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Discussion Starter #1
I've been told by my online teacher that there is a delay between me starting to play a note and sound being produced. I'm not sure of the root cause of this problem though.

My teacher told me to 'move the air forward' and imagine holding pressing both the brake and accelerator in a car (the brake being the tongue on the reed, the air being the accelerator) and releasing the brake (tongue) when wanting to create a tone.

Should I feel tension in my diaphragm at all times so I know I am pushing the air 'forward'?

Are there any other possible causes?

Can anyone suggest some good exercises to iron out this technical fault?

Exchanges with my teacher take at least a couple of weeks, so I'm asking here in the meantime.
 

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At least a couple of weeks? Sheesh. That sure is a long time. I always reply ASAP. I expect most folks do.

Yes, if you are going to start a note by letting the air out with the tongue, there needs to be pressure in the airways already.

One useful exercise is to do the release repeatedly. Sort of like: Too Too Too Too
So you can practice that in isolation. Making the sound start when you want it to.
Another is starting the note just with the air, no tonguing at all.
Sort of like: Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo
So you are again getting a feel for the delay between beginning the air pressure and the sound actually beginning.

You may need more air pressure in general. It is popular to play very quietly these days. No idea what you do.
I am an old loud guy. Playing a bit louder will probably reduce that delay.

Drummers have to move the sticks long before the sound happens.
Horn players have a shorter delay, but managing that is part of the process.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
At least a couple of weeks? Sheesh. That sure is a long time. I always reply ASAP. I expect most folks do.

Yes, if you are going to start a note by letting the air out with the tongue, there needs to be pressure in the airways already.

One useful exercise is to do the release repeatedly. Sort of like: Too Too Too Too
So you can practice that in isolation. Making the sound start when you want it to.
Another is starting the note just with the air, no tonguing at all.
Sort of like: Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo
So you are again getting a feel for the delay between beginning the air pressure and the sound actually beginning.

You may need more air pressure in general. It is popular to play very quietly these days. No idea what you do.
I am an old loud guy. Playing a bit louder will probably reduce that delay.

Drummers have to move the sticks long before the sound happens.
Horn players have a shorter delay, but managing that is part of the process.
Thanks for the advice. I tried some of these exercises and ideas today in practice time and it seemed to help.

Should you feel pressure around the top of your diaphragm, around just below the sternum?

I'm just trying to get an idea of what the correct feeling in the lungs is.

Is the stomach pushed out slightly or held in with this pressure?
 

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make sure that you aren’t fighting yourself .

That can happen in many ways ( equipment not suitable to you), but one that I’ve seen very often from beginners is " chocking “ the reed by taking, with force, only the tip of the reed in and pressing practically closed. Blowing should be comfortable, not a struggle.

You see people getting red in their face and then some form of sound comes out.

About the “ feel” , there are tons of threads all saying different things and apparently contradicting one another. I'd say that having a belt helps you feel the muscles expanding in the belly area.
 
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Discussion Starter #5
make sure that you aren’t fighting yourself .

That can happen in many ways ( equipment not suitable to you), but one that I’ve seen very often from beginners is " chocking “ the reed by taking, with force, only the tip of the reed in and pressing practically closed. Blowing should be comfortable, not a struggle.

You see people getting red in their face and then some form of sound comes out.

About the “ feel” , there are tons of threads all saying different things and apparently contradicting one another. I'd say that having a belt helps you feel the muscles expanding in the belly area.
I don't really have any problem with feeling like blowing is hard work to be honest, on most notes it feels pretty effortless.

However there are many other things I need to work on for sure.

But what I'm working on here is making sure there is no delay between my intention to play and a note sounding as my teacher picked up on. Playing with more volume helped and in fact seemed to help my intonation as well, also trying to feel the pressure where I mentioned seemed to also help listening to recordings I made to do a comparison. But I'm trying to work out if that muscular feeling is in the right ball park feeling-wise.

Separately I was playing with rolling my lower lip over my bottom teeth a bit more as I think my embouchure had got a bit 'flabby' and was affecting intonation. It seemed to help, but is difficult to tell how much as my practice space is sooo cold!
 

