My goal as a teacher and coach is to reduce the process to as few steps as possible. Playing a brass instrument can be daunting, mainly because the process of controlling your air and your tongue is not something that comes naturally to the majority of us. We won’t even talk about the coordination of the valves and rhythm! Let’s just address getting things started.
When we are in total control of our air speed and tongue position there is not much more that we need to do. While this may sound simple, believe me it is not! BUT, the first step is to understand the process, and then work on applying it with absolute consistency.
There are many camps of thought on how to simulate a thought process that will help you achieve the same result. Most of my teachers used some form of “vowel” syllables to aid the tongue in finding its way. Samuel Krauss used a variety of syllables for different sounds and registers. Early on in my training I found his process a bit overwhelming and advanced to put into practice. It was complicated! Over the years I have come to understand his philosophy better. The most important break through, in my own understanding of this air and tongue ratio, was from Charlie Schlueter.
Charlie Schlueter, retired Principal Trumpet of the Boston Symphony, has reduced all of the complicated methodology into a very simple word that sets the tongue and air into perfect harmony, in my opinion.
Just say it! Your tongue is set up to start a note; the word itself sets the air into motion and then delivers it to an END with the tongue. This keeps your tongue forward which will aid in keeping your air flow from slowing down and making notes unstable. Your next note is now set up to begin with no additional movement involved. Now, try this same word without speaking the word, use only air and push the air forward to the end. Another favorite analogy is from the tongue training exercises of Richard Shuebruk. He states that your tongue needs to be trained for strength and speed. "The action is like spitting a seed from the tip of the tongue." Key to beginning the mastery of this is to remember that the jaw stays absolutely in place with NO movement. Practice this by talking without moving your jaw with your lips slightly parted. This will show you how the tongue and air can do it's job without any movement of the jaw.
Mastery of this sent my playing on levels I could not have imagined as well as my teaching skills. Don’t get me wrong, there are many other skills to develop within this method, but this is the fastest way to get things happening correctly, I believe.
If you are interested in trying my method which melds this above concept and applies it to the methods of Adams, Stamp, Cichowicz, and Caruso, Jacobs, etc.. take a lesson or two with me and give it a shot. All of my students show great progress in their playing when they apply these methods AND practice!