Re: Using less air

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Posted by Jim Williams on October 29, 2003 at 21:47:59:

In Reply to: Using less air posted by Kyle on October 28, 2003 at 20:37:34:

We should not confuse AMOUNT of air with SPEED of air.

In the low register of the tuba we need a large AMOUNT of air moving SLOWLY--the lips do not have to vibrate fast--the notes are in the 100 and fewer Hz zone if I've figured correctly. A 440 is A above Mid. C, MIDI note 69 for you synth fans, so a tuba's low A is 55 Hz and the pedal A is only 27.5 Hz
The air that tuba players use in the low register MUST NOT move the lips faster than 55 Hz for low A or the note will not sound.

Consider a hose without a nozzle. If you just turn the water on, a large amount of water comes out slowly. There's your low notes on the tuba. Now, all else held constant, put your thumb over 2/3 of the hose and what happens? Less water comes out more quickly.

I spend my musical time at the upper end of the euphonium, where the opposite is true: We need a smaller AMOUNT of air moving QUICKLY. The A above A440 is A880, so the air has to energize the lips to move QUICKLY.

Now, back to the hose: in the low register of the tuba, our thumb is off the hose--our "sound box" is way open, the back of the tongue is way down, and the vowel sound could be "aw" as in "law." That brings the back of the tongue down. In the upper register of the euphonium, our thumb is covering part of the hose--the "sound box" is small, the back of the tongue is up, and IN THE EXTREME upper register of the euphonium, the sound is a "front ch" as in the german word ich--that brings the back of the tongue way up.

Having said all this, we need to remember that each individual player must find, through introspective (and, ideally guided)practicing, where the process kicks in. Just LISTEN, or have your teacher LISTEN, and note what you're doing when it locks in. Then practice it a million times. When it's solid at mp, move it up to mf, then f, etc. It takes TIME and INTROSPECTION, as I stated in an earlier thread on the same topic from someone who seemed to want an instant quick fix for his difficulties the low register. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes, as many of my students (our students) seem to want these days.

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