The HEAD; The THROAT; The NOSE; The LIPS and the TEETH

The title of this essay is deliberately cast in a form similar to that of a well known mantra of vocal tuition, but with no mention of the tongue. The following arguments wil place the tongue at centre-stage as the essential link binding these five sections of the vocal instrument together.

In the course of my own training I was often told and often read that the tongue was the most important organ in singing, but I was never given a reason, apart from the obvious role in pronunciation and articulation as the vibrating airstream from the vocal cords or folds was given a shape for the listener's understanding. Similarly in trumpet playing the tongue is trained as the articulator and the pitch is, apparently, defined by the player's lip tension as they impart a vibration pattern on the airstream, hence the early emphasis on 'lip-buzzing' on the mouthpiece.

My first step on the path to the vocal teaching system presentd here actually came from the trumpet, with a serendipitous discovery of a reference to a tongueing technique in which the tip of the tongue is held fixed behind the lower front teeth and the middle of the tongue arches upwards to give the 'tee' or 'ta'' articulation against the hard palate. This immediately focuses attention on the tongue's role as that of a valve. As was common for brass training in NZ I was initially taught to move the tongue tip forward and up to strike the hard palate above the top teeth and in this configuration the tongue was being used as a hammer to get the note underway, but this is where a mistake was made. Revisiting the 'gospel according to Arban' I discovered that while he also placed the tongue-tip above the top teeth he was using the tongue as a valve with a subtle difference in the timing of the tip placement and the release of the air-stream from that which I was taught. Subsequent reading of tutors from the American tradition reinforced the 'tongue-tip behind the lower teeth' dictum and my switch to this technique resulted in a profound improvement in my trumpet playing especially in the baroque repertoire.