The Secret is in the Tongue

Thomas Palmatier • Playing TipsSeptember 2023 • September 10, 2023

For performers of voice or wind instruments, so much of good sound production relies on proper placement, shape, and use of the tongue. In this and the last few issues, we have featured articles about producing a great sound on various woodwind instruments and each of them described a very different technique for using the tongue. As for brass instruments, I remember an “aha!” moment in college where I was practicing in the high register (badly) and accidentally changed the shape of my tongue and was instantly playing nearly an octave higher with no effort! That subtle shape change channeled the air into a tighter stream with more speed.

Singers would do well to watch some YouTube videos of the wonderful group “Voctave” and pay special attention to Kate, the high soprano. When you hear her sing so high and effortlessly and look at her tongue, you can see why. The tongue is relaxed, laying on the bottom of the oral cavity, and barely touching the bottom teeth. Try emulating this and you’ll usually see an instant improvement in projection, range, and comfort.

Tom Palmatier
I’m not one of Robert’s composers, but I am a great friend!

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