Advice For Parents of Music Students

I was asked a while back if I could put together a resource for parents of music students. Parents will sometimes surf by here or contact me looking for advice on how to help their child with music studies. Here are some of my thoughts compiled together, in no particular order.

Encourage, but keep an eye on burnout

Children studying music definitely respond to positive reinforcement. Ask your child to play for you regularly. Ask about how lessons and music classes are going and what music he or she is playing in them. Encourage your child to practice every day, or at least as close to every day as is possible. Conversely, be on the lookout for signs of burnout. Children today seem to be busier than ever with school work, music lessons, rehearsals, dance classes, athletics, and all the other activities parents encourage their children to be a part of. If your goal is to have your child love music and participate in band, be aware that sometimes they may feel burnt out on all the activity and see if they can back off on some for a while. Sometimes when an activity like practicing our instrument becomes a chore we loose the enjoyment we used to get from it.

Try to sign your child up for regular private lessons

There’s almost no replacement for one-on-one private lessons when it comes to success in music. The individualized attention a private instructor can offer will pay off in dividends down the road, as many bad playing habits can not seem to make much of a difference in the short term but are very hard to correct later.  Us band directors can only do so much in large ensemble rehearsals when it comes to teaching children to play or sing music.

One trend I’ve noticed is that many students want to take a lesson or three just before a big contest or audition, and then drop the lessons once it has passed. While catching the occasional lesson like this is better than no private lessons at all, it’s not really the best way to prepare. While I’m always happy to help a student prepare for an all-state audition, very often the issues holding a student back are best addressed in exercises or etudes that aren’t going to be asked on the audition or contest. Having a regular meeting with a private instructor is going to mean better overall musicianship and developing the skills and will better prepare the student for learning the contest music.

Listen to “art” music in the home or car with your child and make recordings available

I’ve got nothing against pop, country, rap, etc. In fact, I like to listen to a wide variety of musical genres and feel there’s good (and bad) music in all styles. That said, music is an aural art form and music students who aren’t exposed to the sounds they will be performing will be at a disadvantage when it comes to learning how to play with a characteristic tone and with a stylistic approach. Take the time to put on some music that will broaden your child’s listening skills, with an emphasis on the instrument that your child is studying.

Rent or purchase a decent instrument, make needed repairs quickly

You don’t have to go overboard and buy a top of the line instrument, but your child’s instrument should be in good playing condition and be well put together. If there are dents in a trombone slide, leaky pads on the clarinet, or sticky valves on a trumpet the instrument is going to be harder (or impossible) to play and limit your child’s progress.

If you’re looking for specific brand information I recommend you speak directly with your child’s music teacher. Your child’s teacher will have a good idea of how he or she currently plays and what sort of equipment will be most helpful, as opposed to someone online, who may or may not be as expert as you think.

Many schools have deals with local music stores that offer good quality instruments for rental or purchase and also ensure that your student has all other necessary equipment and books for music classes (e.g., cleaning kits, required music books, etc.). Some music stores also have special deals for students that include repair work and may even pick up and drop off the instrument at your child’s school, saving you the bother of running those errands yourself.

Attend your child’s performances

Performing for people you know who came specifically to hear you is so much more fun than playing for a group of strangers. Of course it can be impossible to get to every single event, but make a serious effort to hear your child perform as much as possible.

Take your child to hear high quality live music

While having good recordings to listen to is invaluable for music students, seeing music performed live offers so much more. Professional performances will be more inspiring and educational than non-professional shows, of course, but don’t dismiss how exciting going to hear a community or school group too. If your child is in middle school, for example, going to hear a high school band perform will show him or her what is possible for slightly older students and what sort of opportunities are available at the high school.

Meet your child’s music teacher(s) and consult with them from time to time

Band and choir directors are busy folks. They often spend the whole school day teaching classes and then go on to run after-school rehearsals until late in the afternoon (or evening). Weekend student performances and contests also often take up a lot of their available time. I’m not pointing this out to discourage you from checking in on your child with them, but instead to help you understand that your child’s music teacher may be too busy to check in with each of their student’s parents individual on a regular basis. Talking with your child’s music teacher will let both your child and the teacher know you care and help communicate important information (e.g., what specific issues your child is struggling/excelling with, what time that next concert’s warm-up will be, what clothes they need to wear, etc.).

