How Can I Fix My Tonguing?

Aftersix years of playing I think I might be tonguing incorrectly. Insteadof using the tip of my tongue against the reed I am tucking the tipof my tongue under my lower lip and using the middle of my tongue to touch the reed. I think this is what is causing me problems withfast passages. How can I change? Also I wondered how much practiceyou think I should do. I am 14 and I am about grade 8 and I wantto be a professional.

What aninteresting question, with an interesting way of stating the question.There is a partial answer in your own question:

The tongue,that thing in your mouth: when you feel your teeth with it, they feellike huge affairs, the pillars of a temple or something.Itis so very sensitive.

One generallyhears the words for articulating on the clarinet: “Put the tip of the tongue on the tip of the reed”. But how can onetell where the tip is? When you try to find it, you can’t, for theend of the tongue can only be made so small and certainly not into a tip, a tiny point. Try it in front of a mirror and you will see for yourself.
I have learned to tell my students, and incidentally almost all studentshave difficulty developing a lovely staccato (it comes last in thedevelopment, remember that) “Use the smallest amount of tongue on the smallestamount of reed”. And the most important thing. In order to tongueproperly, one must support the tongue and the sound, for the tongue stopsand starts the sound when you articulate and that always takes MORE supportthan one would think.

Keep yourjaw pointed down, and keep it absolutely still when articulating. Havea mirror on the stand. If you see any jaw movement, remove it,for when the jaw moves down while tonguing it opens the mouthand lowersthe pitch ever so slightly. The sound not good, and there’s much lesscontrol than you need.

Finally,never practise fast articulation. Always practise it very slowly,and first practise it legato. That is right – smoothand connected. Whenfinally it is perfect and ready to “rock and roll” thesound should be the same as if your were slurring. Why should itbe different?Because it is much harder to stop and start the sound rather thanto play continuously, right? It is, but the audience and the conductordo NOT care. They just want beautiful music, beautifully and correctlyarticulated.

There areother articles in my clarinet corner that are pertinent to articulation. Look at them; they may be of help.


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