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.......
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.
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