Did you know that the James Earl Jones (the voice of Darth Vader) stuttered as a child? It became so bad that he eventually chose not to speak. Apparently, he became a mute for part of his childhood. And now, he’s considered one of the premiere American actors of our time. Have you listened to his voice? It’s clear and easy to understand. Part of that clarity comes from proper articulation.
Articulation is key for clarity in solo work, small groups, and large ensembles. If a group’s articulation is exactly the same, the more united they’ll be. Have you ever wondered how a large jazz band can sound so unified? Here’s an effective example (just the first 41 seconds):
Yes, they articulate together, at the same time, and with the same style characteristics. Let’s provide a foundation for you, so you can improve your articulation. That way, when you go to play with a group, you’ll be on the same page.
The Correct Approach
The free lessons go over in greater detail the process of articulation. You can sign up for the free lessons by clicking here, in order to access that information. Here are two important things to remember:
- Use the syllable “tah” or “dah” as you articulate
- The tip of the tongue should make contact with the tip of the reed
The “dah” and “tah” articulations produce a softer (dah), and a firmer (tah), characteristic to the beginning of the note. Saying these words will change the firmness of the tip of the tongue, producing the desired result.
Articulation & Dynamics
When choosing between a “dah” articulation and a “tah” articulation, the choice is made in regards to style and energy. Does the music call for exact, energetic precision at the beginning of a note, or something more smooth and melodic?
The choice of articulation does not relate directly to the dynamic level either. If you’re playing forte, that dynamic level does not require the “tah” articulation exclusively. If you’re playing a forte, melodic line, the articulation could easily require a “dah” articulation. The reverse is true too. If the music is quiet and intense, a “tah” articulation may be required.
A Common Issue
Sometimes there’s a popping sound in our articulation. This is usually caused by not following the approach of “tip to tip”. Applying articulation that is half correct could produce this undesirable sound. For example, if you’re articulating the tip of the reed, but not the tip of the tongue, or the tip of the tongue but not the tip of the reed, then this popping sound could be the result. You’ll not only solve many issues with the “tip to tip” approach, but it will lay a foundation for fast articulation.
The Tongue is a Muscle
How do you make your muscles stronger and faster? You work them out with consistent and specific exercises. Since the tongue is a muscle, it works the same way. If you want to become better and faster at articulating, you need to apply exercises to strengthen your tongue. Next week we’ll talk about specific exercises you can do to speed up your tongue.
What would you like to know/learn about articulation? Please share in the comment section and we may even write a post on your question!
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