I recently discovered that an important element of accuracy is tongue placement.
A few years ago I changed the way that I practice. I ran across a copy of the Claude Gordon trumpet method in Bass Clef. It really changed the way I look at practicing. I recommend the purchase of this method. As I did, open it and as if you are learning to play for the first time, read and follow the instructions verbatim.
Now getting to how it helps with tongue placement: There are two main parts to the way I practice the Claude Gordon method. However, they together should be thought of as one practice session. The first has the student slurring arpeggios down slowly, Bb, F, D, and Bb. Repeat going down by half steps, going down as far as possible to the pedal range Bb at least. This is part one. Take your time and do not rush through this part of the exercise. Play slowly and smoothly. Tongue the first note only and hold the last note until you are out of air and then a little longer. When slurring down, the notes should be blown through.
Now for part two: This is the part that in my opinion really benefits accurate tongue placement. I recommend only practicing this part after having practiced the first. From pedal Bb, play an arpeggio up tonguing each note but connecting the notes with the airstream. Pedal Bb, false note D, F, and Bb. On the last Bb (second line in the Bass clef staff) do a slight crescendo. Continue up by half steps as far as comfortable. After a rest, try again adding a partial. e.g. Bb pedal, false note D, F Bb, D (in the middle of the bass clef staff) go as high as possible this time. Some players will notice also that they pivot the instrument down as they go up. It might be helpful to acknowledge this but I think that one should not exaggerate the movement. Some players may pivot the opposite direction or have no discernable pivot. After ascending one octave or so, experiment with applying a slight crescendo to each ascending note in the arpeggio while still connecting each note with the airstream.
Practicing these two exercises as one will improve one's accuracy. Why? In tonguing these arpeggios, you will teach yourself where the tongue should be placed on each given note. For example, one must tongue lower for low notes and higher for a high note. Having said that, as you practice part two, memorize (subconsciously perhaps) where you had to place the tongue for each given note. It is a type of muscle memory exercise. In 1994, I had a conversation with Bass trombonist David Taylor about my chops. He asked me where my tongue was when I played a middle D. I replied, "In my mouth"? He said that he knows where his tongue is for every note on the horn. At the time, I thought that this was crazy. But when I started practicing the Claude Gordon method I realized that this was what I was actually learning by practicing the second part. In the second part, one teaches oneself proper tongue placement.
I encourage those of you who have had questions about tongue placement to try this. I am sure it will help with ones accuracy. You may email me with any more questions that you might have.
Best of luck,
The Spiderweb Exercise:
About the Spiderweb Exercise:
In the mid 1990's I got back into practicing fundamentals in order to make
my embouchure more solid. This "Spider web" came from New York
trombonist Jack Gale who was my teacher at the Manhattan School of Music.
Practice notes: Tongue the first note only continuing to use natural slurs
or smears only. Yes, smears are ok in this case. This exercise was
difficult for me at first but after a few months of practice, it really gave me
a smoother connection between slurred notes as well as more confidence in the
After mastered to some degree, try the exercise up
Transposed for trumpet- New York trumpet players normally practice this
exercise beginning on their middle G (concert F)