Updated: Oct 1, 2018
What is great articulation? What to we mean by "clean," "crisp" or "clear" articulation. How do we recognize it? In my opinion great articulation actually means instant sound and pitch. Lets list some of the pitfalls we fall into as brass players:
Fuzz at the beginning of the note. If your air stream and tongue are not coordinated you will get a fuzzy beginning to the note.
If your air stream is too slow the sound will "swell" on the note creating a twaah sound (blooming.)
If you aren't hearing the note clearly in your head your pitch will be but nebulous at the beginning of the note.
Finally no dead, dull sound. Sometimes younger players tongue harder mistakenly thinking that it makes things cleaner. In fact this stops the embouchure from vibrating because the heavy tongue is being rammed into the back of the lips created a hard dull front to the note.
A listener will know great articulation because the pitch is immediate and there is solid, real sound and pitch from the beginning of the note. Players who have instant sound and pitch at the beginning of their notes always impress audience members even if the listeners cannot pinpoint exactly why. Notes are consistent and even in production which also helps rhythm become more stable.
So how do we achieve this? Below is an easy 4 step approach which will help develop great articulation.
1) Begin with the Arban Method book and begin at exercise 43. Play through and record yourself.
2) Blow the rhythm of the exercise into an inspiron breath builder.
3) Buzz the exercise on the mouthpiece. Think of the sound tOH with a small 't'
This will give a clean not too heavy beginning to the note and the OH vowel sound will ensure that the sound is open and full. Pay very close attention to your pitch when you are buzzing the mouthpiece.
4) Now play the exercise again on the instrument. Notice the ease and consistency of the articulation compared to the 1st time you played the exercise. Record yourself versions and analyze the changes from the 1st time you played the exercise.
Continue with exercise 44 through 48.