Archive for the ‘Breathing’ Category

Step # 8 Articulation for the English Horn Beginner

The three most challenging aspects of teaching English horn is correct breathing, vibrato, and articulation because you cannot visual see what you are teaching.  Articulation is all about producing different sound colors at the beginning of each note on the English horn by initiating different types of tonguing patterns in all three registers of the instrument (lower, middle, and higher).  One needs to experiment with the syllable that works best for each type of articulation- “Ta,” “Ti,” “To,” or “Da,” “Di,” “Du.”  The start of each note is the most important part of sounding each note; thus, on the English horn the position of the tongue and the preparation of the air combine to achieve the best articulation on each note as indicated by the composer.

# 1

Starting with the “F” major scale tongue up and down the scale with a normal tonguing pattern on quarter notes. Repeat the “F” scale slurred in quarter notes.  The first articulation is with a “Du” tongue so you are tonguing each note but is sounds like a slurred scale being tongued.  There is minimal silence between each note of the “F” major scale.  Try this tonguing style in quarter notes.  When you see a series of notes with a dot above each note and a slur marking above the dots you want to use this tonguing technique-staccato-legato.

# 2

There are many shades of staccato playing on the English horn.  Staccato means detached or silence between each note.  The question is how much silence between the notes is the composer asking the English horn player to perform?  If the staccato note requires a bounce to the sound the player must have a thicker air quality by pushing the syllable “Ha” from the lungs through the English horn.  Some call this hot air, others thick air, and others call it pushing cotton through the reed and English horn from your lungs.  Others use the word, Hallelujah, with an emphasis on the first syllable.

# 3

Try playing your “F” major scale starting each note with the syllable “Ha.”  Do not use your tongue but separate each not as if it were a staccato note.  Play staccato half notes and start each note without touching your reed with your tongue.  You are only starting each half note with your air using the syllable “Ha.”  Repeat this again and add to your  “Ha” sound tonguing using the syllable “Ta.”  Now you have the syllable “tHa” starting each staccato note  with your tongue but your thick air is causing your staccato notes to bounce as you play up the scale in half notes followed by quarter notes.

# 4

Composers will ask the English horn player to play each staccato as short as possible like a piccolo sound or the short sound of a drum stick.  Try using the syllable Ti, Ta or To with your tongue going back on reed at the end of the sound which creates silence between each note.

# 5

It is easier to play staccato in the upper register on the English horn than in the lower register.  Keeping your tongue close to the reed at all times and having your air speed set before you start to play produces the best results.  Some player take a breath, push the air forward against the reed, and pull back their tongue on the conductor’s downbeat.  Everything is set in motion before the down beat-the tongue against the reed, the air speed forward, and the release of the tongue away front the reed on the downbeat.

# 6

When playing accented notes or notes demanding a powerful start to the note, the English horn player must push more explosive air through the reed at the beginning of the sound and at the same time tonguing with a harder sound using a “Du” tongue.  The sound needs to be brass-like or percussive-like to create the effect the composer desires.  Having a picture of the sound you want to produce prior to starting the sound is very helpful to the English horn player. If you say play like a trumpet versus play loud or play like a flute versus playing soft the visual or sound picture helps you immediately produce the desired articulation and sound quality requested by the composer.

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