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Open Airway

Posted on July 27, 2004 by 

How can I keep my airway open?

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 and 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 to be more open 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).

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 inorder 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 ocatves 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 excerise. 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.