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Thread: Tonguing discussion.

  1. #1
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    Question Tonguing discussion.

    Can we have a discussion about how to tongue on different wind instruments?

    How do you do it?

    What is the purpose?

    Are there different ways of doing it?


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    I can only imagine that it's not much different than....

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vaneyes View Post
    I can only imagine that it's not much different than....
    Pretty different than.... One tongues a woodwind because not to is to slur.
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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    As Hilltroll said. Tonguing is used to create phrasing and articulation between notes. Tonguing is used in all wind instruments (brass and woodwind).

    You can create a sense of what tonguing does by putting your tongue right behind your front teeth near the roof of your mouth. Sing "dah" or "Tah" repeatedly, both fast and slow. You will notice that the tongue can both start and stop the note. You can start and stop a note without tonguing, but it is articulated differently with the tongue.

    What the tongue does is abruptly affect the vibrating column of air which creates the note.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lunasong View Post
    As Hilltroll said. Tonguing is used to create phrasing and articulation between notes. Tonguing is used in all wind instruments (brass and woodwind).

    You can create a sense of what tonguing does by putting your tongue right behind your front teeth near the roof of your mouth. Sing "dah" or "Tah" repeatedly, both fast and slow. You will notice that the tongue can both start and stop the note. You can start and stop a note without tonguing, but it is articulated differently with the tongue.

    What the tongue does is abruptly affect the vibrating column of air which creates the note.
    My clarinetist friend has arrived at the conclusion that the tongue 'stops' the reed in his instrument, as well as air flow. Books on the history of clarinet performance (excerpts can be found on the Internet) indicate that tonguing was not always the de facto method for articulating notes; there was some competition from the 'chest' method, and a 'throat' method that is not clear to me.

    What are the mechanics of tonguing a brass instrument, I wonder... ?
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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    I did not mean to imply that you tongue a clarinet by touching your teeth! Of course you are touching the reed with the tip of your tongue. The production of air does not stop when you tongue. The tongue causes an interruption in the air.

    Now we're going to play shorter notes. You will start each note with your tongue.
    Say the syllable "TEE". Feel where your tongue touches behind the teeth.
    Do the same thing on the mouthpiece and barrel. Say the syllable "TEE" and touch the top-of-the-tip-of-the-tongue
    to the top-of-the-tip-of-the-reed. The tongue will interrupt the air stream, but it will not stop the air stream. This will create four shorter notes instead of one long one. Always maintain a good embouchure as you tongue. Be sure to use a fast air stream to create strong air pressure.
    source: http://www.matteimusicservices.com/TMEA%20Handout.pdf

    The tongue performs the same function on a brass instrument. It releases (a better word than "starts") or stops the vibrating air created by buzzing the mouthpiece. Think of it as a valve that one pulls back to release the air.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    I'm a self-learning hobbyist. I don't like to say that I'm "self-taught" because I actually use many teaching resources from books, videos, and by actually discussing things with other musicians, many of whom are professions. So to day that I don't have "teachers" would actually be a falsehood. I'll be glad to give my tonguing thoughts from this perspective.

    I play three different wind instruments, saxophone, trumpet and clarinet. The tonguing techniques are different for all of them of course.

    To begin with I've actually read quite a bit on the subject including very detailed descriptions of how the tongue should be used according to various people. There does seem to be many different techniques, and for this reason I chose to use techniques that work best for me rather than trying to incorporate someone else's technique that may actually not be suitable for me.

    I use tonguing techniques mainly for starting notes cleanly and dependably. I used to also use tonguing techniques for phrasing but I have since discovered that there are often better ways to achieve the same results (depending on the wind instrument of course).

    So for all intents and purposes I use tonguing for setting sound in motion from scratch (and of course if that occurs within a phrase I may use tonguing there too).

    I'll try to describe my use of tonguing for each instrument individually.

    Saxophone

    Most of what I read about tonguing for reed instrument is similar to what Lunasong has described. They say that you're supposed to use the very tip of your tongue in vary articulate and finesse ways. I've tried practicing that and basically found it impossible to master. So I use my tongue rather sloppily on the saxophone. I just play it on the reed, "ker-plunk", no finesse involved. I prepare a column of air pressure and when I'm ready I just slide my tongue off the reed to start the note or phrase.

    There probably is some "finesse" involved as I slide the tongue off the read depending on precisely how I wish to start the note. I seem to have quite a large range of control this way being able to start notes piano or forte as required.

    I don't actually use my tongue to "start" the reed vibrating so much (as they often describe in saxophone literature). I don't "kick" the reed into motion. Instead I simply "slip off the tip of the read" and let it begin to vibrate on its own. I may be giving it a "kick start" of sorts, but I don't really think of it in that way. In my mind it's more like the reed wants to vibrate and I'm just restraining it from doing so until I finally let go of it with my tongue. (what's actually happening in terms of physics I have no clue).

    For me, the key is having a good strong "controlled" column of air prepared to interact with the reed when the tongue releases the reed. In fact, I've found that when done efficiently I can actually feel a "connection" between the reed vibrations and feelings in my diaphragm. In other words, the entire column of air is engaged in the processes. In fact, there's probably far more "finesse" involved in the dynamics of that air column than with the dynamics of the actual tongue action. How I control the flow and pressure of the air column will determine whether the note starts piano or forte, etc.

