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 Throat tensing/closing up when tonguing
Author: McDonalds Eater 
Date:   2021-02-28 10:05

Hello everyone, I just discovered the Clarinet BBoard and I'm delighted with all the positive exchange of clarinet information! I'm excited to become part of this lovely community and hopefully provide some of my knowledge :) I wanted to ask you all about this since my teacher unfortunately could not really help.

I have discovered that my throat tends to close up/tense when I'm tonguing. This is becoming especially apparent when playing the Mendelssohn scherzo and playing in the clarion/upper register.

One of the ways I like to practice tonguing is playing the notes all legato first. Say I play a scale; I play it all slurred/legato first to get the feeling of having the air moving freely and continuously; then I add the tonguing. But for some reason, the free feeling of blowing doesn't translate to when I add the tongue. I have checked to see if my air stops by creating an intentional embouchure leak, and my air is always constant. So I don't think it's the air.

Could it maybe be because I am "stop-tonguing?" Since my early days of clarinet I got taught the stop-tonguing and use it as my main source of staccato.

I must also note: I used to anchor tongue. I found out a couple months ago, and just last month I got fairly comfortable with the tip of my tongue hitting the reed, but now I'm having this tension problem. So if this has anything to do with the tension problem, please let me know!

I'm not looking for a magical secret, but does anyone have any practice tips or exercises to practice tension-free articulation? Or does anyone know what could be the problem?

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 Re: Throat tensing/closing up when tonguing
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-02-28 12:17

McDonalds Eater wrote:

> Could it maybe be because I am "stop-tonguing?" Since my early
> days of clarinet I got taught the stop-tonguing and use it as
> my main source of staccato.
>

Greetings, and welcome to the Clarinet BB.
What do you mean by "stop-tonguing?" Can you describe it?

Karl

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 Re: Throat tensing/closing up when tonguing
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2021-02-28 15:33

Ok, it may be helpful to know that it is the back of your tongue that is becoming tense (it's much bigger than we think (not just the flap we see in our mouths).


The tension (and that is self imposed) is probably due to doing your new technique and then pushing it to its limit. If you're struggling to get the Mendelssohn up to 80 beats per minute then perhaps the issue has more to do with learning double tonguing (slower tongue issues are far more common than I used to think).


For now, relax as much as possible and try to just use the very tip of your tongue. Moving the entirety of it is a waste of energy and causes air problems.



Karl,


Stop tonguing is a Bonade thing. You just stop the reed from vibrating with your tongue and leave it there until you sound the next note by removing it briefly (and repeat). Done right it feels like your spitting watermelon seeds and the notes played this way sound like little droplets of water.




.............Paul Aviles



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 Re: Throat tensing/closing up when tonguing
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2021-02-28 16:43

He wasn’t asking you.

Tony

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 Re: Throat tensing/closing up when tonguing
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2021-02-28 16:47

Do you understand why I say that?

Tony

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 Re: Throat tensing/closing up when tonguing
Author: McDonalds Eater 
Date:   2021-02-28 19:07

Hi Karl,

Paul is correct. You use the tongue to release from the reed and then quickly return the tongue to the reed all while keeping the air continuous. If done quickly enough the resulting sound should be a short staccato.

I’m guessing I could also be getting tension by trying to apply too much pressure on the reed to stop the vibrations. Maybe I just need to practice haha

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 Re: Throat tensing/closing up when tonguing
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-02-28 20:27

McDonalds Eater wrote:

> You use the tongue to release from the reed
> and then quickly return the tongue to the reed all while
> keeping the air continuous. If done quickly enough the
> resulting sound should be a short staccato.
>
> I’m guessing I could also be getting tension by trying to
> apply too much pressure on the reed to stop the vibrations.

Apologies in advance for the length - I've spent so much time writing that I don't have time left now to do the editing I normally would do. I hope nothing really dumb gets into the following:

So, I "grew up" as a clarinet student with the concept you're calling "stop" tonguing, having studied with a succession of teachers who had studied at Curtis either with Bonade himself or with Anthony Gigliotti, whose teachers included Bonade at Curtis. In college I studied with Gigliotti himself.

