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When I said “lead with the air”, I just meant start the tone with the release of the air through the aperture/embouchure–keeping things as relaxed as possible, then responding to that air by engaging the aperture corners only to the extent necessary to achieve the desired pitch. If you’re playing a low C below the staff, then there’s not much engagement necessary. But make sure the air goes through the lips before you react to the air. It’s a split second, but I think it makes a big difference when I think of it that way.

I was having a tendency lately to be focused too much on Shape and realized I wasn’t giving good air (whether that’s passively released or Actively supported air). Today, I experimented a lot with different dynamics in all different registers and was noticing the relationship between Air and Shape. I think it helped me understand more about how the instrument works and how subtle changes in how I’m playing effects the sound, etc.

The choking is definitely something you want to stop ASAP. Tightening your throat not only doesn’t do you any good, it gets in your way. You want the feeling like Pavarotti belting out a high note. One of my favorite things still to this day is to be willing to miss a note, completely airball it and just think of the note then see if it speaks. Most of the time, perhaps 9/10, the note speaks or I even skip it and hit higher. We get in our own way when we choke off our throat, overtighten our lips / engage our lips and overblow. When we back off, relax and open up, you’d be surprised what comes out. Less air is required the higher we ascend and the notes are closer together the higher you go; so, if you’re doing harmonic slurs with a given valve position (or open), then it’s increasingly easier to get the next slot–because less air is required and the slots are closer. There is increasing back pressure the higher we go, but tightening up and blowing more air does nothing to help that. The aperture does need to get smaller but we can’t tighten up to the point that no air comes out.

The other thing with the air that has gotten me back on track lately was looking at the phrase I was about to play (even if it was a scale in a technical study) and blowing the air towards the middle or end of the phrase and focusing on not chopping my air up into pieces but allowing my tongue to break the air column if I was articulating. I think about singing the phrase as I’m playing it and that’s helping me a lot.

Today was a great day for me, I played a long time and probably over did it. But above the staff was easy, fluid, full, resonant, in control, musical. And I had my entire range the whole time I played. I took breaks and rested throughout the day, but played a lot more than normal. It will be interesting how I feel tomorrow…

Hope that helps, FWIW.

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