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Author: Allison Rose 
Date:   1999-07-01 18:10

Hi everyone :)

I having been playing clarinet for about 9 years and I just recently found out that I have been tounging all wrong for the entire time I have been playing. Does anyone have any information that could help me relearn my style with out an increadible amout of frustration? Thank you for your help :)


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 RE: Tounging
Author: Dee 
Date:   1999-07-01 19:12

The best thing is to work with a private teacher. Secondly practice slowly on the new technique for a long time before trying to do it fast. The biggest source of frustration on any change like this is going too fast too soon.

Just exactly what are you doing wrong?

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 RE: Tounging
Author: Allison Rose 
Date:   1999-07-01 20:09

I am tounging with the wrong part of my tounge. I am doing it too low on my tounge. That is the reason I can't toung fast enough at all. :) I am taking private lessons, thta is how I found out that I was doing it wrong. :) Thanks for your help! :)


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 RE: Tounging
Author: Ken Shaw 
Date:   1999-07-01 22:25

Allison Rose wrote:
I am tounging with the wrong part of my tounge. I am doing it too low on my tounge. That is the reason I can't toung fast enough at all. :) I am taking private lessons, thta is how I found out that I was doing it wrong. :) Thanks for your help! :)


Allie -

What you are doing is called "anchor tonguing." I did this for years, broke the habit and posted a long piece about a year ago. Here it is again.

Anchor tonguing is when you lock the tip of your tongue behind your lower teeth and push forward with the back of your tongue to make it hit the reed. The spot on your tongue that hits the reed is maybe 3/8 inch back from the tip.

Anchor tonguing has some definite advantages. First of all, it's a strong stroke that stops the vibration of the reed quickly. You can also do strong accents easily. The anchoring of the tongue also means that you don't have to worry about missing the tip of the reed with the tip of your tongue.

The area of the tongue just below where it touches the reed also pushes on the lower lip, and helps cut off the air flow and can be used without touching the reed at all to give a more subtle tongue stroke. Finally, the support for the lower lip from the tongue makes control easier, particularly in the high register.

Some fine players use anchor tonguing, including, I believe, Mitchell Laurie and, I have read, Karl Leister.
Nevertheless, anchor tonguing is anathema to most teachers. There are three big problems: speed, lightness and embouchure/tone.

SPEED: It's hard to go really fast with anchor tonguing. I used it for years, and got pretty good -- say, sixteenths at 136 -- but that's pretty much the limit. The problem is that you're moving more of the tongue than with the other style of tonguing ("tip to tip").

LIGHTNESS: The ability to make a strong accent means you pay the price when you want to play lightly. It's possible but very difficult to play the licks from the Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo, which are on 100% of audition lists. Similarly, the final rising scale in Shepherd on the Rock is problematic, and forget about the little solo in the finale of the Beethoven 4th.

When you tongue tip to tip, only the very tip of the tongue moves, meaning that the necessary effort is smaller and repetition is quicker.

EMBOUCHURE and TONE: Supporting the lower lip with your tongue means that you don't build up strength in your embouchure. Also, pushing up the back part of the lip with your tongue means that more lip is in contact with the reed, which dulls the tone. To project, you need to have only a very small amount of lip over your lower teeth -- only half of the red part of your lip. Until I stopped anchor tonguing, I could never get a centered, resonant tone.

The big problem is that anchor tonguing bunches up your tongue at the front of your mouth, which blocks the use of your oral cavity to add resonance and control tone color. The ideal tongue position is high in the back and low in the front. Many method books describe this as a "ski jump" shape, which makes the air go faster. I'm not sure about that and think it's mostly the reed setting the air in vibration in the open space produced when the tongue is low in front.

Anchor tonguing involves moving the back of the tongue as well as the tip. Involvement of more and larger muscles inevitably slows you down. Also, moving the back of your tongue often leads you to move your jaw as you tongue. This means that even larger muscles than the tongue are in motion. I've never seen anyone move their jaw and also have even minimally acceptable tonguing.

Finally, moving the back of the tongue, as you do in anchor tonguing, makes it more likely that you will tighten your throat, since without the security and resistance of anchor tonguing, it's tempting to try to find them elsewhere. Tightening your throat is deadly to breath support and radiates tension to the rest of your body. Lawrie Bloom (bass clarinet in Chicago) has a great exercise for this. Take a spare clarinet barrel and wrap your lips around the top as if you were smoking a cigar. Breath in and out to get the feel of moving lots of air at low pressure and with no obstruction between your mouth and the bottom of your lungs. Then move to the clarinet and work for the same feel. You're looking for the sensation of the breath stream flowing from your belly up through your lungs, throat and mouth and being engaged directly with the reed and the tone, as if these were an extension of your body.

