I really enjoy reading the Forum and I’ve found some recent posts to be very enlightening. Greg observes in his follow up video to Bill’s recent video that people often don’t maintain the correct shape when moving from the visualizer to the mouthpiece. That really hits home for me and makes me realize that although I’ve been working through the course for a year, I think I need to break the Largo Stage exercises into even smaller steps. The ‘mm,’ lips together setting is so ingrained in me from many years of playing this way that I actually find it quite difficult to simply maintain the
‘mm aa oo’ setting when I put a visualizer or mouthpiece on top of it, even without passively releasing air through it. My lips really want to close up to ‘mm!’
Here are some of the steps I’ve added to my routine. (I do move on to a more results based approach afterwards so that I can still play, but I’m more aware than ever that the shape that produces sympathetic oscillation is still something I’ve yet to achieve while actually playing. I do lots of ‘eyes closed,’ but I’m also videotaping myself and using a mirror.)
For those of you who are consistently producing the correct shape while playing the lead pipe but have yet to produce sympathetic oscillation, I optimistically look forward to getting to your stage of the game!
1. Passive exhale through the correct shape onto hand or tissue.
2. Slowly add visualizer on exhale. Slowly add mouthpiece on exhale.
3. Repeat 1. and 2. but start inhale with visualizer and mouthpiece on lips.
4. Repeat the above and add release tonguing
5. Move on to lead pipe and then Large Singing C. For now, expectation of shape, not sound.
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.