Date: Sun, 11 Jan 1998 01:34:53 -0500 (EST)
From: "Dr. Henry Meredith" <>
Subject: Uh, Oh! (but not Eeee)  I been thinkin' ag'in.

Sorry to be pedantic, but as a pedagog and player, I do not recommend the tongue arch technique for getting high notes.  The adjustment of position at the FRONT of the mouth may have some positive effect (as in Tah-yah-yah), and everyone has a different oral cavity shape, size, teeth & jaw structure, tongue length, etc. to consider.  But the "ahh" or "oh" vowel allows for a full, resonant sound, and the "eee" vowel closes off the oral chamber and usually destroys the tone (try going from one extreme to the other on a single note and see what happens to the sound).  The early methods admonished the trumpeter to adopt the technique of "the perfect singer," and any singer knows the problems inherent with the Eeee vowel in the high register (of course you can hardly understand an opera singer's diction because, to benefit their glorious sound therefore, every vowel becomes Ah or Oh!).

Many people disagree with this, but also many people can play extremely high with big fat sounds all the way up and down.  I would bet that my fellow Adam student colleague Charlie Davis is one of those flat-tongue screamers. I believe it was Buddy Brisbois who's oral cavity was X-rayed while he played from lowest to highest notes with the tongue never arching at all. Of course there are others who's tongues "float" around (akin to your "waggle"?) without noticeable effect either way.  And many do use the arch method, but the whistle parallel is far-fetched.  To change pitch while whistling, the change in size of the oral cavity is the substitute for change in tube-length.  In the case of whistling, the mouth IS the instrument (like an occarina).  But for trumpet playing, the mouth is one of the resonating chambers (where arching the tongue would be akin to filling up the violin with some thick substance as you go into the higher registers on it).

The change in air speed (as an excuse for arching the tongue) is also unnecessary in my teaching and playing.  The lip vibration speed is determined by the musculature and aperture, much the same way we set the fulcrum on a mechanical metronome for its varying speeds.  A metronome would be worthless if it changed speeds according to the tension of the wind-up spring.  Another misconception is high air volume for high register, when the smaller aperture allows less air through the chops.  Amount of air effects the loudness or softness, but not the pitch, generally speaking.

Some food for thought.  Also, FYI, "tessitura" is actually an Italian term, literally meaning "texture," but musically referring to the relative frequency of occurence of notes of a certain range within the overall range of the piece.  If the tessitura is high (also relative to the player's abilities presumably -- e.g., for a beginner a piece with a high tessitura may just have lots of g"s on top of the staff in it), it has a preponderance of high notes (but may also go very low).

So, whistle while you work, but not while you play trumpet!   :) and ciao for now,

        Henry Meredith   <>

At 04:37 PM 1/9/98 -0500, "Hutson, Timothy B" <hutsont@BATTELLE.ORG> wrote:
>I was just wondering........
>There are a lot of players and teachers out there who advocate tongue
>level for controlling pitch.  Now, I haven't quite got control of this
>thing yet.  Sometimes I can play a high note and waggle my tongue all
>around inside my mouth with no effect (Literally!).  Other times I works
>Clyde Hunt even draws the analogy of the "silent whistle" which, to my
>mind, is a great concept.  What I was wondering was, for those players
>who can play the tessitura (French for "scream"), can you guys/gals
>whistle high too?
>Is there a correlation with how high you can whistle and how high you
>can play the trumpet since both seem to use a similar mechanism?
>Should I practice whistling as a way to practice playing high on the
>trumpet?  I think that this actually has some value.  I think it can be
>used to try to relax the muscles and possibly transfer that to the
>trumpet.  Maybe even control of the oral cavity and tongue level too.
>How's about we take a poll.  What is the highest note you can play
>(let's say, hit 50% of the time) and what is the highest note you can
>whistle?  I'll post mine after I figure it out.
>Of course, if y'all think that this is stupid, please be kind and just
>send a post directly to me with the single word "Stupid" in the body of
>the message.  I'll consider myself flamed.
>Tim Hutson