Join the band/choir boosters

If you’ve got the time to be active in the schools booster organization join and help out. Band is a very expensive program, requiring instruments and other equipment to be purchased and maintained, obtaining sheet music, hiring support staff, and many other expenses that might not be obvious or covered by school funding. Booster clubs are often the main source of funding for some particular programs (e.g., marching bands) and many times events and activities can’t be done without volunteers to help supervise or take responsibilities for the preparations. The stronger the booster club, the better your child’s experience will be in music.

Can you think of some suggestions I’ve left off of this list? Do you have some specific questions that you’d like to see added? Leave your comments here or drop me an email here.

Citogensis

Last week I got an email from a graduate student looking for help with a reference I made in one of my blog posts. Since the specific quote itself was by a humorist, not a musicologist, I recommended he find another source. His response was the humor was ok in “Academia” and would I please send him the page number to complete his citation. Unfortunately, he seemed to miss my other point – you should always go to the original source and confirm that what you’re reading is accurate. This xkcd cartoon offers a perfect illustration for why.

xkcd: Citogenesis

While I would like to imagine that my writing is a good resource, I wouldn’t recommend anyone cite this blog or any of my quotations without verifying the information. Even in those areas where I have some academic expertise I like to recommend that everyone not take my word for indisputable fact, but do your own research and look for yourself.

Don’t Practice Until You Get It Right, Practice Until It Can’t Go Wrong

I was teaching a class of 7th grade band students today when one of them asked why I kept stopping the group and starting them over after they got it right for the first time. It reminded me immediately of this Tone Deaf Comics poster by by John Bogenschutz.

Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.

The following story may be apocryphal, but it makes a good point. Supposedly as a child W.A. Mozart would keep 10 marbles in one shirt pocket while practicing. If he played the phrase (or entire piece, depending on who is telling the story) perfectly, he would move one marble to another shirt pocket. If he played it correctly again a second time he would move another marble over and so on until all 10 marbles were in the other shirt pocket. But if he made a mistake, no matter how many marbles he had left in the first pocket, he would move all 10 back over. He had to play the music correctly 10 times in a row before he could move on.

This sort of idea isn’t just “folk wisdom.” A fairly recent study by Helen J. Huang and Rodger Kram, titled Reduction of Metabolic Cost during Motor Learning of Arm Reaching Dynamics (published in the February 8, 2012 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience) showed that even after mastering a complex motor task subjects showed additional improvement and efficiency by practicing more. The abstract states:

It is often assumed that the CNS controls movements in a manner that minimizes energetic cost. While empirical evidence for actual metabolic minimization exists in locomotion, actual metabolic cost has yet to be measured during motor learning and/or arm reaching. Here, we measured metabolic power consumption using expired gas analysis, as humans learned novel arm reaching dynamics. We hypothesized that (1) metabolic power would decrease with motor learning and (2) muscle activity and coactivation would parallel changes in metabolic power. Seated subjects made horizontal planar reaching movements toward a target using a robotic arm. The novel dynamics involved compensating for a viscous curl force field that perturbed reaching movements. Metabolic power was measured continuously throughout the protocol. Subjects decreased movement error and learned the novel dynamics. By the end of learning, net metabolic power decreased by similar to 20% (similar to 0.1 W/kg) from initial learning. Muscle activity and coactivation also decreased with motor learning. Interestingly, distinct and significant reductions in metabolic power occurred even after muscle activity and coactivation had stabilized and movement changes were small. These results provide the first evidence of actual metabolic reduction during motor learning and for a reaching task. Further, they suggest that muscle activity may not explain changes in metabolic cost as completely as previously thought. Additional mechanisms such as more subtle features of arm muscle activity, changes in activity of other muscles, and/or more efficient neural processes may also underlie the reduction in metabolic cost during motor learning.

A little more layman friendly discussion of their research was published in Science Daily last year.

“The message from this study is that in order to perform with less effort, keep on practicing, even after it seems as if the task has been learned,” said Ahmed of CU-Boulder’s integrative physiology department. “We have shown there is an advantage to continued practice beyond any visible changes in performance.”

So get those marbles out and start practicing. When you get all 10 in the other pocket you’re ready to move on – until tomorrow when you should start it all over again.

Milt Steven’s Beefs and Pet Peeves for Trombonists

Milt Stevens (1942-2007) was the principle trombonist with the National Symphony Orchestra for 29 years before his death in 2007. He maintained a busy performing schedule and also taught at Catholic University. A while back I was poking around to learn a bit more about him and found some notes from one of his clinics called Beefs and Pet Peeves. A lot of these are my own personal pet peeves as well and some I think are a little particular to Stevens’s own situation. Here’s a few of them that I had some additional thoughts  or comments to make.

