For as long as i remember I’ve had an issue with getting a clean tone when doing harmonic slurs. I play normally with a good tone but as soon as I start slurring on the harmonics I introduce an airy sound into my tone. I have tried opening up my aperture a bit more and I sometimes feel that helps – but it sort of contradicts my thoughts! Surely, if there’s air in the tone it’s because the aperture is too open?? Or not?
It would be great if I could pinpoint the cause – so anyone have any thoughts/ ideas/ exercises I can do? Thanks
I haven’t had that exact issue before, but I’ve battled an airy sound from time to time–in fact, it just so happens that yesterday was a bit that way for me.
I have experienced great success and feel that I’ve learned the most / developed the most from doing harmonic slurs when I have done the following:
1. Slow it way down, at least at first. Focus on Passively releasing good air, now actively Blowing the air. Let the sound happen, don’t try to make it happen. Stay on the first pitch a while, maybe even use a tuner and watch how in tune you are–are you very sharp? You might be anticipating the next pitch and tensing up without realizing it. Linger on that first pitch and only try to go up when you are confident you’re relaxed and the pitch you’re on is resonant and about as good as it can be.
2. Try to change pitch without doing anything. See how little you can get away with. Literally try to fail. If you experience what I have, I don’t fail but am surprised at how little it takes to change pitch.
I repeat this for a bit, I feel like this helps me learn correct “Shape” and how to be most efficient moving between each “Shape” (pitch) by using minimal effort.
I used to think when I was young that harmonic slurs were calisthenic exercises to “POWER” through, that tears you down and builds up muscle.
While this is somewhat true, actually, the truth is that the benefit is more as a calisthenic exercises that teaches you coordination and efficiency; endurance strength is a secondary benefit.
When I focus on letting the sound happen, using passive air and kind of enjoying the sound that I can make even on the staff, really trying to make minute changes to make the sound optimal, the airy sound goes away.
I’ve heard that it may be due to our aperture being to closed, rather than open, or simply the lip(s) are interfering with the air a bit more than necessary. But I believe a lot of it is mental. Harmonic slurs are exercises that we’re ascending and many of us tense up when ascending–something we must be keenly aware of and learn to train ourselves not to.
That’s my $.02 FWIW. Hope Greg / others weigh in on this as well.
My issue might be related: I’ve been using WindWorks for about 3 months… just about to embark on Allegro section. I was a ‘come back’ player about 20 years ago. Probably now playing above SBRSM Grade8 standard in many ways. But was getting frustrated that hours of practice seemed to be yielding little result.
WindWorks has definitely helped. I now play with much more freedom, ease and accuracy ( until I get above the stave). Relaxed Lip-slurs definitely worth the time invested BUT… I now find my normally clear tone invaded by an unwanted ‘buzz’. It’s as if there’s some uninvited vibration somewhere…. Or almost as if there’s excess moisture in the mouthpiece ( there isn’t). Any ideas please?
It has been explained to me that unwanted buzzes are a cause of lips “fighting for supremacy”. Meaning that when lips are buzzing one lip is always dominant. When they are exactly even it sometimes causes a ‘double buzz’ especially with a pinched embouchure.
Simply try pivoting the horn up or down to see if this removes the double buzz.This has worked with my students in the past. I get them to play a note and pivot slowly up and down.
It’s hard for me to reproduce this double buzz problem when pivoting with my MTM embouchure, but easier with my old embouchure (ouch!). Greg teaches a more open aperture so this limits double buzz problems IMHO.
If you are still partly using a “pinch, press and pray” embouchure with your bottom lip behind your top and you are trying to push your jaw forward to straighten the airstream without spending the time on Greg’s techniques and thinking about the airstream angle, you may cause double buzzes as well. i.e progressing too quickly through the system. Not saying you are doing this, but a possibility without seeing you.