All existing attempts to examine the inside of player’s mouth (in real-time) while playing to date have left us insufficient knowledge based on objective measurements to accomplish any of the presented research goals to a satisfactory degree. Therefore, further research with the use of more precise measuring instruments and a systematic approach towards analyzing these data need to be conducted. Being able to collect all necessary data, the following outcomes are expected to be achieved:
- To obtain an improved understanding of the relationship among oral articulators (such as tongue, jaw and lips), the contribution of facial muscles, and the changes in air pressure needed to produce the required techniques and sounds. Understanding this fine balance is crucial in obtaining the functional relationship that would define a well performing embouchure. This knowledge thus not only serves a theoretical aim as such knowledge is currently missing, but it will also bring us closer in gaining a better understanding for teaching improved control over the process of tone production on the instrument and finding answers to long-lasting questions on the impact of particular articulators on tone production.
- To create a set of specific musical and physical exercises that are designed to build awareness and strength of separate muscle systems through teaching players pronunciation of a specific syllables and/or letters. Some examples are: rolling tongue on letter “r” (used often in contemporary techniques while playing called frullato), pronouncing letter “ü” (bringing the middle of the tongue into the upper position appropriate for the low register), whistling with a flattened chin (that brings the lower lip in the proper place for the mouthpiece), making the mouth vibrate producing a sound on their own using a high air pressure to create a back pressure equal to the one that the instrument creates and to bring the tip of the tongue as closely forward as possible, teaching independence of both lips from one another (flattening the lower lip while rounding the top one and vice versa). It is also of a great importance to make players more aware of different parts of their tongues by creating a detailed diagram of the tongue and letting them touch with a little spatula various parts of if in little breaks in playing to activate those parts of the tongue responsible for performing actions required by a designed musical exercise. Such exercises are aimed at increasing energy-economical and effectiveness of all articulators constituting a well-balanced embouchure. In order to test the feasibility of the suggested approach, my collaborators and I performed preliminary studies at the Oral Dynamics laboratory (ODL) at the University of Toronto, using the latest generation of the Electro-Magnetic Articulograph (EMA; AG501, Carstens Medizinelektronik BmbH, Germany).
Our results already demonstrate discrepancies between what is commonly believed to occur during clarinet playing and what actually happens as well as some very clear differences between motor control strategies for playing certain techniques on a clarinet and how we use the tongue for speech. In particular, the movement of different parts of the tongue showed a very distinct pattern for particular tonal sequences that contradicts a personal player’s feeling of what happens in his/her mouth and existing notions based on similar subjective observations. To clarify this further, I will use the following examples:
Fig. 7 shows the tongue’s activity for a professional clarinet player with over 20 years of experience while executing a series of detached tones (staccato) in high and low registers alternatively in a standard manner. The green color represents the tip of the tongue (on the right side of the figure), the middle trajectory corresponds to the middle part of the tongue (2 cm behind the tip) and the trajectory on the far left corresponds to tongue dorsum (1.5 cm behind tongue body). We can observe that the tip of the tongue performs the least amount of movement while the middle and back of the tongue are covering quite large distances moving up (for low register) and down (for high). These finding correspond with the one of Wheeler’s, however, EMA allows exact measurement of the positioning and speed of the tongue at every stage crucial to determine the coordination of these motions to assure flawless register change.
Fig. 8 shows the tongue’s motion in one of the most complex clarinet articulation types called double-tonguing performed across the clarinet’s scale. We observed that the tongue performs an action not seen in speech generation. Its middle part is anchored in one position while the dorsum and the tip ‘swing’ in a manner of a pendulum. In mid range (most neutral position) the corresponding syllable to this motion would be “tee-kee”. Tongue’s deflections get wider at the dorsum as progressing up the scale ending with a position corresponding to syllables “tee-gaa”. This finding on its own could greatly contribute to the method of how the double-tonguing articulation is being explained and taught.
This preliminary work not only demonstrates the feasibility and great potential of the selected measurement technique but also the ability to use these data in a systematic way to quantify the movement sequences and their coordination over time for generating specific tonal sequences.
Next Section: 3. Method
Research Sections: 1. Introduction | 2. Research Goals | 3. Method | 4. Research Benefits
- Notes: 4, 5, 6 and 7 (from Introduction)
- By stopping the vibrating reed with the tip of the tongue and with a single tongue stroke.
- Double-articulation allows the tongue to stop the airflow twice as fast as the single (regular) staccato articulation by alternating between stopping the reed vibrations with its tip (syllable “tee”) and with touching the upper palate with the middle part also stopping the airflow (“kee”).