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Tongue Arch & Hiss

Here is a sound file of me teaching a comeback player to use tongue arch.

He is doing ALL of the playing and I am talking him through line 1 page 125 of the Arban book.
Sound file of me Teaching Tongue Arch (Anchor Tonguing) during a lesson

Whistle the first exercise of an Irons flexibility study.
This is the same movement that your tongue should use as we play.

It is like using Taw for low notes Too in the mid range and Tee a little higher. As we arch the front of the tongue toward the teeth a little this makes a more focused air-stream. The more focused the stream the less lip mass we excite and the higher we play. Arching the tongue (Forward) also moves the jaw, which changes the angle the lips vibrate at. This makes changes to the amount of lip curl present and changes the pitch.


The commonly done type of tongue arch (center up and tonguing with the tip) stops helping when we get to the high register.
Doing this we would tongue with the tip on the top gum line and the arch would be farther back toward the center of the mouth.
This leaves a lot of room between the tip of the tongue and the space between the teeth where the air goes out. All of that room at the front of the mouth allows the air to spread out again.

It is very inefficient and was NEVER taught by any proponents of tongue arch.

Clarke, Gordon, Maggio... all taught anchor tonguing. They didn't teach this upward arch. It was always a forward arch. Forward arch works 10Xs better that an upward arch.

This is a forward arch of the tongue and it rolls forward and pushes up to the top teeth and roof of the mouth in the double high register. It is like saying Tissss. For some the tongue anchors at the bottom teeth and others it anchors at the edge of the top teeth. This makes the air stream much more focused and even less lip mass is engaged.

Notice where the tongue anchors. In the past many teachers taught a concept called anchor tonguing. That would cause this action to happen naturally.

Think about a guitar string. When we strum the string a note is played as the entire mass of the string vibrates. When we place a finger in the middle of the string and strum then only half of the mass can vibrate and the note sounded is an octave higher.

Our lips are not shaped in a linear fashion like the string. There is much more meat in the center so we don't vibrate exactly half to change an octave but the idea is similar.


Tee at Middle C.


As you go higher the hiss gets more pronounced.

Hiss at Double High C.


I sometimes hear people say that they tried tongue arch and it doesn’t help them.

Tongue arch is very dependent on how you tongue. If you think of teachers who taught arch like Clarke or Gordon; they also taught some version of anchor tonguing.

There are several reasons for this. When we tongue with the tip of the tongue AND use a high tongue arch; then we make a very small oral cavity and have a real tendency to close the throat with the base of the tongue.

Anchor tonguing combined with arch means that as we arch higher we tongue farther back on the tongue. This pulls the throat more and more open, it creates a big oral cavity and does something else too. This action creates a channel for the air to follow the groove of the tongue and focuses the air toward the center of the vibration. It literally feeds air to a smaller amount of lip tissue and helps to play higher.

A study in Japan in 2000 proved that this arching movement also made us make slight adjustments to the jaw. These movements make changes to the angle that the lips align at (affecting the point of vibration) and to the lips tension/compression. This affects the use and amount of lip curl and changes the pitch.

In 1962 Dr. Robert Weast did some studies with a machine that blew pressurized air through rubber lips that were under tension.

His machine played a D with:
14 oz of air @ 1 oz of tension,
12 oz of air @ 5 oz of tension,
5 oz of air @ 8 oz of tension.

In his experiment: He had NO way to add lip compression. He could make the hole bigger and smaller by tension alone.

That meant less lip mass CAN be excited with less air. IF we use a bigger lip mass we can get the same note BUT it takes much more air pressure to excite the extra mass.

In 1976 Brian Wadsworth did some experiments proving that the lips touch when they vibrate (high speed movie played back super slow). He also proved that given the same air pressure a small width of air played a higher note than a big width of air (again using an artificial machine.)

Putting all of these together.

As we arch the front of the tongue toward the teeth we make a more focused air stream. The more focused the stream the less lip mass we excite and the higher we play. (This explains why we CAN play high without tongue arch but lots of stomach support and we can also play high with tongue arch needing less stomach support of the air.) It has been this problem of BOTH groups being able to play well that has led to some heated debates. There is a mathematical reason why both ideas work. But for me I feel that the tongue arch makes things easier.

It works for MANY reasons that all seem to add together.

Faster air speed, smaller oral cavity are the things that used to be said about arch but they have never been proven.

These things have been proven in experiments: directing a smaller air stream to the lips (making a smaller portion of the lip surface vibrate), slight jaw realignments (caused by the tongue motion which realigns the air stream AND changes the lip tension.

Which is the most important?
They are not in agreement on this. But it is generally felt that all of those contribute to increased range by changing tongue levels.

It is because of the Air stream focus and realignments of the lips that I teach anchor tonguing.
I hope this helps explain it.