An important part of articulating by stopping the reed is that it should be done as lightly as possible at or near the reed tip, where the least amount of pressure is needed to stop the reed from vibrating. The instruction I heard most often concerning my own tonguing was that it needed to be lighter. Unfortunately, that was a descriptor that it took me many years beyond my formal studies to understand, and I'm still refining that understanding (in my mid-70s). So, your self-diagnosis of applying too much pressure on the reed is probably spot on as a partial explanation.

But done correctly, or at least effectively, that approach to tonguing doesn't intrinsically have anything unique to do with the back of the tongue or anything else in the "throat" area. It can easily be the case, though, that in addition to pressing the reed too hard, you're moving your tongue too far when it leaves the reed. Obviously, the farther you move your tongue away from the reed, the longer it will take for it to get back to stop the next note. But enough movement could also cause your tongue to actually obstruct the air as it flows from the pharyngeal area. So, you might think about how far your tongue is moving in addition to how hard it presses against the reed.

The other part of Bonade's approach to articulation (and that of any other approach I've ever read about) is that the tongue needs to be as relaxed as possible. I've found that when I try by way of experiment to force a specific part of my tongue (say, the very tip) to meet the reed tip, I may end up contorting my tongue to do it. The recommendation you hear all the time to touch the tip of the reed with the tip of your tongue may only work comfortably if your tongue is a particular length. So, IMO, you need to find the spot *in the tip area* of your tongue that actually meets the reed with little or no extra arching or reaching or (especially) cramping. You can approximate the spot by simply singing the articulation you want to produce. Of course, the distances involved will be a little different because the reed isn't the roof of your mouth, but the sensation at least gives you a model.

Playing a passage legato first is a useful step. For one thing, you can't articulate cleanly if your fingers aren't keeping accurate rhythm in the first place. But, beyond that, the response you get in staccato depends on having an already pressurized air column when you release the reed. So in an important sense, good staccato works best on top of good underlying legato. But then, "for some reason, the free feeling of blowing doesn't translate to when I add the tongue." Something in your approach to blowing once you start to articulate is changing. So it's not that the staccato is causing the problem, it's that you're not blowing the same way. The need, then, is to figure out what you're changing (active) or allowing to change (passive) to cause the tension to build up. You have to refocus not on what "tends to" happen, but on what you may be allowing to change that causes that tendency.

The problem could be a cramped tongue position, too much movement, trying too hard to limit movement (and tensing up in the process), or trying to "voice" (affect the sound with your oral shape) differently when you articulate. Or something else. But it involves some change that is not intrinsic to the kind of articulation you're trying to use, or even, for that matter, to anchor tonguing, which some clarinetists and sax players do successfully. My approach with a student would be to have them model what they do in speech. After all, you've been talking from a very young age without a problem.

Tony Pay (who has already posted in this thread) has posted about articulation a number of times and included links to an article he wrote entitled "SOME METAPHORS FOR ARTICULATION" that, as I remember from the last time read it, suggests some practical images that can get at solving a lot of tonguing problems that clarinetists can run into. I'm up against the clock and can't look for the link now (though I have the article on my hard drive), but maybe Tony has it handy.

Karl

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 Re: Throat tensing/closing up when tonguing
Author: BethGraham 
Date:   2021-02-28 20:55

Hey, Tony --

The article that Karl referred to down thread, "Some Metaphors for Articulation," sounds like it would be supremely useful to McDonalds Eater (what a great name!) and to other learners like me. If you have the time, would you mind posting a link to it?

I've got some issues probably stemming from an early speech impediment that I'll be attempting to fix via some Zoom lessons starting in a few weeks, and any new ways to visualize what's going on would help me.

Thanks --
Beth

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 Re: Throat tensing/closing up when tonguing
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2021-02-28 21:36

Metaphors for Articulation

Tony



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 Re: Throat tensing/closing up when tonguing
Author: McDonalds Eater 
Date:   2021-02-28 22:51

Thank you everyone for your time and information!

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 Re: Throat tensing/closing up when tonguing
Author: BethGraham 
Date:   2021-02-28 23:03

Thanks, Tony.

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