Clarke vs Gordon vs Superchops, an interesting conversation.

The following is part of a conversation that originally occurred on the Trumpet Herald Forum in 2002. I feel that the information shared by Jeff Lambardino here is quite significant in reference to comparative approaches to use of the tongue in trumpet playing. At first the post seems to be a bit of a ramble, but once he gets into it then it’s well worth a read. I do have my own opinions on the subject but will reserve those for the curious. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you find this interesting.
Common abreviations used: SC = Superchops, CG = Claude Gordon.

John Mohan : Herbert L. Clarke did not tongue “between the teeth”. He rested the tip of his tongue lightly behind the top of his bottom teeth and tongued by releasing the air with the middle portion of his tongue against the roof of his mouth.

Jeff Lambardino: OK then, if Mr Clarke has his tongue tip behind or even near the top of his bottom teeth and he makes the retrograde movement of raising the middle portion of the tongue up to the roof of the mouth which also requires pushing it forward as well because the tongue would be coming from the bottom of the mouth. If the teeth were open to any degree at all then the tip or the very front of the tongue would be going through the teeth in some form or another even if only just slightly. In fact the tongue most likely even touches the lips a little through the open teeth. That’s what happens when I try it and pay attention to whats really going on. It can be felt. No need for a fluoroscope.
If the other conceivable model where the tip would have to move from behind the top of the lower teeth to way up and behind the upper teeth. Now try doing that with each articulation and maybe and I say a very doubtful maybe you might not be tonguing through the teeth to some degree in the process even in this extreme circumstance. Not to mention that it’s an incredible inefficient way of articulating to draw the tip of the tongue from behind the top of the lower teeth to up and behind the upper teeth with every articulation.
It gets even more interesting if I intentionally anchor my tongue tip behind my lower teeth with the tip even touching the gum line. Even from this anchored position if the middle of the tongue rises up to the roof of the mouth and if the teeth are the least bit open then the front part of the tongue tends to push through the teeth just a tad (not the tip) but a tad even if just the amount equivalent to the thickness of the teeth.
If the tip rests behind and near the top of the lower teeth or on the top sharp edge of the lower teeth or even the tip farther down in the mouth behind the lower teeth. If the middle of the tongue is pushed up to the roof of the mouth in that retrograde motion the tongue has to be pushed up and forward.
If the teeth are open at all I mean any amount then the tongue is definitely going through the teeth to some degree. Just try it and see if you don’t feel the tongue ever so lightly touching the lips (similar to SC) through the teeth. Likewise it’s not unreasonable that many who tongue this way also have the front part of the tongue touching the sharp edge of the upper teeth (similar to SC) to some degree during this retrograde motion that’s if they have their teeth open during the articulation.
Try the experiment and see if I’m not right about this. Of course if you can play with your teeth closed without letting the air between them could be an exception but I might add that would likely prove as a very inefficient way to get the air to the chops with the teeth closed.

The above are some things discussed in part from a clinic at Lee Adams’s office last year. The CG students asked how Clarke’s tonguing was similar to SC so Lee in his always kind and professional manner invited feed back from everyone while guiding them in making their own observations and giving feedback to Lee about what all the participants were feeling inside their mouths. No fluoroscope is needed if we pay attention and feel whats going on in our mouths while while playing. Of the 11 people who did the experiment, 5 participants were CG system students, 2 of which traveled with me from Augusta. All agreed that for the Clarke description to make much sense then the tip of the tongue needs to remain behind the lower teeth during articulations otherwise an incredibly awkward movement of drawing the tongue tip from behind the lower teeth to up and behind the upper teeth must be initiated with every attack. Needless to say this would be very difficult.
Lee continued on to help the students in taking them from the forward tongue setting similar to Clarke and the CG variants of KTM and simply adding one of the SC ingredients of letting the tongue tip go from behind the lower teeth to more through the teeth with the tip lightly resting on the inside of the bottom lip right over the top of the sharp edge of the lower teeth. Lee suggested for the participants to articulate as if spitting a thread from the tip of their tongues. No emphasis on embouchure change was made at this point.
Within 30 minutes of experimentation all of the students were articulating with less pitch drop off when sounding their articulations.
Fortunately all of the participants including those who were struggling with the CG K tonguing found that they could get cleaner articulations with noticeably less tongue movement by tonguing as Lee prescribed with their tongue tips through the teeth, gently touching behind the lower lip, then the tongue top rising up slightly to touch the sharp edge of the upper teeth. They even kept using the same syllables that they were comfortable with for tonguing and multiple tonguing. I observed that 2 of the K tongue students benefited with a better embouchure control because their chins were not diving downwards articulating this new way like they were previously doing when they were doing the K tonguing and every single participant had a freer more open sound by the end of the clinic due to the more forward tongue position that they had just learned.
On the way back home I heard plenty of spit buzzing and delightful chatter from the guys commenting on how much less tongue motion was needed to tongue this new way and they are right! I continue giving lessons to them and they never went back to the K tonguing ever again. One of my students who attended the clinic sometimes says “OK I’m going o do my Lee Adams imitation now” then he commences with some intricate warp speed tonguing exercise with single and double octave jumps.

