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Patricia George | August 2012


   Students are taught from the first lesson to begin a note with the tongue. However, many students fail to learn this concept and start notes with a Hah or breath attack. Often it is several weeks before the director realizes the student is not articulating the note, as it is difficult to hear an individual student’s attack in a large group.
   Teaching both these possibilities, the Du and the Hah attack, from the beginning will clearly define the goal for the student. The Du attack is used to begin a note unless it is part of a slur. A Hah attack is a useful practice technique to learn to open the throat and set the embouchure. Check students individually to be sure they can execute a Du or Hah attack at will. 

Exercise No. 1
   On the note of the day, play three quarter notes, Du, Du, Du, followed by a rest. Then repeat using the breath attack, Hah, Hah, Hah rest. Alternate several times until each student can perform these two techniques.

Exercise No. 2
   For more advanced students, repeat this exercise on each note of an ascending scale. When articulating the Du syllable, encourage the students to maintain the relaxed feeling in the vocal folds that is attained by a Hah attack. When playing with a Hah attack, the beginning of the note should be clean, not chipped, and should have a perfect attack as with the Du

Exercise No. 3
   Apply the Du and Hah attacks to an exercise in a method or warm-up book. Take one measure and play it first with a Du attack then play it again with a Hah attack. Discuss the difference between the two syllables with students. Remind them that the Du attack is used when beginning all notes and the Hah is a practice technique for achieving an open throat and efficient embouchure.

Editor’s Note: This new feature offers quick ideas for techniques to improve basic aspects of playing. Regular application of these ideas in just a few minutes each rehearsal can yield great benfits. Directors are invited to share their favorite exercises and activities. Email: