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Thread: Tongue Placement when articulating

  1. #1

    Tongue Placement when articulating

    I recently discovered that I developed a bad habit early in my playing career; I didn't take lessons until college, when everyone assumed I'd already been taught the basic stuff, so I've had some of these habits for most of my playing life.

    Looking at the image shown, I had been tonguing at point A (Through the teeth), which is probably why I have had a lot of difficulty increasing my tongue speed and it's a heavy sound.

    I've been trying over the last week or so to move my tongue to point B (at the junction between the top teeth and the gums), which seems to give a clear but less heavy articulation that I am able to increase speed on more easily.

    I'm curious what everyone's experience is here; where does your tongue go to articulate?

    It's really interesting to me as an adult player that has had a fair amount of accomplishment, just how much stuff I still suck at!

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Mike Taylor
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  2. #2
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    Like you Mike, when I started I tongued at my teeth. This was when I played trumpet. At 12 or 13 I started taking lessons from Howard Sickler (may he rest in peace), who took lessons from the late Renold Schilke in Chicago. Howard got me to move my tongue position to the upper teeth/gum line. Took awhile to get used to though but it was much better.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by miketeachesclass View Post
    I recently discovered that I developed a bad habit early in my playing career; I didn't take lessons until college, when everyone assumed I'd already been taught the basic stuff, so I've had some of these habits for most of my playing life.

    Looking at the image shown, I had been tonguing at point A (Through the teeth), which is probably why I have had a lot of difficulty increasing my tongue speed and it's a heavy sound.

    I've been trying over the last week or so to move my tongue to point B (at the junction between the top teeth and the gums), which seems to give a clear but less heavy articulation that I am able to increase speed on more easily.

    I'm curious what everyone's experience is here; where does your tongue go to articulate?

    It's really interesting to me as an adult player that has had a fair amount of accomplishment, just how much stuff I still suck at!

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Tonguing.jpg 
Views:	11 
Size:	7.3 KB 
ID:	7475
    Same here.

  4. For me, it really depends on what type of playing I am doing. Tonguing with the teeth gives a very hard pointed articulation, and sometimes you want that. Also I find that when I need to tongue as fast as possible, sometimes my tongue moves down onto the back of my teeth. So, it really depends. Anatomy may also play a part as well.
    Sterling / Perantucci 1065HGS Euphonium, Yamaha YBB-631S BBb Tuba, and a bunch of trombones.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    When I was playing in high school (roughly 25 years ago), I was taught to think and articulate "da" for regular attacks, "ta" for staccato/marcato, and "la" for a lagato playing style. "La" also worked when a slur was marked, but was difficult to make "speak" clearly from the horn. Kind of a hidden articulation/attack.

    My own research into double and triple tonguing suggests that "ka" "ga" and "ha" have their place too, but they are used far less often.

    I have been practicing with a kids' band (led by a professional trumpet player) and he teaches them to think and enunciate "tu" (like the number 2). But when one individual was having problems with a double buzz and/or split notes, he suggested that she go with "du" (rhymes with 2). The kids themselves are also mostly on trumpet/cornet.

    I have also read plenty of advice online, and seen in master class videos, that low brass musicians should try to keep their mouths and throats as unobstructed and relaxed as possible while still keeping the lips closed for vibrating/buzzing. The vowel following the initial attack consonant is also important. Options for that include "da" (like the beginning of the word father), "doe" (like the first syllable of the solfčge scale), "doo" (like the number 2), "di" (rhymes with "me", as in "a name I call myself", and "day" (like the second part of the word today). Each starting consonant has each of these vowel options.

    It can be hard to picture what you are doing for each one of these possibilities when only thinking about it abstractly. What I found helped me was watching a video of MRI images recorded while a player was practicing on their mouthpiece. The sound included too, like the one I posted in the Live Recordings thread. I could almost hear which combination the horn player was using. When it was not clear, I tried singing along to it. With a little concentration, it became much easier to determine when my mouth was doing the same thing as hers, and giving me the needed consonant and vowel combination.

    From there, practice long tones, using each of the possibilities. Listen to yourself, or even record yourself. Ask someone whose ear you trust. Note which combination(s) sound the best/purest, or "speak" the clearest in the context of what you are playing. Some situations may call for "da", while others are better with a "too".

    When you have 15 consonant/vowel articulations at your disposal, you have plenty of tools to optimize your playing for whatever you may be called on to play. And don't fret over not having the most masterful sounds from all 15. Use what works for you. But do put in the work to determine what that is.

    Okay, that was a lot of words for something that seems rather simple (tonguing). Does all of that that advice make sense to you?

    - Sara
    Baritone - 3 Valve, Compensating, JinBao JBBR1240

  6. #6
    As a linguist / polyglot, I have a problem with using the syllables "ta" and "da" as articulation models. Physiologically, they are the same, except that "da" adds vibration from the vocal cords, which in euph playing would mean the introductions of multiphonics, which is a whole 'nother can of worms (and I do mean worms). Over the years, has no one been able to come up with a better way to explain the difference between a hard attack and a soft attack?

    With regard to tongue position, this may be helpful:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr8tOa_En7A
    David Bjornstad

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  7. #7
    When I've learned, it was using the exaggeration of "ta" in which some air pressure is built up ahead of the consonant. In the strictest sense, it's the extra air at the start of the attack that creates the hard attack. The syllables end up being a shorthand for this. However, when I'm working with students, I actually like to teach the idea of air pressure on the attack directly. Instead of having two articulations, hard and soft, it opens up a spectrum of articulations. My shorthand for this is more (or less) front on the note.
    Adrian L. Quince
    Composer, Conductor, Euphoniumist
    www.adrianquince.com

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  8. I will say, that having to take speech classes in elementary school helped me to separate the articulation type from the syllables it produces. That and then doing voice over stuff for college radio.
    Sterling / Perantucci 1065HGS Euphonium, Yamaha YBB-631S BBb Tuba, and a bunch of trombones.

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