Let’s first start with the term Embouchure. What does it mean? It is the way in which a player applies their mouth to the mouthpiece of a brass or wind instrument, especially as it affects the production of the sound. (Definition from Oxford Languages). Working on the Embouchure takes time and getting a good sound from the Kaval may take months of hard work.
I recommend starting out with the head joint only because it would be a little easier for you and besides, you do not need to worry about the holes and changing the pitch yet. Right now we only want to focus on making the sound.
I know it’s a bit disappointing when you first get your instrument and you cannot even make a sound, but don’t worry, we’ll get there soon. Training your lips takes some practice, but once you get used to it will seem very natural and become easy.
How to produce a sound on the kaval
First, you should put the kaval on your lips above the upper lip and below the lower lip, as shown on the illustration here. Then simply shape your lips as if you’re whistling. In order to make a sound you have to direct your airstream to go across the hole on the mouth piece. When the airstream hits the outer edge of the hole it splits in half, that creates a vibration and that causes the sound. Hold the joint with the bottom end pointing towards your right side and forming an angle of approximately 45 degrees . Then blow a little amount of air firmly and direct the stream straight. Part of the air needs to go into the pipe and the other part is obviously out of it. Don’t try to blow too hard! It’s not about how much air you exhale, it’s about gaining the proper technique and finding the right position, then blowing firmly. A good example of the speed of air that you need is: Imagine a lit candle in front of you and adjust the speed of your air so that it’s enough to make the flame flicker but not enough to blow out the candle.
It looks pretty easy when you see a professional Kaval player does it but it actually took them quite some time until they managed to make it work every time, and then a few months of really hard work to perfect the sound. So be patient as it might take a while but it’s totally worth the effort.
If you’re having trouble making a clear sound you can play around with the angle a little bit. Keep in mind that small changes may affect the sound drastically, so be wary about that, try to stick to the instructions and keep the changes to a minimum.
Another thing that you can try adjusting is the aperture – that’s the lip opening. Try making it smaller or larger and see if it changes anything and if it helps get better results. Finding the right embouchure is quite subjective so you need to find the jaw and lip position that makes the clearest sound for you. In my case I don’t really do anything with the jaw, I just keep as natural as possible and it works for me.
You’ll feel it when the embouchure is correct and what you need to do then, is simply try to remember the position. The sound you’re going to make at first is most likely to be in the lower or in the middle register. Just practice them both and try switching between them like that.
Private lessons with me
As you probably already know, it’s quite difficult to get a proper sound out of the Kaval. It takes a lot of practice and it could be quite time consuming and frustrating if you’re not sure how to do it. In case it’s too difficult for you to understand the technique and the correct position just by reading this article feel free to purchase private lessons with me by choosing one of my packages – LINK.
In case you have other difficulties related to music theory or any other matter you can contact me directly via e-mail – email@example.com or the contact form on my website – https://zhivkovasilev.com.Then I will be able to guide you through the process and I’ll make sure you’re doing it the proper way and you’re not just wasting your time trying to find out how to do it all by yourself.
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This is very helpful — thank you. I can make a fairly good sound on the kaval, but I find that I run out of air very quickly. I can manage my air much better on the flute, but I’m sure that my embouchure hole when I play the kaval is too large and that I’m using far too much air to make a sound. It’s very frustrating, especially after listening to what the best players can do on the instrument!
I look forward to reading the rest of your blog posts — thank you for sharing your knowledge.