Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Playing Softly

With both horn and flute I've lately been working on playing more softly than I ever have before. Very helpfully, James Boldin recently posted on that very subject as regards the horn. 

Something that's impressed me is how playing at the softest level possible requires such a different embouchure on both flute and horn, and how that change has deepened my proprioceptive sense of the embouchure. Somehow the delicacy needed reveals the underlying structure of the embouchure in a different light.


  1. One thing I notice about the quotes in James' article is how different - even contradictory - are the visualisations described as being necessary for achieving soft playing. And yet they all work for the people concerned, since they are professionals who have definitely mastered the art of soft playing.

    This is a real problem with wind teaching. Almost everything about wind playing is either happening internally within the body or in minute and outwardly almost imperceptible changes in the embouchure. Everyone has their own visualisation as to how it is all working, and some of these (possibly most of them) are physiologically wrong.

    It sometimes makes me wonder how anybody manages to learn a wind instrument at all!

  2. Yes!!!!!! That's one reason for the proprioception post. With piano and guitar you can see the fingers at work, but with brass it's all internal. Your point about that being the cause of all those different visualizations is very helpful - hadn't made that connection, but I think you're "spot on" with that.

    Couldn't agree more with your concluding sentence and want to return to that in a future post that will use the proprioception angle. I'm starting to think the reason I like Jeff Smiley's Balanced Embouchure method is that it works on helping one develop much better proprioception of the embouchure. (And surely that's part of what all those sets of horn etudes educators use are getting at in some way?)