fingers and tongue

Your Fingers And Tongue Sculpt Your Sound

The radiating sound column appears as the material to be worked out, and actually sculpted by the articulation between your fingers and your tongue, which materialize the link between

  • your body / transmitter
  • and your instrument / amplifier.

As A Chatty Player With Skillful Fingers

down to your fingertips

Your fingers interact with the instrument from the initial emission, for the note pitch, and are driven by your musical intent, as Dominique Hoppenot recalls it in Le violon intérieur.

« (…) fingers transmit the expression of what is decided elsewhere, and the difficulty in developing a gesture is more often due to the confusion of a mental image than to a mechanical inability. »

Dominique Hoppenot, Le violon intérieur (Translated by Guy Robert)

Your fingers get positionned before your tongue interacts, without disturbing this first note.

let your tongue take language

« The first note is played without the tongue, thanks to your back muscles ; the following one extends it by letting the tongue go back down. »

Robert Pichaureau, Expressions favorites (Translated by Guy Robert)

Then, only the light tip of your tongue (Joe Allard would rather talk about the « edge ») is sufficient to detach notes, withdrawing backwards and aligned with the reed : the tongue edge lets the reed vibrate, which you must still feel and visualize deep in your belly bottom.

We would begin the tone with no tongue, get very loud and while the note was still going on, he’d have us barely articulate. We would touch the reed as lightly as possible, so that the tongue would interrupt the vibration of the reed without stopping it, teaching us to barely tongue. He’d have us practice it loud so that we’d learn to use a light articulation even though we were playing loud.

Lots of students tongue hard when they play loud ; Joe’s exercise separated that. 

Kenneth Radnofsky about Joe Allard

« Allard preferred the nomenclature “edge“ rather than tip, because “tip means an extreme point“. He purported that speech books with which he was familiar described the tongue as having an edge and a blade, the blade being the surface of the tongue.  »

Debra Jean McKim about Joe Allard

« The actual sounding of the articulation comes with the release of the reed. Conceptually, the tongue can be seen as an extension of the reed. »

David Liebman, Developing A Personal Saxophone Sound

Finding Your Personal Style

The dynamics of this musical sculpture stems from the speech consistency built on your musical idea (being the mental driver, as George Kochevitsky explains it in The Art Of Piano Playing), carried on by the sound vibration, your fingering, and finally the tongue acuteness of the wind player.

following your fingers and ears

As seen in other topics (the instrument, highs & lows, the sensations, the convergence), your proprioceptive sensations drive the instrument, following the path :

  • brain > internal vibration > fingers & embouchure > instrument.

At the last step, your fingers stay close to the instrument keys, your mouth behaves as an extension of the mouthpiece, and the tongue as an extension of the reed.

Thinking your sensations first (from your natural breathing), while forgetting your connections with your instrument (i.e. your fingers – and embouchure), make your fingers work out your musical idea and not disturb it. In other words, your musical intent drives your expression, through your technique.

{ Ludwig Deppe (1828-1890) wrote that tone must be produced, not by finger stroke (…) but by coordinated action of all parts of the arm. }

Ludwig Deppe was opposed to hammering the keys, saying that one should not strike but should caress the keys. (…) Each finger had to work under the conscious direction of the will.

He spoke of a mental map of the entire route from brain to fingertips and stressed that, together with fingers and hands, the mind should practice also.

(…) Training the ear went hand in hand with technical training.

« { Amid all the noise made by those who came after Deppe, a pianist and teacher by the name of Oscar Raif made some extremely interesting experiments. }

Raif concluded that it would be worthless in developing piano technique to attempt to augment the agility of each individual finger.

The difficulty lies not in the movement itself, but in the precise timing of the successive movements of the fingers. Since timing is the product of perception and will, it should be clear that technique is initiated in the central nervous system. From there, movements must be coordinated as part of one action and governed bv our will.

(…) The finished performance must be preceded by frequently repeated, consciously willed primary movements. »

« Any normal bone-muscle apparatus is sufficient for the development of a high degree of technique because of the brain behind the hands.« 

« (…) first, fingers are prepared on the keys to be pressed. Each finger then presses with a light downward movement only, never leaving its key. (Thus the size of finger movement is equal to the depth of the key). And playing proceeds very slowly, pianissimo, with the whole attention concentrated on fingertips.« 

« The musical idea, always going slightly ahead, should stimulate technical development. If technical aspects take the leading role, there is the danger of degradation into superficial virtuosity.« 

George Kochevitsky, The Art Of Piano Playing

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