Trombonist and music educator, Dr. Rodney Lancaster, sent me a link to a short essay he wrote on tongue placement and accuracy. It’s a quick read and offers some suggestions on how to practice tongue placement. In practicing out of Claude Gordon’s bass clef book Lancaster found that working on his tongue position greatly improved his accuracy.
First, I have to offer a disclaimer. My knowledge of Gordon’s approach is second hand, I’ve never ready any of his books. I have closely followed some online discussions about Gordon that included former students of his and watched some players warm up with it, so I think I have the gist of it. That said, take my comments with a grain of salt (good advice even if I do think I know what I’m talking about).
In my opinion, Gordon’s approach overemphasizes pedal tone practice. If your pedal tone/false tone embouchure doesn’t match your normal playing embouchure you should definitely spend your time instead working on connecting your high range embouchure down and stay away from a lot of pedals. Frankly, I think there are better things for trumpet players to practice that do the same thing without risking developing multiple embouchures. Trombone players in general seem to be better able to play pedals with their normal embouchure (something about the construction of the instruments, perhaps, or maybe the size of the mouthpiece). However, trombonists sometimes change their embouchure to play pedals in which case I usually recommend they adjust their routine to connect their normal embouchure down, rather than pedal range up.
At any rate, Lancaster’s essay discusses his experience practicing Gordon’s exercises on trombone and using them to work on the position of his tongue inside his mouth.
In tonguing these arpeggios, you will teach yourself where the tongue should be placed on each given note. For example, one must tongue lower for low notes and higher for a high note. Having said that, as you practice part two, memorize (subconsciously perhaps) where you had to place the tongue for each given note. It is a type of muscle memory exercise.