“Nice rapid light tonguing”

Dear Sherman,

I have become a huge fan of you and the work you do to help others. Now, I need help. I am a mature saxophone player converted to clarinet recently. I play in the local University Shmphonic Concert
Band. This semester, we are doing Barber of Seville which has uncovered a large problem for me. I can not tongue/articulate the parts at tempo. My tounging is clumsy – heavy and slow.
Could you suggest an approach to develop a nice light rapid tounging? I realize the handicap you’re
at without hearing/seeing me play, but my description is accurate when I say heavy and slow.

Thank You,
H B
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Hi:
Thank you for writing in and for the comments.
A “nice light and rapid tonguing” is much easier to say than to develop.
Here are some tips which will help.
First, remember that the word staccato meanis separated, not short… and many people, when they see the dot take it literally and cut the note off. What is implied is the opposite. In order to achieve lightness and rapidity, try the following:
1. Practice the part with the best and smoothest and most connected legato you can muster. If the notes are repeated triplets, practice them legato,as a matter of real fact, it is good to practice with the opposite articulation.
The most support is necessary when you are using your tongue, really, and the least amount of the tongue is used to make the articulation, ind the lighter it is the better it is.
Do not use too much tongue on the reed, rather the smallest amount that you can rather than the most.
If the whole section is playing the same passage, then try not playing all of it, or tonguing all of it, but just go to get the contours of the line, and add the articulation gradually. It will not be noticed as long as you stay with the others in the section.
Do not play loudly, but instead use the support to keep the tongue moving. Loud always equals slow, lethargic. The clarinet in the concert band situation is too loud to begin with.
Think of melting in to the rest of the section, not sticking out. Play, play softer and listen to the others as much as is possible.
All of these things take time to understand and then to put into the clarinet, but they will without a doubt result in that rapid light tonguing of whish you speak.
Hope this helps.
best regards, Sherman Friedland

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