Overtone Studies

  • Goal: To increase breath control, develop a better tone quality and lay a strong foundation for beginning altissimo studies.
  • Timeline: Once each day at the beginning of the practice session
  • Options: Use with 5ths, Longtones, Octaves or substitute in place of them as a daily warm up.

IMPORTANT NOTE! It is first necessary that the player has a complete understanding and ability to breathe from the diaphragm. Assuming this, continue with the overtones exercise.

  1. Familiarise yourself with the sound of the overtone series from low Bb to high F
  2. Match the regular side Bb fingering to the overtone fingering (low Bb) then go back to the regular fingering. See “Matching Overtones” below.
  3. Take a full, supported breath from the diaphragm.
  4. Open the throat, as though you were yawning. You can also imagine putting a ping pong ball in your mouth to create the “open” feeling in the throat.
  5.  Keep the throat open throughout the exercise, adjusting your throat cavity to achieve the different overtones. Experiment with the throat position, but DO NOT change the embouchure setting!
  6. The first 2 or 3 overtones should be fairly easy to produce. More control is necessary as you move higher.
  7. Continue on to “Switching Overtones”. All notes are produced using the low Bb fingering.
  8. If at any time you feel you are biting, STOP the exercise. Relax….don’t bite and continue.

It is most important to remember that once the embouchure is set, it should remain stationary. Most of the overtones are achieved by varying the oral cavity. Any changes in embouchure pressure are minimal. Concentrate on the obtaining the correct oral cavity

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See this video of Frank Fontaine – amazing stuff

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