    I used to use tonguing in some phrases, especially for many individual notes being played rapidly in succession where each note stops before the next one begins. However, on the saxophone I've learned a different technique to accomplish the same thing using lower-lip pressure of the embouchure at the base of the reed. I know that some saxophone teaches may frown on using embouchure for this purpose, but it actually seems to work better. I have better control and better sound that way. I have also heard some really good saxophone players renouncing some of this so-called "Teacher's wisdom". So I use lower lip pressure at the base of the reed for various articulations instead of using the tongue because for me they work better, sound better, and don't have any adverse side-affects that I can see.

    When it comes to playing musical instruments I choose to use what works for me, not what some teacher has been taught is "supposed" to work for everyone. I just don't buy into that school of thought. People are too different for there to be a "one method fits all". So I find my own path.

    Trumpet

    Tonguing has actually helped me with my trumpet embouchure probably more than any other factor. Tonguing itself is not part of the embouchure, but it has still helped me to produce a good embouchure.

    The greatest thing I've learned in terms of trumpet tongue is simple the phrase, "It's like spitting out a watermelon seed". I really didn't learn good trumpet tonguing techniques until I actually heard that phrase and started to imitate that action.

    There is no reed on a trumpet, so the tongue is simply used to block up the hole that your lips make. The key idea is to "pull the plug" out of that hole when you're prepared to let the column of air flow. Again the column of air is paramount just as with the sax. So when imagining to "spit" the watermelon seed off the tip of your tongue you do it from your gut or diaphragm. Do just use mouth pressure. Once I learned that things improved dramatically. Especially because I was having great difficulty starting notes from scratch on the trumpet. Now I have it down really well and I can be confident that I can start any note piano or forte just precisely as I want it and it will start with 100% confidence. I also have better control over the notes after they are started as well.

    I'm fairly new to trumpet (only about a year into it), so I don't have a lot of experience doing fancy phrasing just yet. But I have found that for the most part even when doing a series of short notes that stop and start rapidly I typically don't need to tongue them. Once I have a phrase up and running I can control that sort of thing just via the column of air. But I definitely depend upon tongue to get phrases started. Not that I can't start them without tongue, but tongue is GUARANTEED to work with perfectly DEPENDABLE result. Other methods have failed me in critical places. Thus I've come to see tonguing as a SURE THING.

    Flute

    I haven't played the flute much lately, in fact, I've just recently been thinking about getting it back out again. I don't have much to say about tonguing on the flute, other than it comes in handy for starting notes and phases there too. I would suspect that tonging on the flute would probably be along similar lines to how it is used on the trumpet (kind of like spitting out a watermellon seed).

    In fact, in all honestly, I've learned much about the importance of the column of air and using the whole diaphragm thing quite recently though my experiences with saxophone and trumpet. I haven't really played the flute in over a year. I need to go back and re-visit the flute now with the new insights I have gained from playing trumpet and sax. Hopefully a lot of stuff will spill over and I'll be a better flute player now as well.

    Last note

    A lot of literature (especially for trumpet) talks about using the tongue to say, "Taw, Too, Tee" etc. But in truth, that's really more about forming the embouchure for different ranges and pitches than tonguing. That has more to do with the shape of the mouth cavity, lip tension, and possibly the position of the tongue within the mouth cavity (rather than about the tongue actually interacting with the lips or reed). So I don't think of those things as really being 'tonguing' but rather just a way of referring to embouchure shape and form.

    So there you go. True confessions from the tongue of a musical hobbyist.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaws View Post
    Can we have a discussion about how to tongue on different wind instruments?
    Sure thing ...just don't bite

    PS - are you writing your college exam on this and looking for help?

    How do you do it?
    You mean..with jaws wide open, or closed?


    What is the purpose?
    Different instruments; different purposes. As above - reed instruments like the clarinet, the tongue can be used to articulate a stop - maybe its role is less impressing than the lips, due to the pressure requirements. Other aerophone instruments it can be used rhythmically; for phrasing, or articulation.


    Are there different ways of doing it?


    Not like that....! For example in flute playing, more like:

    Di -De -Di -De - Di -De

    or

    Tuk Kuh Tuk Kuh Tuk Kuh

    or T K T K T K

    for basic wind playing. You can move on from double tonguing to triple and quadruple tonguing and then flutter tonguing for freeblowing instruments like the flute. The freedom of articulation also varies dramatically with which kind of flute too. The quadruple tonguing helps for rapid 1/16th beat music - the tongue is very useful for articulation in early baroque music. Later modern music, coughing and spitting including making harsh fricatives in modern compositions by Takemitsu is developed; vocal tonguing in other flute music, including beat-boxing derivatives courtesy of Greg Patillo.

    Language is diverse; the tongue offers that diversity of language; and it is more diverse than language itself. Such diversity might need narrowing down more specifically :P




    PS - [note the tonguing gesture indicates something which goes beyond language]

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