When playing with supported air and maintaining an even sound, how would you describe the difference in air pressure/resistance the body feels when playing an open harmonic slur low C – G – C – E – G – high C ?
When you say even sound, do you mean the same volume? Or just quality of tone?
Optimally, the only thing that changes to ascend to higher pitches is shape, primarily through a tightening of the corners while leaving the middle of our lips relaxed. Abdominal air support isn’t needed to hit high C.
Less air is required the higher we play, so the higher notes will be softer and I even back off a little, typically. If we do that, we don’t feel as much pressure, just engagement in the corners to keep the air from escaping the embouchure/mouthpiece, only as much as necessary for the pitch. The notes are softer, but they are notes–they feel and sound just as good as lower notes in the register. If we try to put more air through to make the note louder, then there is more resistance the higher we are playing.
But to get the pitch of high C doesn’t require a lot of air pressure, just the proper shape. As Greg demonstrates in one video, he releases all his air and just spits out what little left he has using his mouth and hits multiple (short) high C’s.
To be honest, I think I’m a little lazy with my air support and that’s something I need to work on to progress. Part of that, I think, is because I have focused mostly on passive air the past year or so to make sure I release any tension and am getting the pitch cleanly; I figured I could add air to increase volume later–which is just about now…
I can play up to high F reliably and am starting to get more and more double G’s. Not every day is as good as the last. Today doesn’t seem like a great day, just played a little so far. But I got the high F and I’m currently playing a 1 1/2C mouthpiece.
I did a little harmonic slurs (Schlossberg) up to high C (I think it’s #32 or something like that) after reading this thread, just to think about it. And I’m not feeling a lot of pressure in the body (i.e. stomach) to play high C, I tighten the corners and actually back off the air a little then kind of relax/tighten the corners a bit, open up the aperture a bit and give it a little more or less air to get the lips to vibrate / sound to resonate as much as possible. Even high D isn’t that hard to reach, in fact it’s the very next harmonic in open valve position from high C.
Not sure that answers your question, but hopefully helps, FWIW.
Thanks John. I totally get that Shape changes pitch. However my question was really about how our body should feel with regards air pressure / compression when ascending playing at a level volume. ie Results driven. So either playing a scale or slurring from low to high. I feel that from low C to middle C only a slight increase in air compression. From middle C to D not much change. Then as I approach E (top space) there is a bigger increase and a real gear change for top of the staff G. Of cause what I feel as a relative beginner will feel a lot more significant than for an established player who I presume has got used to air compression in the body. This air compression is certainly not linear.
Gregs video on the Slingshot demonstrates this (I think) where he says he sets pitch and volume before releasing the air by dropping the tongue. A results driven exercise. As he plays a higher pitch he seems to compress the air with abdominal support.
I suppose I am trying to ascertain whether I am trying to hard or its just a feeling that I am not used to. Note there is no pinching of the lips or closing of the throat. Generally I feel relaxed.
If you’re trying to keep constant volume, then yes–youll need to step on the gas and give it more air.
What I found most effective for me, was getting the pitch as easy (less air) as possible to learn the shape, then working on crescendo / decrescendo exercises to build up my dynamic control on each pitch.
I had a tendency to overblow high notes, so focusing on passive air for a while helped me slay that dragon. Passive, steady constant release (not blowing).
In my opinion, its advisable to separate achieving the pitch from dynamics, FWIW.
I don’t have a sense off the top of my head at the moment how much pressure difference a low C at Forte (for example) would feel vs High C, but it’s probably relatively significant.
But I dont believe its necessary to compress the air to achieve high C. I think I can hit High C just by engaging the corners with little air. And I think Greg demonstrated that.
I’m not usually able, I think, to achieve E on the staff or G above the staff with sympathetic oscillation, but I dont believe I’m using abdominal or other compression at all, in fact I know I’m not–i can achieve those pitches with passive air.
Many thanks again John for your thoughts. I am not practising at Forte more MF. However I get your point about passive air exercises and will continue doing these. I think when playing the results driven exercises I will try playing them a little softer to make sure I am not over blowing.
You’re very welcome, hope it’s helpful.
I was thinking about you / this thread this morning as I was doing some flexibility exercises.
FWIW, it doesnt take much at all for me to flex from C to E on the staff or even higher when I am playing correctly, things feel right. In fact, I sometimes skip a harmonic accidentally and go too high.
It seems to be all about engaging those corners. When that is going good, its amazingly easy sometimes–to the point of over shooting the target.
Before WindWorks, I used to use my air to kick up from one note to the next a lot when doing harmonic slurs. I believe that was due to the inefficiency of my embouchure and a misunderstanding of how the instrument worked.
One of the key benefits for me of WindWorks has been how Greg cuts apart the concept of Shape defining Pitch and Air defining volume or duration.
I focused for many months almost all my time on playing with passive air (releasing) with little or no abdominal support whatsoever. I really focused on the aperture corners and experimented with different intensities.
In my opinion, the single most important exercise ( if there is one) in understanding WindWorks is a harmonic slur with passive (released, not blown) air, as it helps us focus in on how effective / efficient the Shape (of the aperture) we are forming with our embouchure is.
I think thats why Greg has those progress charts, to help us realize how things are going–at what point are we getting tight / cutting off, getting less efficient, etc.
You mentioned in your first post above something about more compression going from C to E. That is the harmonic I focused a lot on when I was getting the feel of the corners. I think thats a good one to focus on as the interval is small and its getting to the top of the staff. Low C to G on the staff is a big interval and kind of like youre flipping from low to middle registers, whereas C to E is closer, etc.
The results exercises are important too, as is playing music–which is ultimately what we’re after and which should be our ultimate judge/guide.
When I catch myself doing too much technical studies amd not enough music, I catch myself losing my way and manipulating and not using a more natural form (embouchure). It seems to me that the most natural and relatively relaxed (except the corners) I play, the better I sound and feel and the bettet my range and flexibility.
Its when I make it harder than it really is out of fear/doubt or over thinking it that things go south.
Its kind of a paradox that the only way to have control (relatively) is to let go/relax.
But I feel like it makes sense now. It is starting to seem consistent, logical, etc. And less of a mystery.
Good luck and I hope that helps.
John your post makes perfect sense to me. I too have noticed that when I get everything right I get that magic moment when the notes just fly with such ease. However as yet I haven’t found consistency. I have also discovered how little the aperture corner movement is to change pitch the further you ascend. That and building my embouchure muscles mean that focusing on middle C upwards is useful for me. My favourite overtone series at the moment is Eb. When I get that right I hit Ab above the staff. The funny thing is I know when I am going to make high Ab by the feel of the airstream and lip vibration as I slur through middle C to Eb using some air support. I am going to focus on doing more passive air exercises to see if I can improve the aperture corner feel. My range has certainly improved over the last couple of months in that the higher notes are getting easier and notes above the staff are starting to speak. I just need to be patient. Thanks for your posts always helpful.
Awesome, glad to hear you’re having success!
I understand regarding consistency, that seems to get better with time. Patience and focusing on Process, the sound and feel–seems like its best to keep things as natural and free / relaxed as possible.