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Importance of the vocal tract and its controls in wind musicians

Importance of the vocal tract and its controls in wind musicians

Contrary to what some think, the vocal tract plays a fundamental role in wind musicians. It is not

only a distinctive feature of the musician, but also a valuable resource for sound modulation and

music production (Fritz et al., 2014).

In playing instruments such as trumpet, trombone, clarinet, oboe, saxophone and flute the

musician's vocal tract acts as the sound amplification and modulation system (Meyer, 2009).

In addition to amplifying the sound, the vocal tract also helps shaping the timbre of the instrument.

The shape and size of the vocal tract, individual characteristics of the musician and evolving during

life, can significantly influence the timbre of the wind instrument, giving a distinctive character to

the music produced (Chapman, 2013). With study of proper technique to acquire the voluntary

control of his own vocal tract, the musician learns to vary the timbre of the instrument in a dynamic

way, allowing for greater musical expressiveness (Titze, 2008).

Vocal tract preparation is a key element of training wind players. Breathing and airflow control

exercises, as well as embouchure technique (the position and use of the lips, tongue and teeth

when playing a wind instrument), are all essential to achieving good performances (Fagnan, 2005).

If the training of the vocal tract should be considered a fundamental element in the education of

wind musicians, it is also important, from the first years of studies, to schedule targeted

phoniatrician and dentists controls with Specialists expert in these musicians (Dana) .


Chapman, J. (2013). "Breath, Embouchure, and Articulation". The Instrumentalist, 67(10), 30-33.

Dana, P. “Traitements orthodontiques et instruments à vent,” Revue Médecine des arts N° 49

Dana, P. “Dispositif de protection des lèvres des musiciens dans le cadre d’un traitement

orthodontique : le protège-lèvres” Revue Médecine des arts N° 50

Fagnan, J. (2005). "Embouchure and Tone Production". The Clarinet, 32(4), 76-77.

Fritz, C., Blackwell, A.F., Cross, I., Moore, B.C.J., & Woodhouse, J. (2014). "Exploring violin sound quality:

investigating English timbre descriptors and correlating resynthesized acoustical modifications with

perceptual properties". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 135(1), 303-312.

Meyer, J. (2009). "Acoustics and the Performance of Music". Springer.

Titze, I. R. (2008). "The Human Instrument". Scientific American, 298(1), 94-101.


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