fast and clean single and double tonguing.
Jennifer Cluff and other Flutenutters. Sept. 2000.
How do I tongue quickly?
Flutenet question: Is there such a thing of being
"scared" of tongueing quickly? I sound far more
in control slurring quickly but add tongue and its out of
control, mistakes being made that dont happen when
slurring and it
sounds tense and heavy<snip>I have got fairly clear
tongueing at slower tempos but mm=100-120+ is impossible
when I try and tongue at speed.
Answer: Dear C,
Here are some tonguing ideas.
Huge apologies if I'm about to say something you already
are familiar with but:
I wonder if you could tell me whether your tongue is
staying forward after it strikes? Often a 'breakthrough
idea' is needed just when you are learning to tongue
quickly and lightly.
I always ask the flutist (at this point) where their
tongue goes right after it says: "tu". ? If
you're not sure where your tongue goes, it *is* possible
that it's pulling back at the root, and sliding backward
slightly into the throat, as when we say:"
Tuck" or "Talk".
Say those words and see what happens.
Notice the long distance that the tongue tip retreats
from its striking point.
This is not useful for fast tonguing and (creates a bit
of an air block through a bit of glottal stopping to
For flute, because we have to strike the tongue tip
repeatedly and quickly we have to keep it forward in the
mouth and very close to the place where it is going to
Say the word: "Tew" and when you've released
the "w" let your tongue touch the back of your
lower front teeth and rest there for the "ewe"
part of the word.
Notice that if you say: "tew, tew, tew" and
then lay your tongue tip so that it touches the bottom
front teeth, that the root or back of the tongue does not
slide backwards anymore.
In fact you've "rolled out the red carpet" so
to speak, and propelled the air in your mouth forward
Next change the "tew" to "tu" (as
pronounced in french) and keep your tongue touching those
same front bottom teeth. You'll soon notice that you can
tongue much faster with the tongue tip
staying forward like that.
The best thing to do, if you're new to this idea is
say:'tu tu tu' (never "toot toot toot' BTW!!) while
you're sitting around watching a movie, doing the dishes
or walking somewhere.
Leave the tongue deliberately forward at the end of each
"tu"...and starting very slowly, (so that you
can sense the new sensation)gradually speed it up while
you're walking along etc.
Don't bother trying to go as fast as possible. That'll
take several months work, and is too stressful. Start
slow and only gradually increase. Please! :>)
Slowly apply this to your scales etc. giving four or more
"tu" s to each note, endeavouring to check that
your tongue is staying forward. Later you can go to two
"tus" per note, and finally one "tu".
But again, progress slowly, because you'll also want to
be able to hear if all the "tus" can be made to
sound identical to eachother. Tonguing very low notes and
E2s take more time, so don't worry if at first those
notes seem to be more difficult.
(Hint: aim the airstream higher for low D and middle E2
to see if that helps.)
This "slow and heavy" tonguing is a very normal
stage to have to go through, because keeping the tongue
forward never becomes a noticable need until you get to a
certain speed of tonguing that's required at the higher
levels of repertoire.
So congrats. You're at the higher level now!! :>D
After a week or so of checking every time you say
"tu", the sensation of "the tongue tip
staying forward" will become familiar, and if you
WERE pulling your tongue backwards (as in
"Talk") it'll soon cease.
Secondly, and this is
probably of equal if not greater importance:
The tongue can
only make neat and precise movements when there is
sufficient air-support. Use the Breath Pulse to add
airspeed and tone quality to a passage, all-slurred,
before adding the tongue's neat movements.
There is a fantastic
book that covers this topic fully:
Player's Book by Vernon Hill. See index and overview here.
air-speed when you play all-slurred is not so
challenging, if you are listening for full rich tone. But
it is typical of flute students that when they begin to
tongue for clarity and staccato effects, especially in
the high register where the air-speed MUST be faster,
that they forget to use the abdominally supported
air-column, and somehow think of their tongue as a
'hurling' device for sending fast shots of air.
It's a typicl problem.
And easily overcome.
Instead of 'hurling'
the air with the tongue like a sling-shot, think of the
tongue as a gate or valve, that merely interupts a fast
stream of air supported low in the body. For images that
may help with this see my other articles on tonguing
clarity and the role of the air-stream in clear tonguing.
Air Support relationship to Tonguing?
from same Flutenet member as above:
Jennifer, I tried the
ideas you said and it worked.
Lynn, I also thought
about your air-support idea, and that was a bit of a
"head's up!" no pun intended.
I played around on some
pieces (instead of the scales I'd been doing---I like to
play on Baroque stuff from memory), and the tonguing is
ok up to mm=100, tongueing 4 on each notes and 2 on each,
but this all gets harder when I'm doing single tonguing
on normal scales. Middle register is best, but I have
problems with the extremes of register ie below low G1
and above high G3.
Thanks to Lynn, who
suggested that more air-speed from the abdominal
"kicks" was needed, I found that I'd been
inconistent with air support. More is better seems to be
true. I was blowing with moderate ab-support, but not
starting off too well supported, particularly in the low
register below G1. That has been a problem. I guess it
takes practice to make all these things
Posture - Im glad someone else said that having an arched
back and stiff shoulders wasnt an idea for good posture
for sustained blowing. Too true. It adds to the tonguing
tension I'm trying to get rid of. I found that arm
swinging and deep breathing followed by
"easing" the shoulders back helps. Thanks.I
I'm glad that my "tongue forward" suggestion
worked. Scales may be a problem at first because you're
changing air-speed over the course of two octave or more.
I would start more
basically, and simply practice just taking a high G and
blowing it with full, rich, centered tone, and asking
yourself "How much abdominal support and what lips
am I using? That is a good starting place for judging
abdominal support and precision aim with the lips, to
which tonguing can later be added.
