Articulation Issue

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Steve, Apr 27, 2006.

  1. Steve

    Steve Active Member

    I need advice.

    I know the best advice is to get a teacher to look at it for me but I dont have the funds, motivation or practice routine to make it worth while.

    I have a major problem articulating notes on trombone, well not major, but jolly frustrating. Everything soft tongued is fine, but putting an attack on a note and single tonguing is still not working. Dont get me started on double, if the single is weak the double will never work!! (Well it does, but frustratingly inconsistantly).

    I believe the problem is occuring because I have a very wide embouchure, I dont really want to change this as my range, sound and flexibility are pretty good but it means the tongue is travelling a long way to plug the gap in the airwflow and even without the mouthpiece I cant make a decent 'ta' attack, its more of a 'pa'. If I close it all up it is easier but still not correct and the sound suffers.

    Does anyone have any experience of this or any suggestion on how to confirm this is the problem and resolve it.

    Bizarely it seems worse on trombone. That may be because it is easier to get away with on euphs / baris / basses or could it be something to do with my slide action?

    Any help gratefully received. Cheers guys & gals

    TIMBONE Active Member

    Hi Steve. I can only pass on what Terry Nagle taught me at College, (which you most probably know already). The articulation is more of a DA. The tongue is a 'trapdoor', moving downwards from the roof of the mouth, allowing the strong column of air, fully supported by the diaphragm, to get out.
  3. 8th position

    8th position Member

    Hi Steve,

    Articulation problems can be very frustrating to say the least, and having been through my fair share of them, including a period of Valsalva manouver whilst I was at music college, I have a lot of sympathy for anyone with this kind of problem.

    Without actually seeing and hearing what you're doing when you're articulating all I or anyone else can do is try to make some informed suggestions about what you're doing (or not as the case may be) and give you some possibilities for you to work on yourself.

    It's interesting that you have no problem soft tonguing - in that case all you should need to do is simply change the syllable that you use when you want to use a "harder" definition at the start of the note.

    You don't say whether or not this is simply a problem with articulating a single note, or group of notes at the same pitch or if it's a problem when you're moving around. If it's the latter then it's a airflow/articulation/slide time coordination problem.

    Everyone (myself included until I realised otherwise) tends to assume that articulation problems are caused by your tongue not moving in the right manner. Well possibly it could be to some extent, but usually the problem is due to other things. I think there are two things that you should look at, and ones that enabled me to sort the problems that I had. They're both equally important - air/air support and timing.

    As far as the air is concerned the key thing to remember is that your tongue simply interrupts the air flow. Your tongue isn't required to produce a note - all it does is help to define the beginning of the note to a greater or lesser degree. You can also use it to stop notes but that's something that's particularly relevant here. Think of playing one single long note and your tongue just getting in the way at the right point in time - but make sure that you keep the air flow going.

    Try playing something very simple along the lines of a bar of 4 crotchets, followed by a semibreve at something like 60 MM, all on the same note (say a middle G, whatever you feel comfortable with). Don't put any attack at all on the first crotchet to make sure that your air flow and support is good and making sure you're keeping the air and support going just let your tongue interrupt the air flow for the other notes. Putting a metronome on whist you're doing this may help too. Make sure that every note that you play (including the first one that you play without any articulation at all) is absolutely in time.

    Once you something like this done consistently, just move on to slightly more complicated figures and go from there.

    One other thing to try to keep in mind is to keep your tongue relaxed as much as possible. It's much easier to move your tongue if the muscle is relaxed rather than tense.

    Just some ideas and suggestions. If you go to places like and then you'll probably find lots of really good information on this kind of problem. If none of this seems to relate to what's happening let us have some more information about the problem. Hope it helps.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2006
  4. Steve

    Steve Active Member

    The timing issue is an interesting one, I understand the problem where valves are used and if not engaged at the same moment as the attack the production is poor. Is this the same on a trombone though as there is nothing to restrict airflow in any position? Yes it will be out of tune but would it really effect production?

    I think its a specific trombone playing issue as I can sharp tongue fine on euph / bari on the same mouthpiece :s
  5. Adrian Horn

    Adrian Horn Member

    If you don't have a practice routine or motivation how are you expecting to fix the problem?! These things don't happen over night. The advice of a teacher, or of the members of tMP, won't make any difference unless you put in some hard work in the practice room to understand the problem and the solutions you are given.

    Brass playing is about motivation. If you aren't motivated then you don't practice. If you don't practice you don't improve. Yes, we all (or at least should) just play for the enjoyment of playing, but doesn't a large part of that enjoyment come from improvement and getting better at your playing?

    Sorry - little rant over, hope no offence is taken!

    If you have no problem soft tonguing, then try to think of ta instead of da when you tongue, and think about the tongue striking the back of the teeth rather than the roof of the mouth (say da and ta, you will feel that the tongue is further back in the mouth for da and ta is further forward at the teeth. This is how it also works with articulation of notes).

    Happy practicing!
  6. 8th position

    8th position Member

    If you can articulate notes on the euph and baritone as you want/need to without any problems, it would seem to suggest that it's a slide/air/tongue coordination problem, and yes I would think that it can give you the production problems that you're talking about. One thing to check to confirm this - if you play repeated notes on a single pitch on the trombone, what's your articulation like then?

    BTW I second everything that Adrian said about a teacher, motivation and practice.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2006
  7. Steve

    Steve Active Member

    Yes, I completely agree I should practice and get lessons and one day I might do it all seriously. Until then Im going to stick to what I do at the minute which is play whats infornt of me and worry about the rest later. It has served me well so far but I know its wrong.

    Will try the repeated notes on a single pitch after work , also the tongue moving down from the top of the mouth is interesting, will try that too as I seem to be doing it from the back of the mouth at present which is obviously a much longer movement.
  8. 8th position

    8th position Member

    Yes, I think that this is something that will help. The back of the tongue is generally used to pronounce the second syllable in double tonguing, as in "ta-ka" or "da-ga", with the same application for triple tonguing.

    It's also typically a softer or weaker sound that you need to work on by itself for multiple tonguing, so that when you use it in double tonguing the resulting sound is as strong as the first syllable and consequently you get an even sound. Given what you've said earlier about softer articulations working it may be that you're trying to articulate everything using the back of your tongue. By the way it's not a case of having to move the back of your tongue further, it's just that it's much harder to put a more defined attack on a note using the back of your tongue rather than the front.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2006
  9. Steve

    Steve Active Member

    No, Im definitely not trying to articulate everything with the back of my tongue. I think I may be trying to block the airflow rather than interupt it. Obviously the speed of the air column travelling through the trombone is making this more obvoius than on the euph.

    Thinking about it, often when attacking the start of a loud accented entry I play by pushing through the air and sharply 'unplugging' the embouchure, will try this with the movement of the tongue from the roof of the mouth instead.

Share This Page