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well, frankly speaking sitting where I am is almost impossible to imagine what you are talking about.
maybe a video would help
 

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you can upload it here for the benefit of all ( there are many options by “ Insert " or by attach (clip) but I think a video would be more esplicative of what you doo, I don’t think that a soundclip alone may be giving clues to what you do
 

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A number of possibilities for this, although I don't understand why a competent teacher could not easily pinpoint which is the issue.

  • A reed that is poor or too hard so it does not respond quickly enough.
  • Inaccurate articulation causing the same
  • Not syncroinising your tinge with the pulse of the music.

All of the above can be diagnosed (if not cured) by practising legato (or staccato) tonguing on a single not along with a metronome at a slow tempo. Listen to how tightly you sync to the beat.

My own preference is to move stomach out as I inhale. This allows the lungs to expand downwards more fully. Or atleast allows you to visualise that happening. Then as I exhale a slight pressure from the abdomen, but not so that you feel unnatural ideally. (maybe it will feel unnatural at first though).

It's important that you don't restrict your throat, as you might do if you weren't using your tongue as (correctly) described by your teacher. Until they know otherwise some people may instead use a sort of coughing action in the throat. Make sure you are not doing this, even slightly.

If your throat is not open, then any restriction can undermine the constant pressure your teacher is mentioning so think of a whole big column of air right up from your lungs, through your thraot and mouth to the reed. So when you tongue by releasing the reed (taking your foot off the brake) that pressure kicks straight into action.
 

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Rather than "breath support", I like to think in terms of playing using "pressurized air". To get the concept, tear a sheet of copy paper in half and hold it up to a mirror or window with one finger in front of your face. Release the paper and blow at the same time trying to hold the paper up with your air stream as long as possible. The way it feels in your abdomen when you do this is what is meant by "breath support".

That said, I think there is another issue at play. I teach my students a sequence that goes: Breathe - Set - Release. You take a breath, set the tongue on the reed and blow, and when there is air pressure behind the tongue, you release the tongue allowing the air to pass and the reed to vibrate. This exercise helps students who tend to "balloon" the notes by blowing more after the note has started. It can be a bit "explosive sounding" at first but with practice, the entrance of the note can be controlled to produce the type of entrance (I don't like the word "attack") you want.

This is a trick I learned from a friend who is a successful trumpet teacher. To get the feeling of having the air pressure right at the point where the vibration starts whether it is a reed or a brass player's lips in a cup mouthpiece, pretend to blow up a balloon that is hard to get started inflating.
 

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This really comes down to articulation. When 'starting' a note, air support (I like saxoclese's reference to 'air pressure'), tonguing (or not tonguing), and embouchure control all come into play. It's really difficult to say exactly what you need to be doing physically, because so much of it is at a largely subconscious or 'muscle memory' level.

You might try using some mental imagery and try to start a note with a clean, crisp attack; do whatever it takes to achieve that. By 'attack' I don't mean an explosive attack, just a descriptive term for starting the note (maybe 'entrance' is a better term as saxoclese says). What you don't want is a sloppy or delayed start, regardless of whether you are playing legato or staccato.

How you start a note is very important; it's a key element of your overall sound quality.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
A number of possibilities for this, although I don't understand why a competent teacher could not easily pinpoint which is the issue.

  • A reed that is poor or too hard so it does not respond quickly enough.
  • Inaccurate articulation causing the same
  • Not syncroinising your tinge with the pulse of the music.

All of the above can be diagnosed (if not cured) by practising legato (or staccato) tonguing on a single not along with a metronome at a slow tempo. Listen to how tightly you sync to the beat.

My own preference is to move stomach out as I inhale. This allows the lungs to expand downwards more fully. Or atleast allows you to visualise that happening. Then as I exhale a slight pressure from the abdomen, but not so that you feel unnatural ideally. (maybe it will feel unnatural at first though).

It's important that you don't restrict your throat, as you might do if you weren't using your tongue as (correctly) described by your teacher. Until they know otherwise some people may instead use a sort of coughing action in the throat. Make sure you are not doing this, even slightly.