2. Not knowing tempos, styles, interpretations!
Listen!: Get lots of recordings.
Listen!: Keep radio tuned to classical stations.
Listen!: Attend live concerts.

I’ll add to this that I feel you should listen to all styles of music, not just classical (or jazz, if you perform jazz). Focus on what you want to perform most, but don’t neglect other styles. One of the reasons I feel successful as a musician is because I can step into many different musical situations and playing convincingly and stylistically. I perform with orchestras, big bands, traditional jazz combos, salsa bands, R&B bands, rock horn sections, brass chamber ensembles, solo recitals, and conduct a concert band and brass band. If all I listened to was jazz or classical music I’d not be as flexible, nor would I have been prepared to join these groups.

4. Pointing bell into the music stand!
Don’t wander with the bell as you play (unless you are David Taylor). Play off the left side of your stand, and when you read from the right hand page of music, don’t angle the bell into the stand.

I deal with this all the time with band students (and also frequently the adult players I conduct and sometimes even with professional brass players I perform with). The trouble is that when you play into the music stand you hear yourself quite clearly, but your sound isn’t projected forward to the audience and the rest of the group. Get used to directing your bell forward!

5. Pointing bell too low (toward the floor) or too high (at the head of the conductor)!
Ideally, the entire trombone section would agree on a mutually acceptable angle to hold the trombones. Use the “bells up” angle only for special effect.

On this one I’ll differ slightly with Stevens. Everyone has at least a slightly different horn angle and not every section will agree on a “mutually acceptable angle.”

I find it curious that Stevens would be such a stickler for this. One of my teachers, Doug Elliott, included Stevens in his film, The Brass Player’s Embouchure, and showed Stevens’s fairly low horn angle. If I recall correctly, Stevens had one of the most rare embouchure types. Doug’s teacher, Donald Reinhardt, called this embouchure type the Type III or “jellyroll” embouchure type because it is characterized by a rather pronounced lower lip roll and lowered horn angle. Even more unusual for Stevens’s embouchure, he used the reverse embouchure motion that most “jellyroll” embouchure players use, he pushed up to ascend and pulled down to descend. For a brief discussion of how Reinhardt’s embouchure types correlate to the embouchure classifications I prefer to use click here.

7. Allowing sound to puny, weak!
Get a weighty sound with resonance. Pretend that you can feel your resonant tone coming back into your body through your feet. Start with better quality inhales. Inhale thinking “OH”; exhale thinking “HO”.

Much like teaching articulations through using syllables, teaching breathing using these mouth shapes can be problematic if you’re not careful. Personally, I prefer to practice (and teach) keeping the lips just touching in the center (inside the mouthpiece) when breathing and breath through the mouth corners. When you open your mouth to inhale you end up having to hit a moving target when you make that initial attack right afterwards. Also, crashing the mouthpiece up against your lips every time after you breathe doesn’t seem to help your endurance in the long term.

10. Having tone production and embouchure problems due to using a dry lip embouchure!
Most brass players play with moisture on lips, even where the rim touches the lips. Mention survey of NSO brass.

I haven’t seen the NSO brass survey, but it doesn’t surprise me that most of the players played with a wet embouchure. There are some players who prefer a dry embouchure and just can’t fully adopt a wet embouchure, though. When I first made an embouchure change to the “low placement” embouchure type I was unable to keep my mouthpiece placement consistently on the same spot with a wet embouchure and I played dry. Gradually I switched to playing wet on the bottom lip and dry on the top lip to keep the rim from slipping off my top lip while playing. Eventually I was able to fully make the switch to a wet embouchure on both lips, which is my preferred way to play today. That said, every once in a while I’ll practice dry to work on some things.

In general, I’d recommend that any brass player who can play with a wet embouchure should try to adopt this. There are some advantages to this over dry for all around brass playing. Not everyone can play wet, however, and these players shouldn’t overly concern themselves about playing this way.

12. Trying to have a big sound by opening lips too far!
Your tone will be “woofy”, if your aperture is too wide for your air stream. Instead, open breathing apparatus, throat, and inside of mouth.

Players belonging to the “medium high placement” embouchure type are more prone to this problem than the other basic types, but all players should avoid this.

