It is amazing how important our minds are to playing.
If we don’t approach playing with the right mindset, we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
We must surrender all preconceived notions we have about playing, including how it feels when producing a pitch or moving from one to the other.
We must become Objective observers to our structured “experiments”, which must be based upon the separation of Air and Shape and how what we do / what Shape we form with our lips/face impacts the sound on constant (Passive) air.
Only then, can we move on to using Active air, articulation, etc.
Today, I had a great day playing–perhaps my best yet. It was somewhat of a coffee moment for me as I tried doing something different today and it seems to have made a big difference in my playing for the better. I was playing the beginning of that Arban Characteristic Study #1 that goes from low C to G above the staff in sixteenth notes–I’ve been working on it trying to get it lighter / more precise, etc. I tried using less and less movement / engagement to get the G above the staff, to the point that I thought it was ridiculous, not going to work and it even kind of felt like I was blowing through my teeth or something–yet it sounded great, resonant, easy. With a little tweak, it felt and sounded great and I played some other things better than ever before with notes above the staff resonating freely and almost effortlessly. It can be counterintuitive, but Greg says the lips interact with the air like the vocal chords and he calls certain exercises “Singing” exercises–that is the sensation when things are going well; not perhaps what some of us think it should feel like to produce a sound.
I too have noted that it’s easier for me to change pitch without articulation, but when I start trying to articulate–that’s when somehow I start over engaging my lip muscles and revert to old habits. That is why I think Greg’s approach / exercises are so good–because he separates articulation and has us go through every articulation to make sure we’ve mastered the pitch.