The scenario is similar to my own. I’m a former Claude Gordon student and he was so dogmatic about K tonguing (Gordon’s own theory not Clarke’s) that I gave up on it when I realized that my chin dropped down and my embouchure flexed downward away from the center while trying to do it. Gordon was not able to observe my embouchure and help me. I was stuck in the numbers game that if I did his exercises for over three years and kept paying him for lessons then maybe a BIG MAYBE I might improve my range and endurance.
After which I gave up on his system I told him in my last lesson that my embouchure was not building and I was already a professional player who didn’t need three more years of playing materials that I had no problem with technically speaking. I NEEDED MORE CHOPS! In order to make it in the increasing demands of the pro world. Claude’s famous “Don’t mess with the lips” was screamed at me for the last time in that lesson. CG certainly would not and could not address helping me with my embouchure problems. That’s why so many Gordon students have so little knowledge about basic embouchure functions and if it can’t be fixed by playing exercises then forget it!

Later I took lessons from another H.L. Clarke student named Lyle Babcock when he was the director of bands at Ol’ Miss. Babcock, a former professional cornetist and trumpeter, had a very different take on what H.L. Clarke “really taught” and it was not the CG K tonguing. Babcock called CG’s K tonguing and tongue raising for supposed faster air to be a “bastardization” of what Clarke actually taught.
He vividly gave accounts of Clarke NEVER using a K syllable to kick off an articulation or a Sie as in Sea in reference to tongue position. Because using K, Sie or Sea causes a rigid tongue so that it doesn’t easily “rest at the bottom of the mouth” which is pointed out in the H.L Clarke quote. Might I add that Clarke says the tongue rests at the bottom of the mouth and not just the tip. The whole Claude Gordon concoction (that Babcock called it) he proclaimed that it clearly goes against what Clarke actually taught in the tongue resting at the bottom of the mouth. I have to say that I agree.
Interestingly Page 8 of Jerome Callet’s SC book states “After using the tongue to make an articulation it must lie flat in your mouth to allow your full air to reach your lips.”
Babcock gave me a mimeograph copy of two of his lessons with Clarke that he typed out where Clarke vividly pointed out for Babcock how to use his facial muscles. It included “press your lips together as if you are pressing the first finger (commonly known today as index finger) and the thumb together. For the higher notes keep pressing the lips together as to mimic a frown in the upper facial muscles”.
Babcock immediately saw that my embouchure was stretching or smiling to the corners. I started following Babcock’s instructions based on the instruction that was passed down to him from Clarke. By mimicking a frown or a smear while ascending my endurance improved more in a month than from 3 years of lessons from Claude Gordon. I mentioned this to Lyle and his conclusion was that Gordon was not confident enough in embouchure analyzation other than his theories on mouthpiece placement to even be considered an embouchure specialist.
Babcock told me about being on gigs with Claude Gordon and observed that Gordon basically had a stretch and tight flex to the corners embouchure and a weak sounding upper register even though Gordon advocated the Maggio system in his books and had studied some with Maggio.
I progressed much better with Lyle Babcock and after three months of lessons Lyle was convinced that he had done as much as he could for my range and endurance from his chop advice. I reached another plateau in about a year and remained there for years until Buddy Childers suggested that I get with Jerome Callet if I wanted chop help.
I took his advice and started some lessons with Callet while on tour break. Callet helped put the rest of the pieces of the puzzle together for me in learning good chop compression. Lucky for me the chop help allowed for me to not only to get through another tour playing lead with Buddy Rich but I even took on side gigs doing weddings etc in the day and still played the lead book at night.

Jeff Lambardino

Lead Tpt Buddy Rich Orchestra
Lead Tpt Max Gregor Orchestra
Lead Tpt Slide Hampton (Germany)
Lead Tpt Jiggs Whigam (Germany)
Bert Kaemphert Orchestra
Lead tpt Daly Wilson Big Band (Australia)
Nelson Riddle, Don Costa Orchestras
La Vegas show bands,
2 more pages of performance credentials but I will spare everyone

If you’ve read this far you may be interested in this recording of Jerome Callet confirming the same story from a different source:
Callet talks about Gordon