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 Stop-tonguing and Light Articulation
Author: BaconLord 
Date:   2019-10-29 05:37

So I’ve been having trouble when it comes to light tonguing. Let me provide some background and context to help understand.

I’ve been taught from a young age stop-tonguing. It’s been the only form of articulation I have used. As I have progressed and become more picky with my playing, I’m starting to realize that my stop-tonguing sounds too hard and percussive. I cannot play fast staccato articulation passages without playing lightly. I have tried countless times to lighten my tonguing by playing super slow and here’s what I found:

I cannot release my tongue lightly from the reed without an undertone or something sounding fuzzy. I also cannot stop the reed lightly and clean enough. As my tongue approaches the reed I can hear the reed closing and losing vibration but I have to do it quickly; otherwise it doesn’t sound clean. During all this I’m thinking constant and fast airstream but haven’t had success with eliminating the fuzziness and undertones.

Let’s the use one of the most feared excerpts in clarinet playing: The Mendelssohn Scherzo. I have always been told that the A’s in the 2nd and 4th measures need to be played with stop-tonguing. Makes sense, as they are written with staccatos. When I play them with stop-tonguing they sound hard, really short, and percussive, which is completely the opposite of the style. If I try to lighten up my tongue I get all that fuzzy stuffiness. The one method I can light up my tongue is to play long legato tonguing on the A’s, but that’s not what’s written. I need to get the lightness of legato tonguing in a staccato note. I don’t stop tongue legato tonguing (or do I and I don’t realize?).

Ricardo Morales is my freaking idol when it comes to articulation. He has the lightest articulation I have heard. Listen to his recent Weber 2, 3rd movement recording (it is on YouTube). Literal perfection. It’s like a stone skipping on water.

So now come my questions:
- What exercises should I do to lighten up my tongue?
- Is it possible to lighten up stop-tonguing? If not, is there an alternative method of staccato tonguing I can use that will be lighter than stop-tonguing?
- If stop-tonguing is the only good method of staccato tonguing, how can I approach it and practice it to make it lighter and cleaner?

I’m willing to put in the practice for it, but first I need to know what to do and what to look for when trying to lightly tongue. Thanks for reading and thank you in advance for any replies!

Reply To Message
 Re: Stop-tonguing and Light Articulation
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2019-10-29 06:53

I listened to a video of an interview with Stanley Drucker; it was sometime after he retired from the NY Phil. If I recall, he was asked how fast his tonguing speed was. His answer was better than the question: he said words to the effect that there were different kinds of articulation, and you used the right kind for the music you were playing.

About light tonguing (p.s. I'm no expert) I have two thoughts. Light articulation is taken to mean the tongue lightly touches the reed, not enough to bend it or press it to the mouthpiece, but just enough to interrupt the vibration. Idea one is to listen to the Robert Spring warmup video where he plays one of the Langenus studies for light articulation. When he gets to the faster speeds, that's light articulation. So, do that :-) (I'm not entirely joking - it's useful to try it.)

The other idea is, practice barely interrupted legato, where the notes are articulated but remain as close to full length as possible - legatissimo, barely more interruption than a slur. To do this, the tongue tip must just barely brush the reed for the briefest instant, so you almost can't hear the interruption. The reed does stop vibrating during that instant, but so briefly that your tongue doesn't even have time to bend the reed, it just blocks the amplitude of its vibration. That, I think, is light articulation. Then the next step is to slightly increase the length of interruptions, but not the force of the tongue. Keep the tempo the same but increase the interruption lengths in gradual steps.

For example play a scale two octaves slurred, then again with barely noticeable interruptions between notes, then again with clearly noticeable but still brief interruptions, then with distinct interruptions, then with noticeably separated notes, then staccato, then short staccato, then staccatissimo, then ridiculously short blips, keeping tempo the same, keeping air flowing, always barely touching the reed.

Reply To Message
 Re: Stop-tonguing and Light Articulation
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-10-29 08:26

I would say your concept of tonguing is backwards. The only thing the tongue can do is to stop the reed from vibrating. It is the removal of the tongue from the reed that starts the note. David Shifrin draws the analogy of the piano mechanism to clarinet articulation. He says that the tongue is the damper (what drops upon the strings to stop or prevent them from vibrating) and the air is the hammer. What you need to achieve more impactful articulation is not more tongue but more air.

So once you have this in mind, you need to practice this as you would any technique that requires lots of work, you practice...........S-L-O-W-L-Y. Just remember, think moving away from the reed to produce the sound.

Now, if you are considering double tonguing at all, the technique is quite different. You actually are just creating perturbations of the air mostly rather than creating full stops with the tongue (forward part of tongue or back part of tongue). In fact when you are in the clarion or above and playing rather swiftly you may not even feel that you are articulating much at all. However, at a distance (or listening back on a recording) you will hear a more distinct sound.I recommend this tutorial:

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

Reply To Message
 Re: Stop-tonguing and Light Articulation
Author: jonok 
Date:   2019-10-31 04:51

Oh. My. God! :)

How exceptional is that tonguing?

aspiring fanatic

Reply To Message
 Re: Stop-tonguing and Light Articulation
Author: JasonOlney 
Date:   2019-11-05 09:38

My favorite exercise is called "buzzing." Essentially you learn to relax your tongue and be so gentle that you can place your tongue against the reed and still produce a note. It tickles a bit, hence the buzz. You spend the first bit acclimating to the sensation and learning control. Then you set a met to 60 and play Bbs for two beats buzzed and then unbuzzed, keeping you tongue relaxed and near the tip of the reed. This is important to train precision and control. You don't want a harsh attach or release of the buzz, either. Even heavy articulation doesn't actually require much strength, it's all about form and control.

As you get better, I like to imagine the buzz as the 'th' in the word "the." You can actually think of that for most articulating, actually... "thee-thee-thee."

Anyway, my two cents.

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