Saturday, July 14, 2007

When I play all-tongued, I thpit too much

Dear Jen, I am seriously practicing the Taffanel now and my concern is that I salivate too much when I do a lot of tonguing. I constantly have to stop and clear my mouth and therefore can't play continuously for an entire exercise. Any past experience or knowledge about this? R.


Dear R. this is common. I think if you ignore it, break your tonguing practice into smaller sections, and take plenty of pauses, your body will gradually adjust to the new sensations, and stop misinterpretting them as "eating opportunities". From what I've read about on the various flute groups over the years, usually the problem goes away by itself for most people.

I wouldn't worry too much about it. But from my extensive reading about flute students who've had problems with saliva-buildup, here are some of the known causes and some solutions that are common to suggest;

Causes of over-salivation during flute tonguing exercises:

a) you are hungry and need to eat (hahahaha!) :>)
b) you just brushed your teeth with a sweet/sugar-flavoured toothpaste (or you just ate food without brushing your teeth, which is bad for pads, of course.) Therefore to get rid of the sugar rinse out the mouth with plain water before practicing.
c) you are salivating because you haven't practiced tonguing in a long, long time and your mouth thinks you're eating(!), not tonguing. :>) Practice in smaller sections, and alternate between all-tongued and all-slurred.
d) you are irritated by the saliva buildup because having just noticed it, you are over-sensitive to it because your brain is focussing on the mouth. Try to think of other things, and take more pauses in your work to swallow naturally.
e) you are irritated by the saliva buildup because you are not taking enough rests, but are attempting to play four-to-six pages of continuous sixteenth notes without stopping.......
Now...
This e) item is one I wish to address:
Taffanel and Gaubert Exercises are almost impossible to play in their entirety without adding rests or pauses. They cause hyperventilation unless you drop notes to breathe etc., and they are not meant to be played from beginning to end without pause, in my opinion.
I think it's a bit brutal to expect a student flutist to play non-stop until they've been practicing these exercises for a few years on a daily basis. Even then, I think it is still brutal.
I personally believe that you must realistically pause and breathe normally every few bars and then re-start the phrase again from the notes preceding the paused note.

That's how I teach Taff-Gaubert, and how I practice them myself.

Some additional factors to do with spit-buildup may have to do with tonguing too high/low in the mouth, or perhaps too far forward or back in the mouth.. So I always experiment with various syllables from "du, dooo, too, tuu". By constantly seeking the simplest, most useful tongue positions, I find that there are various positions for the tongue that can produce a better sound as well as an easier, simpler tongue motion in the mouth.

So be sure to check with your private teacher so they can help you check for:

f) creating too large a motion or too active a motion with the tongue. Simplify tongue motions.

Finally, I've I've heard other flute teachers attribute over-salivation problems to:
g) jutting your chin or jaw too far forward
h) tilting the head back which puts strain on the jaw (See Alexander Technique "startle position")
i) leaning too far forward to peer at the music stand, which causes saliva to pool in the front of the mouth.

All of these thrust the chin forward that one extra centimeter that can cause saliva buildup because of the similarity to an eating position of the mouth and chin.

So try:
a) balancing your weight in the middle of your feet (no weight leaning forward onto your toes)
b) bringing the chin "in and down". Tuck it down about 10% more than usual. Experiment with chin positions so that you find the least stressful angle for the jaw.
c) pull your rib-cage up from your hips to create a longer, taller torso. This will help balance the head better, so your jaw line is parallel to the floor, and your head is not thrusting forward.

Let me know if these tricks work for your tonguing-salivation problem. Best, Jen
Comments (15)
Blogger Sheila said...

This is such an awesome in-depth look at this annoying little problem. Thank you! I have had this come up quite a bit, but I suppose my mouth has finally realized over the last few years that I don't usually eat that shiny silver tube. :)

I did, however, take your list of 'things that make you spit' and did them all without particularly trying not to build up saliva, and it was neat to see first-hand how each thing causes it, and then, how reversing each thing undoes the problem.

Quite the fascinating procedure!
Thanks again,
Sheila

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 4:53:00 PM

 
Blogger Jen Cluff said...

Thanks so much for your positive comment Sheila.
Personally, I thought my detailed list of "possible causes" was a bit too long, but you VINDICATE my thoroughness!! :>D
Yay!!
Best, Jen :>)

Thursday, July 19, 2007 4:46:00 PM

 
Blogger Nathaniel Joseph said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Saturday, July 28, 2007 9:17:00 AM

 
Blogger Nathaniel Joseph said...

Dear Jen,
I just found out about this website yesterday and I think you are a wonderful flutist and teacher. I am a beginner student and 31 year old, male. Do you think I can get improve over time? It seems I am not going anywhere with my practice, lots of musicans took their lessons when they were very young. Am I hopeless? Anyway, you are amazing teacher. (You are my new idol now). Thank you very much for what you are doing. God Bless
Nathaniel

Saturday, July 28, 2007 9:21:00 AM

 
Blogger Jen Cluff said...