If your throat is not open, then any restriction can undermine the constant pressure your teacher is mentioning so think of a whole big column of air right up from your lungs, through your thraot and mouth to the reed. So when you tongue by releasing the reed (taking your foot off the brake) that pressure kicks straight into action.
Thanks, very useful info. I have been working on the breathing aspect and things seem to be improving, the slight pressure at the abdomen tip seems to be paying dividends. I like the metronome exercise and will try that too.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Rather than "breath support", I like to think in terms of playing using "pressurized air". To get the concept, tear a sheet of copy paper in half and hold it up to a mirror or window with one finger in front of your face. Release the paper and blow at the same time trying to hold the paper up with your air stream as long as possible. The way it feels in your abdomen when you do this is what is meant by "breath support".

That said, I think there is another issue at play. I teach my students a sequence that goes: Breathe - Set - Release. You take a breath, set the tongue on the reed and blow, and when there is air pressure behind the tongue, you release the tongue allowing the air to pass and the reed to vibrate. This exercise helps students who tend to "balloon" the notes by blowing more after the note has started. It can be a bit "explosive sounding" at first but with practice, the entrance of the note can be controlled to produce the type of entrance (I don't like the word "attack") you want.

This is a trick I learned from a friend who is a successful trumpet teacher. To get the feeling of having the air pressure right at the point where the vibration starts whether it is a reed or a brass player's lips in a cup mouthpiece, pretend to blow up a balloon that is hard to get started inflating.
This idea of pressurised air I like as a good analogy and it gives me a feeling to aim fo whilst playing. The exercise with the piece of paper is something my teacher mentioned too. I like the breathe-set-release exercise as well, I'll try that out.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
This really comes down to articulation. When 'starting' a note, air support (I like saxoclese's reference to 'air pressure'), tonguing (or not tonguing), and embouchure control all come into play. It's really difficult to say exactly what you need to be doing physically, because so much of it is at a largely subconscious or 'muscle memory' level.

You might try using some mental imagery and try to start a note with a clean, crisp attack; do whatever it takes to achieve that. By 'attack' I don't mean an explosive attack, just a descriptive term for starting the note (maybe 'entrance' is a better term as saxoclese says). What you don't want is a sloppy or delayed start, regardless of whether you are playing legato or staccato.

How you start a note is very important; it's a key element of your overall sound quality.
I have been practising for more immediacy and it seems to be slowly working.

I also realised I was not taking in enough mouthpiece (I didn't used to do this) as my high E an F were getting pinched off when trying to play them. With some experimentation it was definitely not enough mouthpiece being taken in. This issue might have affected my 'attack' on other notes too I guess, but not to the point where they didn't produce sound at all like E and F were for me.
 

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This happens to me as well - mostly in the low Bb - C range. It is often related to my reeds and I'm sure if I concentrated on how I start my notes every time I practice, I would improve, but I wouldn't learn many new songs that way :-D. But I can feel it happen with some reeds more than others.

I have 10 reeds in my reed holder - all are 2.5 strength. Hemke, Blue Royal, Rico Orange, Vandoren Red. I also have two Legere (signature and Studio 2.5s.) I try to rotate but when I'm trying to learn a piece, if I'm fighting the reed, then my learning grinds to a halt so I gravitate to a reed that doesn't fight me.

So far, the most consistent reed is the legere Signature (after 2 - one second dips in boiling water) on my Yamaha 5C mouthpiece. It also works well on my Hite Premier. I can start a Bb so much more reliably but the altissimo gets more difficult to control. The next most consistent is my original Hemke cane reed. Unfortunately, I can tell that it is nearing the end of it's life because I use it so often. Last night I played on my 2nd Blue Royal of the box and I didn't last an hour because my lip hurt after my embouchure fell apart and my biting increased. It's great for embouchure building I think.

I like the idea of blowing a clean Bb, but the legere is loud and as @datsaxman points out, I'm one of those that try to play softly especially when I'm not alone in the house.

