Updated: Jan 28, 2022
Frequently, embouchure strength and breathing is taught as the sole reason for, and source of, tone production, and barely no attention is given to our deeper support muscles in our psoas, pelvic floor, and more broadly, what Tom Myers calls the "Deep Front Line" in his book Anatomy Trains. The DFL starts at the bottom of our feet and spans the muscles and fascia through the middle of our bodies, including our tongues, all the way up to the muscles at the sides of our skull.
If you are someone who struggles with articulation, multiple-tonguing, playing high is difficult and/or exhausting, or you feel like you can't take in enough air for loud passages...you may have extra tension or slackness in your Deep Front Line. The "problem" tends to NOT be where we think it is.
For me, I've always struggled with multiple-tonguing and high note playing for extended periods of time. I now know my extra tension was actually much lower in my body (lumbar spine, lower legs, and feet) and that extra tension was making my tongue unable to move quickly and freely. I incorrectly thought for years that I just couldn't tongue quickly. This tension was also preventing me from taking the deepest breath possible. Misuse of my body, starting in my feet and legs, was preventing me from reaching and displaying the mastery I knew I was capable of.
Are you or someone you know, putting in the time and dedication for musical mastery, but they aren't getting the results they should be? Is there a pattern of interference from extraneous physical tension?
To be clear, I'm not saying there shouldn't be any tension in wind-playing...I'm saying that we frequently use too much muscular tension. So, what's the Goldilocks, not too hot, not too cold......not too tense, not too slack place in wind-playing? Experimentation and suspension of judgment is vital. If you're afraid to sound "bad" or uncharacteristic, you'll never reach your potential.
Suspend judgment and stay curious!!!