Chromey articulation

TO: internet:harp-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

First off, the definition I used for articulation is standard for
all music, not just harmonica, and follows the general sense of
separating things into distinct and separate entities (articles).
The definition you were using is really just a description of
tone in general.

For a useful diagnosis, the problems you describe would be better
heard than verbalized. But let me attempt some suggestions.

Notes choking in the low range can be the result of blowing too
hard (with a stronger force than when you're inhaling), or playing
with tension inside the mouth - certain tense tongue and soft
palate positions can change the resonant frequency so radically
that the note refuses to speak. Curling your tongue up could have
the effect of relieving this tension and allowing the note to sound.

Reading your post, I suspect that much your problem may simply be
in the way you're shaping your mouth cavity, as this is paramount
in shaping the tone, and can affect the attack - the willingness
of the reed to speak. Try relaxing your entire mouth, tongue,
throat, soft palate and jaw. Concentrate on each one in turn.
Then try playing some long blow and draw notes, softly,
concentrating on your tone.

The problem of getting more than one note is a matter of
embouchure. Could it be that you're unconsciously moving your
lips when you start to blow, in such a way as to disturb your
embouchure and widen the pucker, thereby admitting additional
holes? Check yourself and see what you discover.

The observation about whistling the note pitches when you're
"shadow playing" is interesting. Are you just forming the notes
with your mouth because you know they're the right ones, or does
this mirror your mouth adjusting to the resonant frequencies of
the notes on the harmonica by way of getting a good tone?

This is hard to verify by self-observation, because of the
difficulty of preventing subconscious adjustment as one moves
from one medium to the other. This would be a case for ultrasound
A/B comparison - making an ultrasound movie of a player as he first
played, then whistled a tune, and comparing mouth cavity shaping
for each.

When I tried it myself, I would find a note on the harmonica
(let's say C in Hole 4), whistle it, then play the note. The tone
was good. Then I would whistle a lower note, like G, hold that
position, and go back to playing C on the chromatic. Then note
would be bent down slightly, and the tone weaker. If I then
whistled G, held that position and played G, it would sound good.
(By the way, I got the same result on the diatonic, although the
pitch didn't go down as much).

I did notice that when I played the C in Hole 4 with the whistle
C position, it was less bright, but much rounder than when using
a relaxed tongue position.

When I tried playing C in hole 4 with the whistle position for E
above it, it didn't damage the pitch or tone. However, it brought
out some of the high harmonics more strongly. Interesting.

One more thing. You remarked

   >I mentioned using the tongue, but not so much for blocking as
   >for finding the right hole faster than my lips normally can.

Your lips shouldn't be doing this kind of work. The notes should
come to them, by way of your hands sliding the instrument from
side to side, like an express train gliding into the station. The
best your lips can do is scrunch themselves up and inch along
like worms, breaking wind as they go. Your embouchure should be a
floating point, a passive cushioned seal, with everything moving
past it. (Unless you're doing multiple embouchures, but that's
another story.)

There are players - notably Norton Buffalo - who use the
tunnel-tongue embouchure to move rapidly from note to note
wothout moving the lips or the harp.

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