Dear Nathanial,
Everyone improves over time if they have:
- a good flute teacher
- time to practice each day
- focus, drive and persistance
- a great love of playing

I often find over-30 and over-40 flute players who started late in life and play quite well. It's not unusual for a devoted older beginner to play very well in five years of the above.
Best, Jen

Saturday, July 28, 2007 10:31:00 AM

 
Anonymous Mugger said...

First of all, thank you.
Your tips did help a pro saxplayer :-)
However,for some reason the doo or too or tu (pronounced french tü?) does not really work for me.
What works best for ME is to imagine the very front part of my tongue without any tension created by too or the like.
I have to leave it completely 'flat'.
Maybe it's the sax, maybe my German language :-))
Again, thanks and God bless you

Friday, October 17, 2008 4:36:00 AM

 
Blogger Jen Cluff said...

Dear Mugger,

Thanks for your comment. J.

Friday, October 17, 2008 9:44:00 AM

 
Anonymous Mugger said...

Hi, it's me again :-)
Working hard on this problem I have to add one more comment.
The 'optical middle' of your mouth while playing is not always the right point to play, at least it seems so.
My upper and lower teeth are far from perfect, and so, my problem is almost solved when I move the flute to the right.
That is maybe because I have a slightly protruding tooth on the upper left and uneven lower teeth which seemingly cause an 'uneven' tongue movement. I always had the saliva problem just putting the flute to my mouth, now I understand better...
When I concentrate on tongueing more to the right, tataa, no more saliva....
My tone also improves...
Please excuse my English :-)

Thursday, October 30, 2008 4:02:00 AM

 
Anonymous Rebecca said...

I have this problem if I have just brushed my teeth with a mint toothpaste. The mint will make your mouth tingly. That "Minty Fresh" feeling can leave me with too much saliva in my mouth.

I don't use mint toothpaste anymore, I have switched to 'Silly Strawberry' or grape toothpaste, and don't get thpitty anymore.

Friday, February 27, 2009 3:31:00 PM

 
Blogger Jen Cluff said...

Thanks for the non-minty hint Rebecca. Jen :>P****

Friday, February 27, 2009 4:39:00 PM

 
Blogger briscolo said...

I'm impressed by the depth of the article. Congratulations and thank you.

Saturday, October 24, 2009 5:57:00 PM

 
Blogger Marcie said...

Hi there! I'm a new fan of yours, Jennifer, and I wanted to add my voice to the chorus of comments just in case someone else might find my experience helpful, though it's been years since the article has been published.

I used to have a horrible time with saliva build-up affecting my tone, and the more I worried about it and tried to correct it, the worse it got. I found that by focusing on my right wrist instead my mouth I salivated less and my tone improved 500%. Weird? Yes. My teacher spent months trying to help me correct my tone and that's all it took.

Great blog! Thank you so much for all the time you spend writing and compiling these articles to help others! What a treasure-trove of information!

Marcie

Sunday, November 07, 2010 5:44:00 PM

 
Blogger jen said...

Dear Marcie,

That makes so much good sense.
Thanks so much for sharing that little trick. Makes sense and thanks.
Jen

Sunday, November 07, 2010 7:46:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI ALL , I STARTED TO PLAY THE FLUTE NOT LONG BACK, ABOUT A YEAR AGO. I'M NOT GREAT AT IT BUT I PLAY WITH A GROUP THAT PLAY IN A PUB/ LOUNGE, I LOVE THIS AND HAVE GOT USED TO HAVING PEOPLE WATCH , YES I GET SOME BUM NOTES BUT IT CAN ONLY IMPROVE,THE PEOPLE CHEER AND THIS IF A BOOST TO HELP ME PRACTICE SOME MORE, I'M IN MY FIFTIES, IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW OLD I AM BUT THAT I ENJOY IT AND SOME DAYS I DIDN'T MAKE SO MANY MISTAKES, DO IT CAUSE YOU LIKE IT FIRST AND PRACTICE BECAUSE YOU LIKE IT.

ALL THE BEST
PATRIZIA

Tuesday, September 01, 2015 12:08:00 PM

 
Blogger jen said...

Hi Patrizia,
If you're looking for flute-folk who wish to converse, there are some list-serv email groups that might be a good contact for you.

At YahooGroups online there is a group called "Flutenet Yahoo Group" which is free to join and has over 1000 flute-playing members of all levels. Many pro and amateur players, hobbyists, teachers, performers, students. That might be friendly for you if you want to chat with other flutists.

This blog of mine is really just other blog-readers, and I'm not sure how many people actually use the comments to talk to eachother, since there's no way to contact eachother; it's just me approving the comments; I'm the only one who sees your words, usually.

There's also a strict FLUTElist which is an email group that has guidelines for posting and topics and members that have to meet approval.
That's found by googling "The FLUTElist". I believe.

So hope you find a place to chat and share info.
Best, jen

Tuesday, September 01, 2015 12:25:00 PM

 

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