Dire problem with tonguing

Sent: Sunday, February 25, 2007 8:55 PM
Subject: Tounging frustration

My name is R P II and am a sophmore in high school. I was just recently informed that I tounge totally wrong. Instead of using my tounge I use shorter bursts of breath to make articulation on notes. Even though I have progressed very well throughout my years and have had a soft, round tone; I cannot shake knowing that I am doing something that is so fundamental, completely incorrectly. My teacher has been over the proper technique many times but I still am not doing it correctly. This frustrates me to no end because, try as I might, I am always clipping the notes in front of the not that I am trying to articulate. Of course this sound awful in a piece of music. Could you please give me some insight as to how I can break the “breath-tounging” technique and move onto the proper way of articulating?

The word means detached, not short. So conceptually, the idea must be not specifically technical, but musical, from the aspect of the sound. Every mouth is different as are teeth, lips and tongue. Stay on the side of the sound itself. Work from that aspect, for not only will it work for everyone, it will also make the student concentrate fully on exactly what is coming from the instrument.
1.Then start in the low register with articulation, for it is much easier, much more direct.
2.Always go very slowly, and keep the sound in mind. The tongue can be in a dozen different position depending upon your use of the language and the particular set of the student’s embouchure. This takes work and concentration, but almost always works:
3. take a note that is well liked, (usually because it always comes out well).
4.Place the tongue, the smallest amount possible at what is considered the tip of the reed and allow a bit of air to escape into the instrument (you will hear the air escaping).
5.Maintain the support you will need to play and remove more of the tongue until (usually suddenly), the sound will come. Basically, and in slow motion, this is correct clarinet articulation.
6.This should be repeated, but not so many times so that the student either loses concentration or her sound begins to suffer. One or two low notes at a time is fine until the teacher is sure the concept is correct. Keep the ratio of staccato practicing well below that of sound, five or ten minutes at a practice session is just fine.

When I was a beginning student, I progressed very quickly, mostly I think (now) because I imitated my teacher. But I did NOT place my tongue against the reed, for it sounded terrible, so I avoided it completely, and progressed very rapidly. It took me a year or two before I dared (after knowing I was playing incorrectly) to try correct playing. It was awful, but only for a little while. Remember, articulation comes last with the development of the young player, and if you practice your weaker aspect slowly, really slowly, it will become your strongest. I hope that this is a help. It has worked over and over again with literally hundreds of young students.
Sherman Friedland


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