I've been playing the horn some seven years, having just graduated high school, and I will begin attending the Eastman School of Music this fall for a degree in Horn Performance. However, before I get up there and start school, I really thought I should ask the members of this board for some advice on an issue (I think it's an issue...) I've been noticing lately in my playing.
Back in February I had a lesson with Rick Solis out in Cleveland, and he pointed out that often times, when I articulate, it sounds almost as though the tongue is rebounding, or something is happening to make the tonguing not quite so clear and more blatty sounding. I've especially noticed this when I play loud or technically difficult passages.
He and Rich King both pointed out to me in my audition for the Cleveland Institute of Music that it was something I really have to work on and fix over the next few years; otherwise it could spell big problems for my playing. They said it will "hopefully go away" over time, but this still really worries me.
In addition, I can't help but notice an extra sort of buzz to my sound, when I play. At times, it is even very airy sounding. I can't figure out yet if this is my horn that is vibrating ever so slightly along with the pitches I'm playing, or if this is an internal sound that I'm hearing as the note vibrates through my mouth and possibly through my teeth, or what the heck this is.
Obviously, when I take the horn away and buzz on the mouthpiece, it's not just the sound of the note I hear, as I can also hear the air flow moving through the mouthpiece. Is tongue placement or something else possibly amplifying the airflow or sound of my buzz, so that it becomes noticeable IN ADDITION to the sound of the horn, itself?
Does anyone have any suggestions or advice regarding this? Or, furthermore, is this truly an issue, or is it actually somewhat normal? This is really puzzling to me and I really hope to get it figured out before it's too late! Thanks so much.
Is quite difficult to say, just from your words, without seeing and listening, what you say might be or not an issues.
About the buzz on the sound and the "tongue rebounding", could be because of the tongue placement. Try to play a note and push the tongue back after the attack. Sometimes, if the tongue is to close to the lips might cause a strange sound. To help on this and to check if this is an issue or not, try to do the opposite and slightly push your tongue against your lips when playing to check if is this kind of sound you are trying to avoid.
About the airy sound, generally this is caused by the lips being to further apart. Try to slightly close the mouth and close your lips until the airy sound goes away. The aim of this if to focus your vibration. If you close your mouth too much the sound will become to sharp and dirty.
Ricardo is right about the distance of your lips causing all sorts of strange buzz sounds. It may take some tedious work for you to figure this one out if that's the issue. You'll have to just make the sound you dislike and methodically change aperture size and shape until you get a sound that you like. I always try to keep my aperture as round as possible.
A couple of other ideas:
Too much mouthpiece pressure. If you ever get rings on your lips, consider this exercise: Play a single note and simply pull the horn away from your face and keep buzzing. When you're not touching the mouthpiece anymore, return the horn to your face as slowly as possible. There will be a moment that the buzz sound can be heard through the instrument and straight from your lips at the same time. At that moment stop moving the horn and (for most people) the sound will magically start to come only from the bell of your horn. That's the amount of pressure needed to play that note at that volume.
If you suspect that your horn may be buzzing, often that's a leak where something has become unsoldered or a loose screw or spit valve. You'll need somebody else to put their ear right up to different parts of the horn to see if they can pinpoint the sound as you play.
For the articulation:
Of course articulations sound best if your air is doing most of the work. As an exercise, practice repeated notes without tonguing at all. If you can get those to sound good, then when you add your tongue back in that may fix it.
If your tongue is really doing something weird, try practicing with earplugs in your ears. You'll be able to hear your tongue straight through your skull. Then you can clean up those articulations.
Hope this helps! For some reason not a lot of people post on the IHS forum, but you might also try https://pegasus.memphis.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/horn
Thanks a ton for both of your comments. I'll definitely try out your suggestions! Earplugs are a great idea; never thought of that before. I actually do suspect that my horn could be partly at fault for this, in addition to other playing problems I've been having. I'm gonna go have it looked at. Thanks again!