If I use a 2.0 Rico reed, it blows quite easily but I tend to overblow it and often closes on me. So I'm sticking with the 2.5's and some reed tuning to try to get a more consistent playing experience with any reed. But I don't think it's possible, even when tuning up a reed.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
This happens to me as well - mostly in the low Bb - C range. It is often related to my reeds and I'm sure if I concentrated on how I start my notes every time I practice, I would improve, but I wouldn't learn many new songs that way :-D. But I can feel it happen with some reeds more than others.

I have 10 reeds in my reed holder - all are 2.5 strength. Hemke, Blue Royal, Rico Orange, Vandoren Red. I also have two Legere (signature and Studio 2.5s.) I try to rotate but when I'm trying to learn a piece, if I'm fighting the reed, then my learning grinds to a halt so I gravitate to a reed that doesn't fight me.

So far, the most consistent reed is the legere Signature (after 2 - one second dips in boiling water) on my Yamaha 5C mouthpiece. It also works well on my Hite Premier. I can start a Bb so much more reliably but the altissimo gets more difficult to control. The next most consistent is my original Hemke cane reed. Unfortunately, I can tell that it is nearing the end of it's life because I use it so often. Last night I played on my 2nd Blue Royal of the box and I didn't last an hour because my lip hurt after my embouchure fell apart and my biting increased. It's great for embouchure building I think.

I like the idea of blowing a clean Bb, but the legere is loud and as @datsaxman points out, I'm one of those that try to play softly especially when I'm not alone in the house.

If I use a 2.0 Rico reed, it blows quite easily but I tend to overblow it and often closes on me. So I'm sticking with the 2.5's and some reed tuning to try to get a more consistent playing experience with any reed. But I don't think it's possible, even when tuning up a reed.
I found that the air support issues seemed to be down to not keeping pressure within the lungs and also not taking in enough mouthpiece, so I was closing the reed down a bit and getting the delay issue. Things seem to be improving, but I will keep working at it. Your comments make me think that perhaps I will try some rico orange 2's I have just to compare with the rico orange 2.5s I have to see if that makes any difference.
 

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I was going to suggest to check the alignment and position of the reed on the mouthpiece and how much mouthpiece you're taking in.

Second check the video recording equipment and or connections. I've seen it on YouTube videos, Skype and even TV etc before when the sound would be out of sync with the picture. Sometimes restarting my computer or phone would help.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I was going to suggest to check the alignment and position of the reed on the mouthpiece and how much mouthpiece you're taking in.

Second check the video recording equipment and or connections. I've seen it on YouTube videos, Skype and even TV etc before when the sound would be out of sync with the picture. Sometimes restarting my computer or phone would help.
I'm always careful with the placement and alignment of the red so I don't think its that. Taking in more mouthpiece I think has helped. Keeping my lungs fuller and feeling for more diaphragm pressure has been the biggest help. I also tried using a 2 strength reed of the same type instead of the 2.5 I normally use but there wasn't any real difference in my opinion. I hadn't considered the technical, computer side of things as a possible issue, but listening to myself I'd say its definitely me and not the tech, much as it would be nice to blame it on that! It's still a work in progress of course.

My next job is to improve my low notes from d sharp down. I find sometimes I get warbling, flatness (-20c) and find that there is very little margin between playing the correct octave and one octave above.
 

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Can anyone suggest some good exercises to iron out this technical fault?
Yes. When you play, you have to tense up your abdomen as if you're about to take a punch to the gut. While you're sitting at your computer, you can see this for yourself. Sit down and relax, and pretend your holding your horn in your hands (but leave it in the case for now). Blow like you're playing a song and see how long the air comes out from your mouth. Now try this... do the same thing, but before you blow, tense up your lower abdomen as if you're about to get punched in the gut. Now blow.

See the difference? Now get your horn and try playing this way.
 

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Yes. When you play, you have to tense up your abdomen as if you're about to take a punch to the gut. While you're sitting at your computer, you can see this for yourself. Sit down and relax, and pretend your holding your horn in your hands (but leave it in the case for now). Blow like you're playing a song and see how long the air comes out from your mouth. Now try this... do the same thing, but before you blow, tense up your lower abdomen as if you're about to get punched in the gut. Now blow.

See the difference? Now get your horn and try playing this way.
Thanks, I'll try that out.
 
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