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 How do you teach tonguing?
Author: QuickStart Clarinet 
Date:   2018-09-20 16:52

I find that teaching tonguing is one of the hardest things because the student can't see how you are moving your tongue, and you can't see how they're moving their tongue, and it is really tricky to describe and feel what should be happening.

So I wanted to ask what is the best way you have found to teach tonguing?

I have tried many things, and some things work well, but I would love to get some more ideas!

Josh Goo
QuickStart Clarinet Founder

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 Re: How do you teach tonguing?
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2018-09-20 17:16

My own contribution is:


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 Re: How do you teach tonguing?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2018-09-20 20:36

Well, that pretty much covers everything about how to play the clarinet in one go.

I would only perhaps take some issue with the statement that most if not all players can produce a swift enough technique to cover standard classical repertoire. Of my current students, only one has the ability to speedily articulate with ease. Given the above post, much of the slower results may be caused by getting stuck in some mental process rather than a physical one. But I can state that my own technique is quite limited and I can only achieve the "standard" by incorporating double tonguing.........which I wish I had started much earlier on.

.............Paul Aviles

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 Re: How do you teach tonguing?
Author: Ed 
Date:   2018-09-20 21:52

I agree that it can be difficult to teach the concept. While you can talk about it, try to describe it, etc, often it is still a mystery to some. Some have difficulty with the idea of beginning the air or in some cases continuing it as they tongue.

Some students naturally do it or figure it out. For others, I have a way that I teach it that makes it pretty quick and easy and with a minimum of explanation.

-Begin a note with the air.
-Next, stop the sound by touching the reed with the tongue, while trying to keep the air supported.
-As you are still pushing the air, remove the tongue to start the sound again.
-Repeatedly bring the tongue to and away from the reed, to "interrupt" the sound.
-Try starting the note fresh with air and the tongue on the reed, releasing the tongue as the air begins.

I hope this is clear. I take time with each step, repeating it until the student feels comfortable. When they feel confident I add the next portion. I will demonstrate so they hear what it should sound like, and make suggestions to improve the air flow, tongue placement or tongue stroke (light, hard) to make it sound best.

Most students pick this up very quickly and I find that all of the difficulties you mentioned are minimized. It can be very difficult to explain how to tongue in a way that a sound student can understand or visualize. This minimizes the talking and focusses on the end result.

Hope this helps.

Post Edited (2018-09-21 22:23)

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 Re: How do you teach tonguing?
Author: D Dow 
Date:   2018-09-20 22:15

Articulation or detache is the separation of musical sounds from each the space between words in a to air this remains constant...the togue acts like a lever on the reed and stops the vibration of the reed but the air column remains constant. As to varieties there is long and very short styles of articulation...the other aspect is to keep the tongue close to the reed but not so close that the tongue cannot move freely!

David Dow

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 Re: How do you teach tonguing?
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2018-09-21 17:14

I agree as well that it is the most difficult thing to teach because one can't see what's happening. I have an article on by website about it in my clainet article section that appears in the Clarinet Journal years ago. With that suggestion said experiment, don't assume every student can tongue in the "traditional" way.


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 Re: How do you teach tonguing?
Author: whole note 
Date:   2018-09-22 06:58

One day my teacher got so frustrated trying to explain how little pressure he put on the reed to articulate staccato that he grabbed my index finger and put it in his mouth. I could barely feel the difference between his tongue being on or off my fingertip as he quickly tongued it as if it were the reed. The revelation provided to me by this experience was worth the grossness and my articlation quickly and dramatically improved. I'm not sure I would have ever understood the way the tongue needs to operate for clean and quick articulation without his graphic demonstration.

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 Re: How do you teach tonguing?
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2018-09-28 08:41

Ed's description of tongue placement, etc. is similar to that of the prof. I studied with getting my MM. And it is a good description.
I think in simpler terms of just saying "Ta", as this is how I was taught and how I taught beginning students.
My tonguing in High School was not great. I got a study from Leon Russianoff when in college. Within less than a month, tonguing became perhaps my best attribute. Basically the simplest form of the exercise is you play: CCCDEEEFG, then up & down the scale. It is more fully explained , as well as more advanced forms of it & how to practice it, in my book.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers (PDF samples here)

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