I’m having trouble tonguing with less front. I’ve been working hard on my articulations and find that I can tongue with precision and a good start to the note when I fully release the air from my mouth with the tongue. The articulation is hard and clear, however, any time I try to soften this to suit a more gentle style, it gets unreliable and not actually any softer.
Mechanically, I’m having trouble wrapping my head around what should be happening. How do we release the air but… slower? Softer?
I think there might be two issues involved in your post, correct me if I’m wrong:
1. Using the tongue to block the air and learning to release the air Passively simply by removing the tongue from behind the aperture/teeth/roof of the mouth, etc. and letting the air escape, as Greg demonstrates, etc.
2. Using the tongue to play legato or soft musical passages
I believe those are really separate things, but I could be wrong. Others or Greg may chime in with a different point of view.
For me, when I play legato, I kind of think of more of a “La La La La” sensation…I don’t think that’s literally what’s going on, but that’s kind of the thought. It’s probably more of a “da da da da”… (I won’t quote any song lyrics…don’t you just love the Police?).
I believe the tongue is simply rising into the air column and slightly interrupting it, it may not be completely stopping it, when playing legato / softer passages. I strive for keeping the air moving through the phrase and only interrupting the air as little as possible with the tongue to achieve the desired articulation.
Experimenting with the different articulations, as Greg demonstrates in the course, should help a bit. Even working on double/triple tonguing could help a bit; while double and triple tonguing are still typically crisp/staccato, using a different part of the tongue to articulate could help you learn to use a different part of the tongue that could help with legato.
Another thing I like to do is to alternate while doing Clarke I between Slurred (which is great/important for feeling the flow of the air and balancing Shape and Air, etc.) and different articulations (Single Tongue staccato, Single Tongue Legato, Double Tongue, Triple Tongue, etc.).
I need to do more of that myself, my technique has not been what it once was as I’ve been focused more on other things lately.
Lastly, alternating between Breath Attack and/or a “Pu” attack (as Greg demonstrates) and Legato on an exercise or musical passage could prove to be helpful.
I have found it useful and important to separate playing the note into the following steps:
1. Obtaining the pitch(es) with a breath attack or slurred on Passive Air.
2. Articulating the pitch(es) on Passive Air.
3. Articulating the pitch(es) with Active Air.
Depending on how high or low the pitches are, you may have to alternate the dynamics a bit from what is written in order to use Passive Air, but I have found that to be very important for me.
Re: “I believe the tongue is simply rising into the air column and slightly interrupting it, it may not be completely stopping it, when playing legato / softer passages. I strive for keeping the air moving through the phrase and only interrupting the air as little as possible with the tongue to achieve the desired articulation.”
I’ve never thought about that before- I’ll have to think about that and work it out on the horn. I’m having trouble conceptualizing this, I think because I am visualizing the tongue as an on/off switch. How can there be variety if there is a simply binary action?
My attempts to tongue softly result in lots of airballs and a lack of clarity. Breath attacks do provide a different sound, and I practice them and feel comfortable. I’m specifically talking about what should be happening to get a lighter start to a tongued note.
I played a bit this morning and thought about this thread.
It seems like I am softly touching the soft part of the roof of my mouth a bit behind the front teeth when I’m playing legato and the tongue seems a bit looser, whereas staccato or hard attacks are behind my front teeth.
I don’t know if that’s a recommended method, but it’s what I’m doing, FWIW. I do feel like I have a pretty good ability to play legato–I do tend to gravitate a bit more towards softer/lyrical stuff most of the time and don’t have a lot of time to play music.
Good luck, hopefully more folks chime in and you’re able to make some progress on this.
What’s generally worked OK for me is to use a “Da” syllable for the more gentle approach. Its obviously similar to “Tu”, but because the tongue is flatter, the release of air is nowhere as abrupt. Thinking about it, “Na” or “Nu” is the most gentle, as it just interrupts the airflow, and I would use it for soft articulation during a passage. BUT that doesn’t really help with the very first note in the passage. For that about the softest I can suggest is “Da” which is just a little less pointed.
I’m still learning myself. But I did have a teacher that said that a breath attack with no articulation at all was a perfectly acceptable way to start a phrase in order to get a gentle lyrical sound. ymmv