Archives par mot-clé : reed

fingers and tongue

The Musician Sound After Fingers And Tongue

The sound, radiating from the air column, appears as the material to be worked out, and actually sculpted by the articulation resulting from your fingers and your tongue, which come up together in this process as the physical link between your sender/body and your amplifier/instrument.

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 her Inner Violin / 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.« 

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.« 

Then, only the light tip of your tongue (Joe Allard would rather talk about the « edge ») is necessary for detaching notes, withdrawing backwards and aligned with the reed : the tongue edge lets the reed vibrate, which you must feel and visualize 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. »

« 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. »

« 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. »

Towards Your Personal Style

The dynamics of this musical sculpture results in the end from the complementarity of those components of your speech : your musical idea (shaped in your brain and driving the next steps, as George Kochevitsky explains it in his Art Of Piano Playing), the sound vibration, your fingering, finally the tongue acuteness of the wind player.

following your fingers and your ear

As seen in other topics (instrument, highs & lows, sensations, convergence), your proprioceptive sensations should drive the instrument, following the path : brain > inner vibration > fingers (& embouchure) > instrument.

To make the last step lighter, your fingers should stay close to the instrument keys, and the light end of your tongue close to the reed edge as well.

Thinking your sensations first (from your natural breathing), while forgetting your connections with your instrument (i.e. your fingers – and embouchure for a wind player), 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.« 


the embouchure

The Musician Sound Through His Embouchure

The instrument of the woodwind player really appears to behave as his megaphone, thanks to his embouchure.

Get Your Mask Down !

Your mouth / mouthpiece / reed / ligature set defines your global embouchure : this configuration may vary between players, closely combining your morphology and the gear you use.

Your inner resonance propagates to the reed, which should easily vibrate, opposing a low resistance, hence a not too hard reed is recommended in order to be able to master the depth of the sound, shaped up at the bottom of the air column (Peter King had told me once how he had bee surprised to see that Cannonball Adderley was playing a really weak reed, when he substituted him in England in the 70’s).

This way, you define the best mouthpiece/reed combination for your sound control : this compromise depend on several factors, but you must know how to adjust it, mainly by selecting another reed, on your usual mouthpiece. And if you need a softer reed to ease out your playing, then you would be able to modulate your reed strength later on, bringing full balance and self-confidence : through your mentally visualizing that your emission remains centered on the sound source, you avoid unnecessary contractions above your diaphragm (which would be triggered by too hard a reed), following the recommendations of Alfred Tomatis in The Ear And The Voice.

deep throat

By focusing on the opening of his sound column backward and downward, the player forgets about his real trunk and his mouth, thus ensuring that his throat remains free of contractions.

« The objective for both the pharynx and the larynx is to keep the throat open and supple, avoiding closure by the constrictor muscles. The regulation of the pharynx under the organizing control of the ear consists of achieving what is famous in singing as the open throat with the help of the dilator muscles and the tongue.« 

Think Your Sound, But No Pressing

The wind player sets up his vibrating attitude by rooting his air column in his heels, and moreover pictures his embouchure at the sound source, down to the bottom of his diaphragm : then, letting the relaxation down, his inner vibration gently takes off from the root of the air column, to feed the instrument through this embouchure.

Dominique Hoppenot describes how the violon player lets his vibration propage to the violon body through his clavicle.

« The most important of all is to listen to the sound that will come and not just to the sound already achieved.« 

Once your posture is set up and stabilized, your instrument naturally gets seized by your hands (entering your mouth if you are a wind player), to amplify the sound prepared in advance ; then your flexible and relaxed embouchure, which you actually forget, since you are focussed on the air column bottom, comes into play : it links you, as the sender (the instrumentist’s body), to the amplifier (the instrument body). The projected sound gets now worked out by your fingers, and your tongue (if relevant).

« You should forget all about your embouchure positioning, and be sure not to press it.« 

« The goal is to be as relax as possible in the embouchure area, so that the delicate mechanisms at the reed can be free to occur without exerting a strain on its vibrational capacity. By the time the air stream reaches the mouthpiece, the major portion of the work for a personal sound has already been completed.« 

« When you let your mouthpiece come to your mouth, enjoyment also enters as an intruding momentum. The same way as when you take momentum to jump over an obstacle, boom ! there it goes, you are played by your instrument, so you should not play yourself, this is not a wordplay.

As little as your embouchure takes off, then you nail your mouthpiece pinch, without looking for it, playing means then sitting on the air, this is fantastic !« 

« Generally, I prefer closer mouthpieces, but I try to find the combination of the length of the facing and the tip opening so that I don’t have to press hard to play it, so that everything feels easy.«