The starts of notes
I’d like to try to explain why the quality of the starts of notes is so important and I’ll start off by saying something which may sound surprising, or even silly:
After you start the note, nobody is listening any more.
They are still hearing you – but they’re not hearing what you are playing right now because they are still hearing the start of the note – its very first instant. That is the way human ears work. There’s no escaping it.
Pick a note somewhere comfortably within your singing range and sing one of these (it doesn’t matter which one), lasting a few seconds:
The interesting thing here is that although the consonant at the beginning lasts only, say, one hundredth of the duration of the sound, it pervades the whole thing. In other words, the sound at the start, and its meaning, pervades the entire length of the sound.
To test this, try the same sound again, this time without the consonant at the beginning, for example:
Compare “POOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”, (sing it out loud) with “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”.
Despite the fact that the difference is absolutely minute (in that only the first fraction of a second is different) the meaning is quite different all the way through.
The same thing happens when we play the horn. If you play a note with a perfect start, the whole duration of the note sounds great. Whereas if you fluff, crack, split or even slightly wobble at the start of a note, this effect is perceived throughout its duration. In other words the entire note is permeated by whatever evil happens right at the beginning.
What this means is that the quality of the first instant of any note is crucially important. In fact, it’s the only thing people will hear. Whatever you do to the remainder of the note, you cannot fix a bad start.
In other words, you cannot hear “POOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”, as, “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”, or vice versa. Try it.
So if you crack a note and it’s a long one, the crack stays there all the way through the note.
So, in terms of investment of precious practice time, that first fraction of a second is where to do some serious work.