Helping students gain an understanding of what is necessary to physically create and maintain an open, resonant tone can be one of the most challenging concepts to teach young musicians. It’s important that students realize we are combining two actions into one concept. The first action is to keep our teeth apart by opening our jaws to create separation between our top and bottom molars. This creates the sense of a tall space within our oral cavity. Emphasizing that we relax the jaws to create space is important to preventing jaw tension. Secondly, students need to understand how to use their facial muscles to form the aperture for their instrument. The aperture is the focusing point as the air enters the instrument. For some instruments, it is also the point of contact with the instrument. The oral cavity acts as a funnel for the air stream as it proceeds from lungs to tone. The facial structures maintain the contact point, establish a point of resonance either by reed, lip buzz, or splitting the air column and final air focus. All these combine to bring about tone production for wind instruments.
Refocusing the air stream as it moves from a vertical chamber to a more horizontal aperture is the task of our oral cavity with the assistant of the tongue. In an effort to create a narrower aperture, some students get into the habit of letting their oral cavity collapse by bringing their teeth close together. This prohibits the oral cavity and tongue from contributing to good tone production. With young players, it is necessary to always keep exercises in your warmup routine that reinforce a proper relationship.
Be upfront during your warmup about maintaining correct performance practice. Incorporate warmups that use singing of open vowels so students focus on developing a feel for a vertical oral cavity. Combine this with humming the open vowel to create the ability to keep the tall oral cavity as the facial muscles stretch together to create the closed aperture of a hum. Transfer this to long tones and other stationary chords to build the proper habit for transitioning from a vertical chamber to a horizontal aperture.
Brass, Flutes, and Double Reeds
Saxophones and Clarinets
The preceding diagrams are a visual representation of the relationship of our oral cavity and aperture. The teeth create a tall, vertical chamber while the facial structures create the horizontal aperture that meets our instrument.
Steve Giovanoni is in his 23rd year of teaching. He is currently in his 12th year at Randolph Field ISD in Universal City, TX. While at RFISD he has taught Band, Dual Credit Music Appreciation and Music Theory courses.
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