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.
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?
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!