Sunday, August 25, 2013

Shofar Sounder's Preparation

Shofar Sounder's Preparation

Arthur L. Finkle
The religious rationale was that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the second tablets, dwelt there for 40 days, and descended on the tenth of Tishre, when the atonement was completed. The musical rationale is that the forty-day period provided the necessary practice to develop the appropriate embouchure.
The Ba'al T'kiyah should get acquainted with the shofar's sounds. He or she (this is not the place to discuss the halakhah of a female's participation in the shofar ritual) should practice the three true notes as long as possible without playing the phrases in order to build the embouchure and to become familiar with the shofar's pitch. This practice should continue for a week to ten days for ten to twenty minutes a day. (There is more practice to do for a first-time Ba'al T'kiyah.) Always play standing up, as if it were an actual playing, because when you sit down, a slight tilt of the mouthpiece occurs and will ruin the optimum embouchure. (Take it from one who knows.)
Anatomy of a brass mouthpiece.


·      Rim  
Wide: Increases endurance.
Narrow: Improves flexibility.
Round: Improves comfort.
Sharp: Increases precision of attack.

·        Cup  
Large: Increases volume, control.
Small: Relieves fatigue, weakness.
Deep: Darkens tone, especially in low register.
Shallow: Brightens tone, improves response, especially in high
·        Throat
Large: Increases blowing freedom, volume, tone; sharpens high
register (largest sizes also sharpen low register).
Small: Increases resistance, endurance, brilliance; flattens high
·        Backbore  
Combinations of size and shape make the tone darker or brighter, raise or lower the pitch in one or more registers, increase or decrease volume. The backbore's effects depends in part also on the throat and cup.

Teaching Brass Instruments
Presenter: David R. Marowitz, Toms River Regional Schools


Wait a second. What’s an embouchure?

The embouchure is the manner in which the lips and tongue are applied to such a mouthpiece. The word derives from the French embouchure (to put into the mouth). You must have the proper embouchure in order to sound the Shofar. Many Shofar sounders are not brass instrumentalists and do not know the techniques developed over the past three hundred years. If Shofar repairing requires the Shofar Sounder to change his embouchure, then we find another factor to consider whether the Shofar changes its tone. If, in fact, the repaired Shofar required a change in embouchure, the likelihood is that the Shofar's sound changes.
To form an embouchure two groups of muscles are at work. The first are those muscles that bring our lips to an extreme pucker, such as would be used to whistle--the muscles around our lips. The second group are those which bring our lips to a smile--the cheek muscles. Either group can form a brass embouchure of sorts.

A shofar mouthpiece is a much smaller and inexact version of a brass mouthpiece. But serves the same function. Thus, the larger the backbore, the deeper the tone. The shallower the cup, the higher the pitch. The larger circumference of the backbore, the better the timbre.
Accordingly, the choice of your shofar mouthpiece is At the time of your choice of shofar, which Already has the mouthpiece built-in. (There were some who placed a trumpet mouthpiece inside the shofar, but this practice is pasul.)
Muscles can only contract or relax. When you pucker your lips, the cheek muscles relax and the lips contract. When you smile, your cheek muscles contract while the lips relax.
1.    Flat chin – point chin to the ground
2.    Place mouthpiece upon the lips that are moist and firmed keeping all of the red of the lips inside the cup of the mouthpiece. (think “mmm”).
3.    Firm mouth corners. Relax your jaw, face and all of the muscles in and around your lip area. When you are relaxed, begin to firm the corners of the mouth
4.    Teeth apart (about the same as the width of a mouthpiece
shank. Inverting the mouthpiece and placing it between the teeth makes for a good way to check the distance.)
5.    The throat is to be open at all times.
6.    Bottom lip slightly curled in lips together as if saying the letter “m”. Do not to tense your lips and chin as you play. This will "pinch" the sound.
7    Don’t puff cheeks
·        Lips are comparable to a double reed. A vibrant buzz will produce a good sound.
·        Buzzing practice is invaluable in the development of embouchure control, flexibility, and a clear and focused sound
·        Make a clear and focused sounds when buzzing.


If the embouchure changes it may affect one or a combination of: 1) the angle of mouthpiece placement; 2) wet (moist) or dry lips; 3) amount of lip opening through which the air passes (the lip aperture); 4) the angle of the chin; and 5) the amount of mouthpiece pressure in playing the high or low notes. (Farkas, Philip, 1962; Arban, 1908; and Whitner, 1997).
Presenting ideas on Shofar playing techniques fill a need in the area about which there is very sparse material in English. This article introduces some brass instrumentalist techniques to fit the aerophone, called a Shofar. Thin of orchestrating these techniques in to your repertoire so that you can give it all you have to fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah (Shulchan Aruch 585:3)
Second Week
During the second week, the Ba'al T'kiyah should practice the three phrases. For the T'kiyah, there is a slurring of three notes. The middle note is the most important to reach, as a miscue will not be noticed if the first and third notes are missed. The Sh'varim is probably the most difficult,
because there is a slurring beginning with the distinct low
note. Make sure that this low note is sufficiently prominent by
extending this note as long as possible. Incidentally, I have
found that this extended low note is the most difficult for me
to perfect. The T'ru'ah is a sound of nine staccato blasts.
The T'kiyah G'dolah is an elongated T'kiyah. Hold it as long as you are able. You should be able to hold it for 30-40 seconds with the proper breathing from the diaphragm and chest cavity as any wind instrumentalist will tell you. When you have developed your embouchure sufficiently well, it is possible to elongate the third note as well as the second. This end flourish is dramatic. Which brings me to an often-asked question: "How long should you hold the last note (T'kiyah G'dolah)?" Many people feel self-conscious about holding the note too long so as to seem to show off. My answer is rooted in the Mishnah, R.H. 3:3, which indicates that the duty of the day (Rosh ha-Shanah) falls on the shofar. Therefore, Rosh ha-Shanah is associated with the shofar. Thus, the more
emphasis on the shofar, the bet-ter. Consequently, the longer the blast, the better. (One of my pupils has achieved 65 seconds!)

