Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tongue Position

The tongue acts as a rudder to push air this way or that, so, if you put it on the left side the air will be pushed to the right and vice-versa. In this way, it may also aid you in working with a bad habit. If the muscles are stronger on one side than the other, try blowing with the tongue on the strong side to direct the air the opposite way and get help push the muscle out that you're pulling back to strongly with. I won't go into the little variants of tongue position as you should try them yourself. However, I think we can generalize and look at 4 different areas.
  1. Tongue up front: some people put the tongue out over the teeth just a bit as it is very helpful in getting high notes. It restricts the space for the air to go out of the mouth, at the same time causing higher air speed and sharper focus to a smaller "sweet spot". So, the high notes are easier. For the same reasons it's also good for driving the note out the end of the flute.
  2. Tongue in the middle of the mouth, not touching upper or lower but maybe touching the teeth in the back. This is sort of a generic position, not one of specialization and used by most players as a default placement. It allows the air to go around the tongue on all sides, Lt., rt. up & down.
  3. Tongue in the back: the curled back position is for playing a note that you're not driving out the end of the shakuhachi strongly. For ex.: the note ee. (the note played with all the holes open, or some variant with the #1 & # 2 holes). This note exists mostly in the upper 4 inches of the shakuhachi and the mouth & throat. Curling the tongue back makes the throat open more. Used a lot by Yokoyama sensei for this note.
  4. Tongue jammed behind the teeth: forces air to go upwards and makes a broad flow out. Good for very wide ended flutes. Also used a lot by Yokoyama sensei for these type of flutes.
These are 4 general areas. You should experiment and see how the position effects the air flow and sound. You should consider these as suggestions. They should be a useful start for you. Try them and other positions and trust yourself at least as much as what someone says in a book or on the internet! Ha Ha!

P.S. Tongue In Cheek Shakuhachi:

Try this one: while playing a note role your tongue around in your cheek, over the front and to the other cheek pressing outwards so you see the bulge in your cheek. But don't let the sound get cut off.

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