I also like this advice from Stevens because he discusses a good strategy for getting a focused and resonant tone – work on breathing and tongue position. Too often I come across advice from well-intentioned brass teachers who are all about breathing and keeping an open throat, etc., but when the encounter player with an unusual mouthpiece placement (e.g., the “low placement” type player) with a thin sound, they forget all about this important advice and immediately try to correct the mouthpiece placement first. Eliminate the other elements before you change embouchures.

14. Not letting lower jaw protrude enough to align lips!
When descending into lower register, allow a pivot. When ascending into extreme high register, try a reverse pivot!

Much like the horn angle above, this is personal to the player. Again, I’m surprised that Stevens would make this one of his personal beefs, because if I recall from Doug’s film, Stevens had a receded jaw position and lowered horn angle.

15. Having to shift mouthpiece up and down to change registers!
Learn to traverse registers without excessive shifting.

It’s best to keep your mouthpiece placement consistent, regardless of the register you’re playing. There will always be some pushing and pulling of the mouthpiece and lips together in an upward and downward direction, but keep it from being too excessive.

23. Having a non-existent or improper vibrato!
Discuss proper speed and amplitude. Discuss lip/jaw and slide vibrato. Mention diaphragm vibrato as not commonly done on brass instruments, except French horn.

I found Stevens’s comment of horn vibrato interesting. Most horn players I know don’t use vibrato, even for solo playing. John Ericson, from Horn Matters, has a nice article on horn vibrato here.

24. Not relying on basic tools to help you learn!
Metronome. 1/2-speed tape recorder. Mirror. Video camera. Tuner.

These days you don’t really need a 1/2 speed tape recorder, you can do the same thing with computer software. I remember lessons with Ed Kocher where we would record ourselves playing Rochut etudes phrase by phrase and then listen back to them at 1/2 speed. All the little cracked notes, out of tune pitches, and out of tempo rhythms were brought out even more by this. It was a real positive kick in the pants.

28. Exhibiting poor stage presence
Emptying water too obviously. Drinking water too obviously and too often. Not acknowledging audience/accompanists. Not bowing and taking curtain calls correctly.

This side of performing is something that is too often not taught, for some reason, yet it has a very important effect on the quality of the performance and how the audience perceives the sound. This topic deserves a post of it’s own at a later date.

29. Having no vocal training!
Sing in choruses and choirs. Be able to hear intervals before they happen. Have a singing quality to your sound.

One of the best things I’ve done for my trombone performing is to take a few vocal lessons and to perform regularly in choirs. Not to mention that it now allows me to sing backup in some of the groups I perform in once in a while as needed.

30. Not being a complete musician!
Listen to many and various recitals. Improvise. Be able to play by ear. Play in public often. Know how to effect a phrase and “turn a nuance”. Performing musically, with understanding, style, and emotion, is the primary goal of this art form.

See my comments on #2 above.

There’s plenty more beefs and pet peeves at Stevens’s web site. Go check it out here.

Got any of your own beefs or pet peeves you need to get off your chest? Leave your thoughts about them in the comments section here.

Asheville Jazz Orchestra Sunday, September 8, 2013 at the White Horse

AJO-Logo-Transparent copyThe Asheville Jazz Orchestra is back again for our monthly show at the White Horse Black Mountain, in Black Mountain, NC. We’ll be playing this Sunday night, September 8, 2013 beginning at 7:30 PM. Since this is a Sunday night we’re starting 1/2 hour earlier than we usually do.

As we usually do, we’ll be playing a mix of chart ranging from the classic big band charts of the Swing Era up through original compositions and arrangements by myself. I’m excited that we’ll have one of our regular players, Steve Alford, back in the sax section after a number of shows where he’s had to sub out. We’ll feature him on one of my charts, Professor Steve’s Goat Cheese and also Bob Brookmeyer’s arrangement of Skylark.

If you’re in western North Carolina this Sunday night come on out and check out the AJO. Be sure to come up and say hello at our set break or after the show.

Practicing With a Metronome

I recently came across an interesting blog post written by pianist Mike Longo asking Should You Practice Jazz With A Metronome? Longo’s reply:

In MHO, absolutely not!  Why?  Because a metronome clicking is not a pulse.  What is a pulse anyway?  The sound of your heart beating.  It produces a throbbing, pumping kind of feeling as opposed to the monotonous, soulless clicking of a metronome.  All of the great jazz musicians of the past such as Dizzy, Charlie Parker, Cannonball, John Coltrane,  Erroll Garner, etc., display this kind of sound in their time keeping.

