked in many "secret" ways.

    I am not sure that there can be an internet solution. In my daily routine, I start with longtones and no tonguing, then I do slurs with multiple repetitions - no tonguing. Finally, I do the same slurs adding the tongue as lightly as possible where I can still get a clean square attack.

    Muddy articulation means that the tongue is working WAY too hard. Tracing the source of that is something I can't do on the web.
     
  5. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

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    Hi Robin...thanks for giving this some thought. I agree that there probably isn't any easy internet fix.

    I like your phrase, "artificially parked." I think I'll let that sink down into my brain for a few days and see what happens. Artificial is exactly how I would describe how it feels to play in what others call the center.

    I start my playing day just like you do, long tones, no tongue. I think you sometimes call it "low impact playing."

    What do you mean when you say "multiple repititions?" The same exercise more than once, or the same pattern repeated as part of a single exercise?

    I think I know the sound you mean when the tounge is working too hard. This is a little different...more like unfocused. It sounds like something is out of sync.

    Anyway, thanks again.
     
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Multiple repetitions are the same pattern repeated. Lip slurs can also develop into lip trills if we are fast and light enough!

    The tongue is probably out of sync. Try playing any old (slow) tune without the tongue. Is every note "centered"? If yes play again articulating with the letter T. That is spoken with the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth right before the teeth. Make the T as light as possible. With a "T" your tongue has its maximum length because you use the tip. That keeps it low in the mouth. A "D" uses a broader part of the tongue shortening it a bit. The tongue is therefore higher in the mouth. It may sound softer in the beginning, but a "D" is for sure slower for single tonguing.

    I am a real advocate of T instead of D for most playing. True, the consummate player needs it all, but T has huge advantages for many things musical.
     
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  7. actionjackson06de

    actionjackson06de New Friend

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    Just remember to apply what you work on with the lip slurs and such to playing with the articulation. If you think "wind" in stead of "tongue" this will help. Don't think too hard about it.
     
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  8. mrtrpt

    mrtrpt New Friend

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    Try this...

    Play a nice second line G on the trumpet that you think has a good sound and is in tune.

    Next play that same G on the mouthpiece (I would suggest using a B.E.R.P. or some buzz aid for this so you play the same way as when you play the horn). Can you match it?

    Then play four quarter notes at a medium tempo on a G (on the mouthpiece). Does the pitch stay the same for all four or does it move around? If it moves around when you start tonguing there is your basic problem to be addressed.

    A couple minutes a day of this type of exercise will really help. I doubt that you have any "problems", this is a normal trumpet "issue" to learn.

    (Of course "how" you play the above also matters. If you have basic tone production issues that trumps everything... )

    I heard this quote/idea once and think it is great for when we encounter problems: There is nothing to fix in your playing, only things you haven't learned or mastered yet. Fix implies that it is broken, which means that it once worked correctly [all the time]. When we practice we aren't "fixing" things... we're building them...

    -MR
     
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  9. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

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    I had this problem before as well. In addition to the other advice one thing that helped me was "wind patterns". Take just a measure of something like a clark study, flow study etude, Arban's scale patterns etc...blow through the horn while moving the valves, but not buzzing the lips. good even air flow, repeat with slur two, tongue two passages. Go back and forth between wind patterns and playing, just a measure or two at a time.
     
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  10. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

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    Whistle and tongue. All kinds of inconsistencies show up--then do the reps.
     
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