Monday, March 26, 2018

IN THIS ISSUE:
Woodwind Mouthpiece Pitches From the Bandroom Featured Special

Woodwind Mouthpiece Pitches:
by Mike Steffen

FluteJPGIf you teach beginners, I'll bet you have spent considerable time this year teaching your brass students to buzz on the mouthpiece. From making siren sounds and matching single pitches to playing simple melodies, most directors find mouthpiece exercises to be very helpful for the development of their brass players. As I visit schools, I have found it much less common for directors to spend time with their woodwind players doing similar exercises. Speaking as a woodwind player and teacher, I can testify to the good that this will do for your woodwind section. Below I have listed some specific exercises I use when working with beginners (or any student who comes to me with tone or articulation issues). A short time spent on this each day will lead to great results as your players develop. Good luck with it and let me know if you have any questions!

Flute Headjoint

Goal: student will be able to produce long tones and articulate simple rhythms on both low and high headjoint pitches by changing the direction of their air (not increasing/decreasing air speed).
Tips/Reminders:
  • Cover the end of the headjoint with the palm of the hand for a more pleasing tone
  • Don't let the end of the headjoint dip downward; that will lead to an airy tone
  • Keep the headjoint steady; no rolling in or out
  • "Aim the air down at your feet" for the low pitch
  • "Aim the air above your stand" for the high pitch
  • Blowing "faster" air for the high pitch will lead to intonation/tone issues in upper octaves
  • Blowing "slower" air for the low pitch will lead to weak low octave tone quality
  • Once long tones and simple rhythms can be achieved on both low and high tones consistently, have the students practice switching between the two while playing those same simple rhythms

Clarinet Mouthpiece & Barrel

Goal: student will be able to produce long tones and articulate simple rhythms on a concert F# using the mouthpiece and barrel.
Tips/Reminders:
  • Teach them to find the "Sweet Spot": Have them look at the mouthpiece from the side and find where the reed and mouthpiece meet in a V-shape. The teeth should be placed directly above that point on the mouthpiece to get maximum reed response. Most students don't take in enough mouthpiece, so this will likely produce a change for them.
  • Hold the barrel with one hand and sit up straight
  • Mouthpiece should be inserted at approximately a 30 degree angle (with some variance)
  • If pitch is too high and pinched: more mouthpiece, lower jaw, firm corners, lower tongue
  • If pitch is too low and "soggy": firm corners, raise tongue, harder reed (at times)
  • Teach students to bend the pitch - start with sirens and progress to Remington-style exercises (e.g. play F#-F-F# | F#-E-F# | F#-Eb-F# | etc.)
  • Once student is playing a strong F#, it's time to add articulations
  • Keep jaw and embouchure steady while articulating to hold the pitch

Saxophone Mouthpiece & Barrel

Goal: student will be able to produce long tones and articulate simple rhythms on a single pitch using the mouthpiece (alto - A, tenor - G, bari - F)
Tips/Reminders:
  • See "sweet spot" tip under in clarinet section
  • Hold the mouthpiece with thumb and two fingers on the ligature
  • Alto mouthpieces will form a 45 degree angle with the body, with tenor and bari flattening out more
  • If pitch is too high and pinched - more mouthpiece, lower jaw, firm corners, lower tongue
  • If pitch is too low and "soggy" - firm corners, raise tongue, harder reed (at times)
  • Teach students to bend the pitch - start with sirens and progress to Remington-style exercises (e.g. play A-G#-A | A-G-A | A-F#-A | etc.)
  • Once student is playing the correct pitch consistently, it's time to add articulations
  • Keep jaw and embouchure steady while articulating to hold the pitch

Again, just a few minutes each day spent on these exercises will improve your woodwind section's tone quality, their confidence, and their intonation. They will not like the sounds they're making at first, but I promise you it will pay off, so stay the course! Good luck in trying this new venture! Shoot me an email and let me know how it goes for you.

MikePhotoMike joined the PMC team as an Educational Representative in 2011, and has since traveled all over Missouri serving directors and their programs. He is a KC native and a graduate of Grandview High School, and holds Music Education Degrees from University of Missouri - Kansas City and Missouri State. He served as a band director in the Lee's Summit R-7 & Pleasant Hill R-3 School Districts where he taught band in grades 5-12. His main passions are teaching jazz at all levels and working with middle school band programs. Groups under Mike's direction consistently earned top ratings, and his students regularly achieved success in honor bands and at solo/ensemble festivals. Mike is married to his high school sweetheart Miranda, and is the proud papa of three beautiful girls - Melody, McKenna, and Mae!
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