That’s wonderful to hear, Elgin–thanks for sharing your experience!
I spent a lot of time the first year or two checking to make sure there was no buzz in the mouthpiece like Greg demonstrates. Important to note that needs to be passive air or at least not too loud, it doesn’t work if you’re playing Fortissimo. But if you’re releasing air naturally, it works.
Now, I know it by feel and rarely check. But realized that I had lost my focus on the air, I was too focused on Shape / what I was doing with my lips.
It is still amazing to me, although I’ve been playing this way more or less for a couple years now, how open and forward I play. I used to tilt my head way back, bell down, bottom lip disappeared, air shooting down to the ground until it would eventually cutoff–usually above G above the staff. endurance was minimal.
Now, when things are going well, I find myself opening up the aperture more even at the top of my range and the volume and resonance increases; it feels ridiculously open at times, like it doesn’t make any sense and shouldn’t work. It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s not.
I used to mountain bike a lot and one of the things I learned was when going down a steep trail with loose dirt and rocks and you start losing traction, you want to LET GO of the brakes, not clamp down harder. If you clamp down harder to gain more control, you actually lose control and it doesn’t end well. If you relax a little, let go of the brakes for a second or two, the wheel starts turning again and you regain traction and control and then feather the brakes a bit from there to slow down. It’s counter-intuitve to our natural instinct.
There is a balance between Air and Shape. We need the Air to go through the aperture, so I believe it works best to start with the air and use Shape to respond to the air column, only as much as necessary. The more relaxed we manage to keep the lips, the freer and faster they can vibrate (faster vibrations = higher pitch) and the more resonant the sound is.
I have been thinking more and more about the air column as a 3 dimensional thing flowing through the aperture and the inner part of my lips interacting with the air like the vocal chords. Sometimes I think of it as a drinking straw shape.
When I first started WindWorks, I overdid the OOoooohhhh motion and puckered my lips more than necessary and struggled a bit with tone and articulation. Then I focused a lot on doing as little as necessary to change pitch, even almost trying to miss the notes by doing too little but rarely did miss.
Usually now, when I am not getting a good sound or am missing, if I relax and open up more I still am amazed at the result. I believe we tend to get in our own way a lot; we over think things and try to control things too much due to our expectations for results. The lips just need to be in the mouthpiece with good air flow and enough engagement in the surrounding muscles to keep the air from escaping the sides of the mouthpiece, which is a lot less than what we usually think.