What Goes up

I want to add a couple of thoughts about my words on natural slurs awhile back. I said to try to make the partial change midway between shift of positions. In other words get the air there early so that the air makes the change and not the slide. The slide should not activate the air; the air should activate the slide. I’ll bet you a dollar to a donut that when you make a natural slur, between positions the partial change happens an instant before the slide reaches the next position, or even when the slide actually arrives in that position. That means that all of the legato was in front of the partial change, and practically none between the partial change and the arrival note. That makes for one lopsided legato, natural slur. Ahh, you say, so just jerk the slide faster so it doesn’t matter where the partial change happens, because nobody will hear it anyway. Question; isn’t that “throwing the baby out with the bath water?” Again, my rule for legato is; as much sound between notes without a smear as possible. The best slur and sound is achieved on a natural slur when there is an equal amount of sound, (legato) on either side of a change of partial. That’s why it is vital for the partial change to happen midway between positions, which will force the air to get there earlier and get a better sound, a better slur, and be 100% reliable. By 100% reliable I mean you’ll be able wake up in the middle of the night, grab your horn in a blizzard and make a perfect slur with a great sound. You’re going to have to do some detective work to find that great slur I’m referring to, but believe me it’s worth it. You’ll notice a better sound as a by-product of this, because any time you get your air to somewhere earlier, it results in improved resonance.

Hey, you know what? Lately I’ve been noticing that a lot of players are not able to do, or are unaware of, that most basic component of articulation/style, ie; where the air is in the slur mode, and the embouchure provides the attack, resulting in a tenuto note length with a clear articulation. This is the most common style of articulation we use and is the basis of a large percentage of solo and orchestral playing. What usually happens is, either the the notes start clearly with an unwanted space before each attack, or the attack is indistinct and sounds legato. The thing to realize is, when the air is continuous as it is when slurring, to make a clear articulation, the sound must stop for a fraction of a second, and this is achieved by completely sealing the aperture of the embouchure with the tongue, but only for enough time to delineate a new note, AND NOT BY STOPPING THE AIR. When I say completely sealing the aperture, I mean in the smallest area possible, and in the smallest time frame possible. The articulation starts with a backward stroke of the tongue; (see Arban,) which releases the air stream forward. Because the air stream was continuous there is a certain amount of pressure built up when the tongue seals the exit point, and this is what gives the start of the note it’s clarity. Because the air stream’s velocity was constant, there is no accent, but just a clear pristine start to the note. It is also important not to forget that the tongue must vacate the embouchure quickly and retreat to the bottom of the palate so as not to cause disturbance in the middle of the note. I like to think of the embouchure as various sizes of funnels. I mean the bottom end, because the top end should be always the same. The softer the dynamic, the smaller the bottom of the funnel becomes, and the more concentrated the air stream is. The louder the dynamic, the bigger the bottom of the funnel becomes.