The first person to work with me on this was horrible at explaining it yet he was a DMA. It took me 3 years to catch on.

The method I use averages 10-20 minutes to teach good use of tongue arch.

Here is a sound file of me teaching a comeback player to use tongue arch.

He is doing ALL of the playing and I am talking him through line 1 page 125 of the Arban book.
Sound file of me Teaching Tongue Arch during a lesson


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This will pertain to breathing and maintaining an open airway. I will start out with a concept that several may disagree with. All I ask is that you consider what I'm telling you. The diaphragm is called an involuntary muscle. It works without us thinking about it . It works when we are asleep. It can help us sneeze or cough. We can however, exert some control over it. We CAN hold our breath , take a breath when we want, take a short gasp or a long deep breath. This indicates a measure of control. In as much as trumpet playing IS AIR and breath control then working on this major source of our breath is vital.

There are several Yoga exercises that are excellent as is timed breathing while walking or jogging.

The airway must always be open both in inhaling and in playing. One problem is posture. I've seen many experienced players slumped over while jamming. I've seen them with their heads down our their arms against their ribcage. If we give this its proper importance then we see that these things WILL lead to a closed throat, shallow breaths and poor support.

If the jaw is pushed forward slightly this will cause the throat opening to be larger than it normally is. Try it. Move the jaw forward slowly and check if you can feel your throat open up. Think of the effect that can have on your tone. The more forward jaw position will also make your lower lip take on more of the workload. This increases endurance (after you get used to it). Notice that I said more forward Stevens demanded an even tooth alignment. I advocate moving it until the throat opens. This will be different for every player.

Another key feature in maintaining an open airway is a pivot. You could write hundreds of pages about this. But that's already been done. In a nutshell by raising or lowering the bell of your horn while you are playing you can maintain a more open airway and clearer tone. As you play higher and lower notes the air stream will slightly move in the mouthpiece. If we can keep it lined up with the throat hole the sound is better. The SLIGHT bell movement will produce an opposite movement or realignment of our lips to the mouthpiece.

Now which way do you move the bell? Try this test . Play a low g 1-3. Move the bell up then move it down. One way should improve the sound. When you move to a lower note from now on always pivot this direction. The opposite direction will aid the upper notes. This is a good movement whenever you have to leap between notes.

The tongue arch has been used for years to speed up the air in order to play higher notes. Most people arch to the point where the sound quality is affected. Instead of arching up to eeee try aaaaa. This is a more open sound yet it still compresses the air slightly. After all the tongue arch cannot give you an extra octave. It is merely used for rapid note movement. The abdominals compress the air for your range. As for the tongue arch using a long aaaaaa sound instead of an eee is a more open mouth position and therefore a fuller sound. If you are playing 3 octaves over high r# then you use whatever is needed to stay there.

As for a specific vowel for below middle c, middle c to Eb ... that is not strictly the case. All lip trills , slurs and leaps are accomplished in part by using a tongue arch. If you have maxed out your tongue motion at Bb below high c how do you plan to continue going up? The tongue arch is like an elevator it should help you to compress and thereby speed up the air to achieve higher notes.

Surely if you did practice out of the Irons book this was apparent. So you start out on the low c to second line g and lip slur back and forth. Both of these notes are below middle c yet a tongue arch is useful in speeding up the exercise. Likewise if you are playing a high g and want to slur up if you are already in the extreme eeee position where do you go? My suggestion is to attempt to substitute a long aaaa when possible and save the extremes for a reserve.

Now for the full breath on every note or phrase. Have you ever had to play 1 note by itself to fill out a chord in a song? What about the 3 or 4 measure phrases? These do not require as much air as a full 8 measure phrase. At the end of a very short phrase an inexperienced brass player will feel a need to exhale before he or she can take a breath. If this over-breathing continues for any length of time the player will sometimes turn red or gasp for air. No you didn't run out of air for playing however, your body really likes to have oxygen in your lungs. What has happened is you took a full breath and used less than half. Now when you take a full breath you only replace half of the stale oxygen deprived air in your lungs. As this continues you end up gasping for air. Does this sound familiar?

Over-breathing really is a kind of self suffocation (in the extreme). The exception was taken for high notes. Well here WE may be using different standards. Some people consider g on the staff to be high while others are referring to an octave or so over that. In this extreme upper register over-breathing becomes more apparent. Have you seen people get dizzy, lightheaded, or blackout. They were over-breathing. I know some people say if you release the pressure really slowly it will not happen. If you did not over-breathe and have so much leftover air under pressure it would not happen either.

Timed breathing is another aspect of playing. Some people always take a deep full breath. When playing in the upper register this creates tension. The upper register takes air compression and speed but not air mass. The low notes need the full breaths. Try a half or quarter breath before you play your next high g. This will allow your muscles to do their job.