Another frequently asked question is how to make the note clear in the beginning. In music, we must "attack" the note to ac-cent the clarity of the note. A good technique is to silently say "tu" when the tongue touches the top of the mouthpiece and the upper lip in order to sound the note.
If your lips get tired, allow your lips to relax, and then vibrate them, which allows blood to circulate to the overextended lip. It also helps to support the bottom lip with your fingers. But the best remedy is to practice sufficiently so that your lips will be able to withstand the muscular effort of vibrating.
If your shofar "gurgles," you have spittle in the horn. The best remedy is to use a coffeepot brush to remove the spittle. In fact, after each section of the service in which the shofar is sounded, you should clean out the shofar to avoid this problem. Before you sound the shofar at all, you should clean the shofar with ethyl alcohol.
You should also keep in mind what to do when your note comes out incorrectly. It is better to know what to do before you err rather than panic when the error occurs (and believe me, everybody has erred on the shofar). If your notes are not exact, ignore the mistake and go on to the next note. If you blow and nothing comes out, stop the attempt, and place the mouthpiece on a different place on the lips. If you still persist, aim for the fundamental note and just sound it with no other notes. When the lips are used to the vibrations, you can sound the other notes.
Only play one shofar, because each shofar requires a different embou­chure. Thus, for the once or twice a year that you play the shofar, it is fool­hardy to change the fixed embouchure that has been formed by sounding your special shofar.
At times, you will find that the keratin will crack, causing the notes to vary. If so, the Mishnah allows you to use the shofar by plugging up the hole. If the hole is horizontal and if there is an unbroken space of two fingers from the beginning of the mouthpiece and the space of two fingers from the break to the end of the shofar, you may re­pair it by putting some tape over it. Once I used a clarinet filler (some kind of resin), but the tone was never the same. And if the sound is not the same, then it is unkosher (R.H. 3:6). If the horn is not kosher, you may feel comfortable with a new shofar whose mouthpiece matches your embouchure.
Put a cushion around it so that if the shofar falls, the mouthpiece will not chip. If it does, the chances are that it will not be repairable.
If it is possible, one-half hour before playing, you should practice for five minutes to warm up.
Playing with the proper tone can mean the difference between a good job and a great job.
To achieve a great tine requires some exercises and techniques taken from the repertoire of brass instrument lists.
1.    VISUALIZE the sound you want to make.
2.    UNERSTAND That your breath comes from the functioning of your DIAPHRAGM, the muscle on the lower end of your lings. To produce longer sounds, use and strengthen your diaphragm.
3.    Proper breathing – the lungs; the back support; and the diaphragm.
4.    Experiment with tongue placement.  Your tongue should lightly press the Shofar mouthpiece to attack the note. If, for some reason, you cannot tongue the note, then use your breath to start; hold your breath to stop.
5.    Fell comfortable with your lip vibration and lip placement. If your lips are too loose or too tight, the tone suffers.
6.    Practice just blowing the dominant note a few minutes each day.

The idea is to build up your endurance to ensure a sure tone and long notes without UNNECESSARY strain.
Using a metronome:

Inhale for 8 counts, exhale for 8 counts Inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts Inhale for 2 counts, exhale for 2 counts


Inhale for 4, exhale for 4 Inhale for 3, exhale for 4 Inhale for 2, exhale for 4 Inhale for 1, exhale for 4
Make sure your back is straight, your buttocks squeezed and your feet “planted.”
Practice, practice, practice the dominant NOTE; THEN THE NOTE ONE THIRD Above and one note below. You will find the note become more mellow with better timbre.
ATTACK: (tongue)
Duration: (open throat, breath support, steady tone)
Release: (stop note by stopping air flow, NOT with tongue)
Develop a strong mental image of good tone quality
Practice the long notes.
Open throat when playing; blow air as if they were fogging a glass (ask student to blow warm air at their hand). The syllable “hoe” will often create this effect
Pick a spot on the wall across the room or a person in the back row at a concert, and “aim” your sound there.

Always aim to produce the most beautiful sound you can.


Don’t “attack" any notes. Think instead of "pronouncing" the notes by saying the word "too“ or “Toe”.

Lower jaw functions in slurring precisely as it does in strict articulation. It will open or close depending on the register and the pattern of the slur group.,+if+you+practice+...-a082772084

1 comment:

William Walker said...

I need to make sure that I do these tips and hints. They seem like they could help me a lot.

William | Shofar For Hire Seattle, WA