Bob Lowrey, who was an excellent player and a well known clinician when I was in high school, has a great exercise. Play a secure note (say, D below the staff), starting it mezzo forte with the breath. Then, move the tip of your tongue up and slightly forward as if saying the syllable LA, but do not let your tongue touch the reed. You want to just barely miss. Move the syllable forward gradually, so that you touch the reed only for an instant, producing the smallest possible "tic" in the sound. Work on this until you can do it consistently and evenly. Then move to scales, beginning slowly and working the speed up gradually. The feeling should be that of your tongue sweeping - almost bouncing - across the reed, but never stopping. Also, the sound never stops. Once you get this extremely light action under control, it's easy to make it more forceful. Equally important, you teach yourself to play with a continuous tone, which is interrupted by the tongue, without interrupting the effort of moving the air stream. This avoids the problems that come when you thing of the tongue as what starts the tone, rather than stopping it.

As to strengthening your embouchure, I put an old mouthpiece with a split reed in the glove compartment of my car and held it in my mouth as I was driving. Fairly soon, I got to where I could do that with a barrel attached. I got some pretty odd stares, but built up embouchure strength quite a bit over several months. You could also do it at home while watching TV.

The moral of the story is to make the change. The hardest part is having the tip of the tongue free and having to search for the tip of the reed, rather than having the reliability of the anchor. Believe me, it can be done. All it takes is keeping at it.

Good luck.

Ken Shaw

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 RE: Tounging
Author: Tim2 
Date:   1999-07-04 04:00

Ken is right. It can be done. After tonguing incorrectly for 12 years, I too had to change. The feel of the tip of the tongue to the reed was the most difficult for me; it was difficult for me to get it to sound clean. But during that time, I got my Charles Bay mouthpiece and my Buffet R13. This helped response in my tonguing and even though it took more work yet, it got done.

You can do it too. Be patient but work hard for it. Progress may come in spurts. Always know in the back of your mind that it can be done.

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 RE: Tounging
Author: William Rappaport 
Date:   2024-03-10 20:32

I use a variation of Harold Wright’s method of articulation—basically it’s a combination of Robert Marcellus’ ideas and Harold Wright’s. The placement of the tongue on the reed comes from Marcellus—1/4 inch back from the end of the tongue on the top side of the tongue (the part of the tongue you use to say the letter T when you touch the roof of your mouth) touches 1/4 inch or so down from the edge of the reed. Marcellus said, laughing as he wrote it down in my Cavallini Caprice, “toot’s the magic word.” Harold Wright said to be sure to remove the tongue from the reed to begin every staccato note. I combine the two into “removal-toot”—clear short toot with a deliberate removal of the tongue. I also find that leveraging the clarinet securely against the upper teeth with my right thumb helps give the tongue something stable to work with. I don’t try to prepare the fingers as Bonade and Marcellus taught—Harold Wright didn’t do that, and I go with him on this. Of course you must have a fast continuous air stream as you articulate. You are releasing short bursts of air successively into the clarinet with this approach.

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 RE: Tounging
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2024-03-11 03:58

I think your advice may be about 25 years too late. :)


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 Re: Tounging
Author: Jarmo Hyvakko 
Date:   2024-03-12 15:33

Hi! My name is Jarmo and i use anchor tongue.

Still i have only a little amount of lower lip in my mouth. I am not making a lump of meat under the reed combining the tongue with lower lip. And i am perfectly capable of producing a very centered and bright sound if needed.

My tongue just is there, relaxed more or less straight and when i touch reed, a spot around 1 cm behind tip of tongue touches the tip of the reed. And the tip of the tongue just happens to touch the lower lip.

This way i have an unlimited selection of adjusting the quality of the attack by variating the strength of beat, the hardness of my tongue and width of the area touching the reed by slight adjustments in the muscular tension of my tongue (the same muscles you use when you speak, so you know how to use them!)

My speed limit is around 144, on a sunny day even 152 (Prokofjeff's classical symphony!)

When teaching i have felt that students having speed and quality issues in articulation often after inspection and third degree interrogation are found to articulate tip to tip.

I have managed to earn my living as a principal clarinet since 1985. So, let's agree that there are just different articulating techniques? (Such as articulating through your lower lip, believe or not!)

Jarmo Hyvakko, Principal Clarinet, Tampere Philharmonic, Finland

Post Edited (2024-03-12 15:35)

Reply To Message
 Re: Tounging
Author: moma4faith 
Date:   2024-03-13 03:23

I so feel your pain! I was auditioning for college when someone pointed out that I was likely playing "anchor-tongued", which I was. I had to totally change my embouchure within and without. While my lesson professor was understanding and helpful, my band director was not. I was best able to change my tonguing/embouchure setup in the summer, without constant performance expectations.

First, commit to the change. Just tell yourself this is going to happen. It will feel weird and alien at first. Let it feel that way. It will take time to teach the old muscles to do something new, and to teach the new muscles to do something at all. Take breaks the moment you feel frustrated, even a short break can make a difference. Working with a professional teacher during lessons really helps, but ultimately, it is up to you to take the information and advice they give and put it into practice. Your embouchure will try to fight and go back to the "old way" and you will have to keep the new set-up locked in. Lots of breaks helped me, so my muscles could rebound for a few minutes before going back at it again. Also, it was much easier for me to do this with exercises that were simple and basic instead of more demanding solos or band/orchestra pieces.

The mixture of time, simple rudimentary exercises, breaks, and compassionate tolerance for my shortcomings was the winning combination for me. And I'm still working to further improve my embouchure 35+ years later.

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