So get a single note
singing and clear first, and only then add the tonguing
*TO* that high G or low D, once the air support has
already been established. Tonguing repeated high notes or
repeating low notes is a very good way to find both the
air speed AND the embouchure for best tone. Tonguing
should always be added secondarily to a good long
longtone, if you ask me.
And I also must
recommend the great "air support while
tonguing" article from the April 1998 Flute Talk
Magazine, by Tom Kennedy etitled: Maquarre's Daily
Exercises. (pg. 15.)
It has you practice air support while tonguing by getting
you to play just one of the Maquarre exercies #1 (two
lines long, then repeat) many times with all different
variations. I'll quote it below
Double Tonguing - Air Support Exercise by Tom
Sample for one Maquarre exercise per day or any
other Daily Flute Exercise that's 1-3 lines long, and
made for scale/arpeggio fingerings:
(This method is
suggested by: Tom Kennedy in an article from Flutetalk
Magazine, April '98)
On each repeat of a two-line Marquarre exercise (or any
other etude or daily exercise), play the short excerpt
with the following additions:
a) all slurred, full tone, open throat (very slowly,
necessary.) quarter=60 mm.
b) same but with the abdominal support of saying silently
"hoo-hoo-hoo" (one on each note)
c) same but with "du du du" at the same time as
the "hoo-hoo-hoo" (this engages your air
support while adding a soft attack.)
d) [Expressly for learning double tonguing at this
Say: "gu gu gu" while continuing the "hoo
hoo hoo" (saying "gu" may mean going
slower than before but is the first step in double
e) Play the same exercise #1 but play it fast and evenly,
rhythmically accurate: (you've done it four times now, so
find the notes very familiar at this point.)
Make it like one long, supported "hoooooooo".
Full tone, open throat.
f) Play as fast as in e) but with the tongue forward, say
"dududududududu" (author says: "like
g) Play as e) (and you may have to go a trifle slower)
and say: "gu gu
gu gu gu" with one "gu" on each note.
h) Switch to "du gu du gu du gu" giving a full
abdominal kick on each
one, especially the "gu" which needs the air to
reach the mouth
quickly in order to sound equal to the "du".
i) reverse the syllables to "gu du gu du".
You may use this series of variations on any exercise or
scale, not just the Maquarre no.1 exercise. The idea,
however is to repeat the same eight or so bars of
scale/arpeggio-type music, and not to tackle anything
that is difficult for the lips at the same time.
Plus, if you're not yet ready for double tonguing (and if
your single tonguing is being worked on currently, leave
double tonguing for 6 months from now, or it'll just add
too much too soon!!!) then just go as far as letter f)
above and eliminate any that ask you to say
"gu" just yet.
Du and Tu are both useful, by the way, and Du is
especially good for those tough low notes (below G1)
which you mentioned.
The Hoo will really help your single tonguing in the high
Anything above a B2 needs constant breath support to
Staccato double tonguing passages:
Remember too that when
using a double-tongued etude or piece that the faster you
play, the less you need to worry about playing staccato.
Playing double tongued staccato passages using DuGuDuGu
usually give short enough note values.
Longer, clearer note
values are fine for many passages that are otherwise
marked "staccato". You don't want to
"clip" the notes too short and sacrifice tone
quality unless necessary. Consult your teacher.
Good tonguing starts with good slurring
Grace the Bass's answer
Question: Is there such a thing of being
"scared" of tongueing
quickly? I sound far more in control slurring quickly but
add tongue and its out of control, mistakes being made
that don't happen when slurring and it sounds tense and
Good tonguing starts with good slurs. I teach that
tongued passages are really broken up slurs. In other
words, the breath does not stop and start with the
tongue, but is continuous. Many beginning students start
a bad habit of moving the tongue too far; but it's much
faster to move a very short distance for each
articulation. Next the finger changes must be even.
Without the flute, most people can tongue very quickly
and evenly by just blowing and whispering too, tu, do,
koo, goo, or any chosen syllable. So it is the fingers
that must coordinate with the tongue. Moving your arms,
head, etc. while playing also can mess up your tonguing
coordination. [How many pianists play a moving piano?] So
sit still. My teacher used to gently hold the end of my
flute to help me feel how much I was trying to move.
Finally, I practice various tonguing patterns [dgdg,
tkt-ktd, ttk-ttk, etc.] away from the flute, while
driving, watching TV, mopping the floor, whenever there's
nobody around laugh.
End of tongue tricks lesson 1.
Grace [the bass]
area of the tongue, quick small neat motions
Hello All - Please
allow me to make a few fairly brief comments about
tonguing. (not that others have not done a great job of
explaining, but several explanations are often useful).
First of all, the most important thing in tonguing is
AIR. When you tongue rapidly, the air must keep moving.
The tongue only acts as a valve to interrupt the air
flow, *the air flow does not stop*.
Remember, the faster you tongue, the less short the notes
can be. In most fast passages, even those marked
staccato, can not be played short. The sheer speed of the
tongue, if done cleanly will make it sound short enough.
As Jenni pointed out, we must also use the muscles in the
abdominal region to help with articulation. (you
remember, the ha ha ha or hoo hoo hoo bit).
Second, use as small an area of the tongue as possible.
The tongue itself is a wad of muscles. They are very
flexible. Trying to move too much of the tongue when you
articulate is like using an elephant gun to kill a mouse.
Enough for now. Hope this will help in addition to the
More articles on tonguing clearly and cleanly by
famous flute teachers
Clear tonguing on the
flute by Jen Cluff
Vernon Hill's excellent
book with demo-CD
John Wion on
Articulation & Breath Support (scroll down upon
Breath support article
based on Peter Lloyd's teaching
to Jen's homepage