Tonguing: it is not the speed that counts

Dear Sir:
When I tongue,I usually make an undernoise in the sound, or it is possible to tongue anything fast, or when I can, it does not sound well and is filled with other noises or notes. I get all kinds of advice as to where to place the toungue or where to breather but it seems not to help very much. Can you offer any suggestions?

AE, Southbend
——————————————————————— When a youngster I went through all of the tongue trauma named above and more. The first lesson, all I did was squeak and I vowed that I would not squeak for the next lesson, a vow I kept. Then, I was able to imitate my teacher and to be able or gifted, who knows ,to make a beautiful sound , and then I went on to tonguing with which I was terribly successful and was playing solo clarinet in our band, and then playing the Concertino 14 times in my senior year, and two years into playing the clarinet.But….soon after I found that I was tonguing incorrectly, from only the roof of my mouth, my tongue never touching the reed.
This was disaster,for I had to learn to tongue correctly and this is gruesome if you’ve achieved status in your high school band. Every tonguing sounded hideous to me and it was a lengthy process.
In all of this, I have learned some great lessons about playing and about tonguing.
One has to always go from the sound, which yes, had lead me down the wrong path at first, but the sound of the tongue is most important, for it simply must be musical and have the correct impact. I remember my first teacher and the way he played staccato which was nothing short of gorgeous, and always musical.
So in conclusion, I must suggest that one never forget the sound of the staccato, and always forget the speed. Please, although it seems so, speed is not important in this aspect of the clarinet technic. Correctness and musciallity is.
This same teacher used to play “the Young Prince and Princess” from Scherherazade, the clarinet solo and the way he played it was hypnotic.
I still play that little solo when testing reeds and my mind always goes back more than 60 years to those first lessons. So does my ear.
Good luck in your work. And work slowly, always listening.
Field and Track, Football and Bowling are athletic events, tonguing is a part of the discipline of playing the clarinet, the main feature and “raison d’etre” being music. I guess it is part of being young, asking oneself how fast one can tongue, and being bothered about a lack of speed, however if we stay within the realm of music, it really becomes the particular passage of articulation, certainly the tempo and even where within the range of the instrument articulation becomes difficult, speed never being the issue.
It is and has always been the beauty of the way a person articulates that draws the most attention from other players and it is the control of the articulation which impresses the conductors at auditions.

Sherman Friedland


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