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Thread: Improving tone in upper registers - air questions

  1. #1

    Improving tone in upper registers - air questions

    I've been playing euphonium for about 3 months after a long hiatus. While my sound has drastically improved in the low range, I'm having trouble with my tone on anything D4 and above. It's clear to me that I'm tightening my lips and pinching off the air flow (the horn is not resonating). I've been working on ascending chromatic and long tone exercises, increasing volume as I ascend but trying to maintain tone quality. I have also been catching myself tightening up and am working on staying relaxed.

    These may be extremely basic questions:
    - How do you (mechanically) get 'faster air'? Is it just a combination of tongue position and pushing the air harder? When I try making an "eeee" sound and blow hard on my hand there is less air than when I blow softly with a "dohhhh" sound.
    - Do you adjust the size of the embouchure for higher ranges or is the gap between the lips the same?

  2. #2
    You might try this, and pay particular attention to the crescendo and keeping a good sound:

    http://www.dwerden.com/forum/showthr...and-High-Range
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by davewerden View Post
    You might try this, and pay particular attention to the crescendo and keeping a good sound:

    http://www.dwerden.com/forum/showthr...and-High-Range
    Thanks Dave, that's the exact exercise I've been working on (along with chromatic runs). I like it because I can work on my scales at the same time. I'm concerned that I may be doing something mechanically incorrect (tongue, air delivery, or embouchure) that's hampering progress. Any thoughts on my questions above?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Greg_R View Post
    - How do you (mechanically) get 'faster air'? Is it just a combination of tongue position and pushing the air harder? When I try making an "eeee" sound and blow hard on my hand there is less air than when I blow softly with a "dohhhh" sound.
    - Do you adjust the size of the embouchure for higher ranges or is the gap between the lips the same?
    Without the guidance of a teacher watching and listening, you can get into trouble focusing too much on either of the above. The whole purpose of the exercise is that if you can get a crescendo and keep a good sound, the physical stuff is probably fine.

    Try the exercise again, but start with one octave scales, starting a mf and crescendo to the top note. What is the highest top note you can do this with and still keep the effect correct?

    But to answer the questions, in my case I don't think my tongue comes up, but I don't think about that and can't be sure. All the change I feel is in my airstream and my chops

    The gap between lips increases as you go lower and decreases as you go higher. I also don't think about doing that, but it happens naturally.

    The only "muscle" thing I have focused on, a long time ago to get things set up better, is A) don't spread my corners out as I go higher, and B) pull the muscles in the middle of my lower lip outward to cause the faster vibration necessary. I had that stable before I learned about the technique above.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  5. #5
    Here is a clip from a video I did last year where I am holding a high Eb. It was not a photo I made to demonstrate embouchure, but I think it shows my lip muscles are focusing inward and not spreading.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  6. #6
    Thanks Dave, I had been doing 'A' (and also moving the mouthpiece around) but have stopped those bad habits. I can hit F4 with good tone quality when I'm fresh and doing 1 octave. I can work up to the B-flat above that but the tone is not as sweet (it sounds strained).

    My teacher showed me a Youtube video of a French horn player playing during an MRI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWcOwgWsPHA
    The idea was that tongue position could assist with a faster air stream (narrower passage, faster air for the same amount of air volume).

    It sounds like I need to stop thinking and keep working on the exercise .

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Greg_R View Post
    It sounds like I need to stop thinking and keep working on the exercise .
    I'm pretty sure Arnold Jacobs would approve!
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  8. Strong air pressure and proper tongue placement are the techniques I remind myself of when playing in upper registers. I try to keep my embouchure as unchanged as possible throughout all ranges, although I will raise my jaw when playing very high, and drop my jaw when playing pedals.

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