All notes are not created equally:
Many people think that every note on the trumpet responds the same way to an increase in arch, or compression, or breath support, or even facial tension. That isn’t what really happens.
Generally when we cross over an open note we have to change something MORE.
Low D to low E to F, I am picking up fingers and making the horn shorter. I don’t need much change to play the pitches on pitch. Going G to A, I am making the horn longer by using valves. I need MORE change (arch, compression, whatever) than I needed to change from e to f. Low C to D, G to A, 3rd space C to D, E to F, G to A: Each of these spots needs extra help to change notes.
Several of these sections respond slightly differently to different tools we use to play also.
The notes below low C respond in one way. We all know someone with a good sounding low C but a horrible low A, G, F#. They used the wrong tool. It could be too much arch, tension or too much breath support. They approach the notes the same as higher notes, and the notes bark out.
Low C to 3rd space C is another section. It works great with arch but compression and tension alters the tone here. You can sometimes hear someone play and they have a sound quality shift in this section. They used the wrong tool. 4th space D to A above the staff responds to arch differently than the previous octave. It takes a little more change to go from note to note. Some people don’t realize that just a little more arch would do it and so some people start adding facial tension or compression here and it is easy to hear sound shifts from C to D, E to F and G to A.
There comes a point for everyone where you HAVE to make lip to lip compression to keep going higher. This can happen anywhere from A above the staff to F above High C but it is going to happen and you have to add a different tool.
Sadly many people use their lip compression too low and they even use facial tension in the middle register and so they have NOTHING left to use. Think of these tools like a light switch. Once you push it then the light is on. Pushing it harder isn’t going to turn the light on more. Once you get to the end of arch or compression, or tension; trying to add more isn’t going to do anything.
That is one reason why I advocate that we do 1 thing at a time. Doing several at once; it is too easy to waste our tools and actions before they reach their most useful registers. Every embouchure has a different way of working so I am using an example of my embouchure. For me Arch plays from Low F# to the top of the staff. A hiss from the tongue goes from the A to D. Lip compression takes over there and as I get to the top of my range some facial tension creeps in.
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.
This is a chapter from my newest book “Tongue Arch & Aperture Tunnel (TM)”. It is 45 pages of text and diagrams plus it has 30 minutes of video covering various things. The videos include Andrea Tofanelli, Keith Fiala, Keith Wood, Rex Merriweather and Me.
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