I am actually a french horn player that is requesting a little bit of advice. I was speaking with a former french horn teacher of mine and she had been discussing some of what I was going through with her husband who recommended that I ask for some advice here on this website. He is a trumpet player who is a member of this forum. He suggested I ask Rowuk for advice since he knew that he has a lot of experience with articulation and breathing and that if anyone knew what was going on with me he thought it would be him.
A little bit of background about me. I have been playing french horn for 9 years and just graduated from the Boston Conservatory and am very serious about making music my career. Within the the last year I have developed a very serious issue with my playing. I have been having a nearly impossible time articulating the first note in phrases. I would breath in and as I would exhale my tongue would go to the right place for the articulation but instead of releasing it would get stuck and trap the air inside my body. If I was able to release the air it was usually a good articulation but was generally delayed and sounded after I initially intended it to. After I had gotten passed the initial attack and the air was flowing I was able to articulate all of the other notes in the phrase. This was becoming very troublesome as I was becoming more and more responsible for producing professional level quality music in many situations. I became very well versed in "breath attacks" and was able to hide my articulation hangup to most of my colleagues, but I knew that this was just a temporary solution and felt really guilty about just getting by. This hangup started about a year ago and progressively became worse to the point where no matter what tempo, dynamic, style, or range I was playing in I physically could not play the first note.
After I graduated in May I decided to devote my time to finally figuring out what was going on with my articulation since all of my musical obligations were over. To make a long story short, I explored every option to try and learn different ways to get around my hangup. I have been taking Alexander Technique Lessons and had even went to see a Cranio Sacral Therapist for a time. I started biking everywhere and taking yoga classes to try and maintain a more healthy and relaxed lifestyle as well. The most influential advice that I received was from a Flute teacher that is very well respected and is an incredible musician and human-being. She realized that when I was breathing, I would inhale and I would wait for a few seconds at the top of my inhale before I would release it. I worked with her for a long time to try to reduce this habit. She suggested thinking of
breathing out as a sigh. She was also very concerned about the possibility that I was developing Focal Dystonia. The disease had ended her amazing career and the way I talked about what I was going through and some of the symptoms that I had really reminded her of what she went through. She of course is not a doctor and I don't label myself as having Focal Dystonia at all. Have you ever heard of anybody having Focal Dystonia of the tongue? Is it possible that this hangup in my tongue could lead to something worse?
While working for a couple of months with all these small discoveries, I have noticed a definite improvement in my playing. My tongue rarely gets completely stuck now and am mostly able to release the air right away. However, now that I am able to release the air, most of the time I make a double articulation on accident. This sounds like a stutter, which I am of course not intentionally doing. If I don't get a stutter I can get a very fluffy articulation as if I am using to much of the tongue for the articulation or as if I am pulling it away to slowly. Then about 33% of the time I get a very clear, beautiful, articulation right away. Which is much better then the 2% chance that I had earlier in the year. Is there anything that you could think of to help me?