He raises some very good points that are worth some serious consideration. That said, I feel some of his reasoning is a little off base and creates another false dichotomy of the sort that pervades so much music pedagogy. Let me take a few of his points and add my own thoughts.

There is a practice among some of the jazz educators to encourage musicians to practice with the metronome clicking on 2 and 4.  In my estimation this is probably one of the worst things a musician can do and practically destroys the ability to ever swing.  I’m sure there is no malicious attempt on the part of the educators, and they sincerely believe they are “helping” students by having them do this.  The sad thing is there is a type of playing and a kind of “music” that can result from this.  The question becomes…does it swing?   Does it produce a positive reaction in the listener?  In other words, does it make people who listen to it feel good?  In my opinion, ABSOLUTELY NOT!

As someone who has played along with a click track  for recording and for shows that include prerecorded music I agree that this often makes for a stiff feeling groove. That said, there are some folks who really enjoy music that has been recorded with metronomic time and a lot of interesting music has been created this way. I think that Longo’s opinions about music made with a metronome should be placed into the context of the jazz music that he personally enjoys and performs.

But is it really the worst thing one can do? Will it destroy a musician’s ability to play with a confident and natural swing feel? Let’s examine his arguments.

Since this is a common practice being used in many jazz education environments and since the popularity of jazz has diminished in alarming proportions, I suggest that educators might want to question if there might be a connection.

Probably not. Consider how much pop music is recorded and performed with a click track. One might argue that the decline of interest in jazz is inversely proportional to not having metronomic time. I don’t this really applies to a discussion on the pedagogical or practice value of using a metronome.

Longo’s next couple of paragraphs deal with a discussion of watching musicians dance or tap their foot while performing. He argues that one can’t dance like Dizzy Gillespie or tap a foot like Count Basie to a metronome. I’m not sure that this is necessarily true (I can’t dance to either a metronome or Basie both, to be honest), nor does it really say anything about whether practicing with a metronome is useful. There’s also some thoughts about whether white musicians can groove as hard as African American musicians by Cannonball Adderly, but I’m not certain that this is evidence against metronome practice. It’s probably more due enculturation than anything else.

I had a young guitar student who was studying privately with me while attending a university jazz department trying to get a degree in jazz performance. . . He reported that the guitar teacher showed him a clip on You Tube of a guitarist playing a solo while placing the microphone on the floor next to a metronome clicking on 2 and 4.  I observed this clip and found that the playing displayed a tremendous amount of technique with speed and velocity as well as a ton of notes.  But it was not producing anything I wanted to listen to, nor did it swing.  The student proclaimed that the teacher told him, “This is why you should practice with the metronome on 2 and 4” to which I responded by sending the teacher a clip of Wes Montgomery and his group playing “Impressions” with the drummers high hat popping on 2 and 4 in a manner that started your foot tapping involuntarily from the first bar on.  I sent a note along stating, “This is why you shouldn’t practice that way.”

I will let you judge for yourself if Metheny swings and if there’s anything worth listening to, but we need to place this video in context. Metheny isn’t really performing here, he is demonstrating something at a clinic. Again, I think that Longo’s thoughts here are more indicative of his personal preferences in music than what metronome practice can do for your playing.

Further evidence that supports that there is a ring of truth to my theory is the following.  Try taking any classic jazz recording that has withstood the test of time and has everyone agreeing on the fact that it swings and see if you can get a metronome to stay with the music on that recording.  Obviously you cannot, and obviously the musicians were keeping time differently than the way a metronome clicks.

This is indeed a difficult task to accomplish. It’s much easier to use a metronome that you click or tap that tells you what tempo it is moving at and see if the tempo remains steady throughout. Musicians often play at tempos that are between the standard metronome clicks and even if they played in perfect time it would be impossible to set your metronome to the music. That said, it is true that there are almost always minor fluctuations in the tempo with human musicians. It’s part of what makes the music breathe and flow in an expressive way. But do musicians who practice with a metronome do any better at staying with perfect time when recording without a click track?

As an aside, I recently recorded a few big band charts with just four musicians, so used a click track to keep all the parts lined up correctly. When editing the recordings I noticed that many of the players, myself included, frequently played ahead of or behind the beat at times. There were times when this happened where I was able to clean up the sound by edging the notes forward and backwards a bit, but when I perfectly quantized the music to line up exactly the resulting sound was very stiff and artificial sounding.

