This page will be updated as more people get in touch. For now there are a few frequently asked questions and answers to common statements below. If you are new to the concepts of TCE then please read with an open mind.
Learning the TCE
- If the tongue is between the teeth, how does the air get through? 1) Spitting! Spit-attacks are the first basic skill to practise when learning the TCE. 2) a very small aperture is formed between the flat top of the tongue and the cutting edge of the top teeth. This aperture (about 1mm in diameter) is big enough to allow the compressed stream of air to reach the lips. This is more than enough air to play anything on any brass instrument. It is the compression of air that makes a big sound, NOT the quantity!
- What should my bottom lip be doing? You can best discover the movement of the bottom lip through practice of the Einsetzen/Ansetzen exercises. When you slide up two octaves from ‘Double Pedal C’ to ‘Bottom C’ the movement of the bottom lip is a massive exaggeration of the same movement you make as you continue upwards. Slurring two octaves up to ‘High C’ is an easier (much smaller) movement to make than this.
- I just don’t think you need this much compression for playing in the stave. In order to have consistency of sound across the whole range of the instrument you should use the same technique across the whole range of the instrument. Changing your tongue position or basic note-production method according to which notes you are playing will only create breaks and inconsistencies as you move between registers.
- Does mouthpiece buzzing help? Buzzing the mouthpiece may be a useful for developing aural skills, but it does not relate to the way that we play the whole instrument. More often than not mouthpiece buzzing causes people to over-blow and spread their sound in an attempt to force intonation on something that is not designed to play in tune by itself. As the mouthpiece does not have a harmonic series there is no such thing as pitch centre, so it will not help you centre your pitches on the your instrument.
- Does note bending help? Bending the pitches of notes off-centre is practising playing the instrument out of tune and fighting the instrument’s natural resonance. Working with the instrument, not against it, to create a clear, vibrant sound is the key to easy and efficient brass playing. Any method that encourages playing off-centre is detrimental to playing with a correct tone and must be avoided.
- Many people believe that note bending helps to strengthen the lips and develop fine muscle control. The lip tissue itself is not something that can be strengthened. Fine control of the tongue and obicularis oris muscle can be developed by practising playing with finesse. Why would you want to be better at playing notes out of tune? It does not make sense. This is the sort of nonsense distraction technique lauded by teachers who cannot explain to you how to develop a strong embouchure.
- How does TCE compare to ‘anchor tonguing’? Anchor tonguing (or dorsal tonguing) is different from TCE in three big ways. First of all it still requires some kind of striking action – in this case the middle of the tongue against the roof of the mouth. Compared to TCE the tongue is moving too much and this form of articulation does not address the unfavourable ‘Du-Wah’ sound. Secondly the use of tongue level in relation to pitch. With the TCE the tongue does not move like this. The control of air compression comes from controlling the release of air through a small aperture with the tongue – this is completely different from the effect of tongue level, which also affects movement of the jaw and lips. The third difference is that the basic mechanics of anchor tonguing and tongue level require a much larger volume of air in order to be effective. The simple answer is that these two techniques are not related at all because holding the tongue through the teeth changes everything so much.
- How does TCE compare to The Balanced Embouchure? Jeff Smiley, author of The Balanced Embouchure, was taught by Jerome Callet at one point. He quotes much of Callet’s earlier teaching in his book including the use of Einsetzen/Ansetzen exercises (under a different name) and tonguing on the lips. The idea of the lips generally moving inwards as you play higher is also similar, but that’s where the similarities end. The way that BE players think about use of air is different as much of this comes from Claude Gordon.
- Can you use The Balanced Embouchure to move towards a more TCE-like approach? One of the merits of BE is that it quickly teaches people that experimentation is not a bad thing, and that you won’t ruin your embouchure by trying new things. It also helps to increase awareness of what you are doing when you play. It is not, however, a stepping stone to TCE. If you wish to try TCE then you should just do it. You can learn TCE alongside your usual way of playing, but you will soon realise that there is no need. This is exactly the experience that the author of this website had.
- How does TCE compare to Jerome Callet’s Superchops? As far as this website is concerned, TCE is a derivative of Jerome Callet’s work. The primary teacher of TCE in the world is Bahb Civiletti, who was a pupil of Callet for over a decade. However, Bahb has added to Callet’s teaching things such as the five articulations and there is much less confusion and flip-flopping when following his teaching. TCE uses ideas from Trumpet Yoga (1971) and Trumpet Secrets (2001) and develops these ideas into a method that can be practised with outstanding results.
- I’ve never heard any good players who use TCE. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, re-discovery of this technique is relatively recent and it takes time for knowledge to disseminate. Also, it’s not like there is a directory of TCE-players available… The best suggestion for now is to find recordings of Bahb Civiletti, Peter Masseurs, Sylas Xavier, Csaba Kelmen, Herb Smith or Rich Colquhoun.
- I heard <insert name here> on a popular video website and s/he was awful. You’re probably right! It is the responsibility of the player to use their instrument for good. Strong chops do not a good musician make. TCE just enables people with the stamina to practise more! Criticise the person before the technique – there are thousands of people who play equally badly by following traditional teachings.