Triple and Double Tonguing
Triple and double tonguing are really useful skills to develop and can help you to play faster music with greater clarity and accuracy. As with all new skills there are good ways, and possibly not so good ways, to go about learning them.
Triple and double tonguing was something that I used to struggle with. I was introduced to it when I got to about Grade 5 standard on the cornet when I was about 13 years old. I didn’t really understand the point of it at the time and I didn’t grasp how the tongue needed to move to make the different sound. I could quite easily single tongue fairly fast so never really pursued it, much to the annoyance of my teacher.
A while later, after starting to study the tuba at university it became apparent that this skill I had avoided was really quite useful. I set about trying to work out a fail-safe way of approaching the technique and making sure I went about it in a way where I knew the learning would be ingrained and secure.
This is the real key point behind developing this well. Take your time with it, embed the skills and allow your muscles to work out what it is they need to do to produce the correct sound.
Remember: It is far better to start slowly, learn the technique well and to take your time.
There are many different ways of approaching this and the way I would suggest is to start with triple tonguing first. It is easier to learn a pattern for 3 and then take away 1 of the syllables to give you the double-tonguing pattern.
High brass players can follow this advice and it will produce brilliant results, but low brass players will need to adapt the sound that they use to ensure that the result is not heavily accented, or thin in sound. It is important to allow the sound you make to be your guide. Always remember that you need to aim to produce a good, even sound in all registers, and this may require the use of different vowel sounds in different registers.
The pattern I recommend, and the one I believe gives the most even response is:
TUH TUH KUH
The TUH is produced in the normal way that you would expect to single tongue a note. The tongue should go behind the top of your front teeth for the consonant sound and then rest down flat inside your mouth to allow the air to move freely.
The KUH sound is achieved in a different way, but should still create a clean, even and controlled start to the note. When you say the word KUH, notice where your tongue moves. You will feel it moving more toward the back of your tongue. After the initial consonant sound, your tongue should lie down flat inside your mouth to allow the air to pass freely.
Triple tonguing is the repetition of these three sounds:
TUH, TUH, KUH, TUH, TUH, KUH, TUH, TUH, KUH, TUH, TUH, KUH
The really important thing to remember with this is that eventually you want an even pattern and good tone quality to be produced at speed. However the best way to make this work is to try it out slowly. Build up muscle memory before trying to get the muscles to work quickly.
- Say TUH TUH KUH individually and think about tongue placement
- Does your tongue always fall flat to the bottom of your mouth?
- Does the TUH sound happen behind your top front teeth?
- Does the KUH sound feel as though it happens toward the back of the tongue?
- Keep supporting this with air (As Arnold Jacobs would say: Wind = Song)
- Practice TUH TUH KUH at about 60bpm. This means each of the three syllables occur in one second.
- Do this without an instrument for about a couple of weeks. Don’t go any faster, keep it really steady.
- Practice this with your instrument with a real focus on sound quality.
- Does the KUH sound work as well as the TUH sound?
- Keep the speed slow (60bpm) and focus on quality – not speed and work on this for about a couple of weeks.
- Following this, increase the tempo by 5 beats per minute week by week whilst practicing without and with the instrument.
- To make this work it is important to practice this skill every day.
- As you become proficient, you may want to try and increase the speed by trying to go as fast as possible with good accuracy and sound.
After 6 months or so, you will find that you can triple tongue with accuracy, good quality sound and your technique will be secure. If you take the time and work on this slowly you will find that you have built up a solid technique.
Good luck and let me know if you have found this useful, or if you have found any problems. Double tonguing will be covered in a future blog!