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Altissimo, articulation and dynamics


Senior Member
Helsinki, Finland
How wide should your dynamic range be in the altissimo register? A couple of weeks back, after playing a lot of flugelhorn, I noticed I've extended my altissimo register by quite a few notes (playing brass feels much harder on the facial muscles, so I suppose I've gained a bit of strength there), but only if I play really loud. F# and G I can coerce out of the horn relatively quietly if I articulate very softly or don't use the tongue at all. If I do a hard attack on the tongue, I also have to play quite loud. G# is so-so regardless of volume, A, Bb and B are very easy as long as I play loud enough, but I simply can't hit them quietly. C is shaky, but haven't really practiced it much, C# and D are quite easy even at very moderate volumes.

I can't really recall hearing any recording with quiet altissimo notes; they're always played very loud. I'm thinking a crescendo on a high note would be a very nice touch in some songs, but I just can't get them to sound quietly. Is the loudness and difficulty in articulation something that just is built into the technique, or is it something that can be worked on?


Well-Known Member
It is possible to play the altissimo quietly, it's just difficult. Avant garde players like John Butcher seem to manage it.
I don't think the altissimo has quite the dynamic range of the rest of the horn, the shrillness of the high notes makes them cut through more - maybe this is to do with the ear being more sensitive in that frequency range - so even if you're playing very quietly in the altissimo register, it still sounds louder/more piercing.
While it's true that a lot of altissimo players tend to blast it out, the best exponents of the technique make it sound like it's part of the normal range of the instrument and don't make a big thing of it


Big ruff Geordie bendy metal blower
The art is getting to play any,all notes quiet and loud and thats just the same in the altissimo range.

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