But I feel the real question to consider is whether or not metronome practice needs to be all or nothing. What does a metronome provide for your practice? It’s good at two things – getting your  tempo correct in the first place and then providing feedback as to whether your tempo is remaining consistent. I prefer to think of a metronome as a “spotter” for your time feel. Once you’ve reached a point where you have a good idea of your tempo and have consistent tempo on the music you’re playing you turn the metronome off. Can a musician develop a static and unmusical groove by overpracticing with a metronome? Perhaps, but I don’t think that this happens to any great degree. On the other hand, the feedback that metronome practice can provide to musicians, particularly less experienced ones or even experienced ones working on challenging material, makes for a valuable tool. In my daily teaching (and performing, to a lesser degree) I come across more cases of musicians who drag or rush than players with a stiff groove.

If you can swing with a metronome click as your “rhythm section,” just think of how hard you will swing with a real one.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel that it’s better to never practice with a metronome or use it frequently? Or do you find that the best approach is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Free Buzzing Questions – How To Use Your Tongue

Chris sent me a message recently asking for some thoughts on free buzzing. If you haven’t already done so, you might want to check out my post on free buzzing to understand Chris’s questions and my response.

Hi Dave,

I’ve a question about buzzing a la reinhardt. There is one thing he doesn’t mention and that is the tongue except for saying to use a breath attack.

The reason I ask is that I have a wide tongue and would fit into tongue Type One. I feel that the tongue takes a lot of the normal work off the embouchure though, which is a good thing for playing probably, except that muscle that really focus the aperture are still surprisingly week despite a lot of buzzing etc.

I’ve been trying Buzzing a la Reinhardt while keeping the tongue down and my buzzing range drops by more than an octave AND even a middle G (trumpet) feels like twice as much effort is happening at the embouchure to hold the air focused.

I think this might be why buzzing has never really had a huge effect on my playing and the tongue doing so much air-focusing work has stymied the development of my embouchure a bit, at least in terms of strength.

What do you think?
Cheers!

Reinhardt did instruct his students to avoid using the tongue when practicing his free buzzing exercises. He found that it helped players get better response by forcing them to set the lips to vibrating with the air alone and not using the tongued attack as a crutch. It also can be useful for certain corrections while playing, tonguing on the lips, for example.

Reinhardt doesn’t mention what the player should do with his or her tongue once the buzz has been established in his free buzzing routines. I’ve always found it best to hold my tongue while buzzing in the same way that I slur and sustain pitches while playing, in my case the tongue tip snaps down to the gully below my lower teeth and gums and presses forward slightly. Whatever your tongue does normally while playing is probably correct also for free buzzing.

Reinhardt’s Tongue-Type One is one of the less common ones and wasn’t generally recommended by Reinhardt because of “the marked limitations in the lower register.” After the attack the Tongue-Type One performer’s tongue snaps back in the mouth while the sides of the tongue are held in contact with the upper teeth. This focuses the air through a much smaller mouth cavity and really helps some players with getting out very high notes. The drawback is that it tends to thin out the sound in the low register. Reinhardt warned, “the tongue type one is not recommended or intended for all-around brass playing.”

Reinhardt’s warnings aside, there are some great players that are known to use this tongue type, typically trumpet players known for their upper register work. I think that I would generally agree with Reinhardt that this tongue type is probably not best for most players, particularly for general all-around brass playing.

Since I haven’t been able to watch you play, Chris, I really can’t say if you might be better served with a different tongue type. As you alluded to above, I suspect that if you tried to change your tongue type for playing you might find a similar drop in range while playing as you do for free buzzing. It’s possible that after an adjustment period your range would come back or it’s also possible that the Tongue-Type One is the best for you. Hard to say without watching you play.

Getting back to which tongue type to use while free buzzing, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to not be able to buzz as high if you try adopting another tongue type for free buzzing. The point of the exercise isn’t to see how high you can buzz but to strengthen the muscles at the mouth corners and lower lip area. If adopting a different tongue type while buzzing makes for a drop in range but increased work in those areas then it might be best to keep your tongue in that position for the exercise. It also might be a good way to help you learn a different tongue type for playing, if you decide that this is the route you want to take. It’s probably worth experimenting with for a while, as long as you don’t overdo free buzzing in the first place.

Good luck and please keep us posted on how things turn out!