Multiple Tonguing

In a previous column I discussed single tonguing, using the syllables “t” and “d” to start the note. This article will discuss double and triple tonguing.

When you pronounce the syllable “t” or “d,” the tip of your tongue contacts the roof of your mouth and then pulls back to release the air. This produces a well-defined attack, but there are limits to how many times per second the tongue can strike in this fashion.

To increase tonguing speed, we add a “k” or “g” (as in “girl”) syllable. The back of the tongue produces these syllables. By alternating back-of-the-tongue syllables with tongue-tip syllables, you can increase speed dramatically. (tu-ku-tu-ku / du-gu-du-gu or tu-tu-ku, tu-tu-ku / du-du-gu du-du-gu). Whisper the words “kitty, kitty, kitty” to experience the feeling of double tonguing.

“Du-gu” produces a softer or more legato attack then “tu-ku.” The musical setting as well as the player’s personal style determines which is more appropriate. Raphael Mendez articulates sharply and percussively; Wynton Marsalis’ articulation is softer and smoother.

Matching Sound

The key to effective multiple tonguing is matching the back-of-the-tongue syllables to the tip-of-thetongue syllables. Ideally, they should sound exactly the same. Start slowly, quarter notes followed by quarter rests, alternating syllables (tu-rest-ku-rest). At first the back-of-the-tongue syllables may be harsher and less defined. You may have difficulty getting the vibrations of the lips to speak right away. Some attacks will be completely botched. Don’t dismay; this is normal! Stay on one note initially; when you eventually incorporate changing notes, make sure the valves/slide and tongue are precisely coordinated.

Slow and Steady

Set the metronome at the slowest tempo and increase speed slowly, one or two notches at a time. This may seem counter-intuitive since multiple tonguing is associated with fast playing. But slow, careful practice ultimately yields the quickest improvement.

Even if you have no plans to ever perform “The Carnival of Venice,” developing your multiple tongue leads to an overall feeling of confidence and competence.

About the Author

Chase Sanborn is a jazz trumpet player based in Canada and the author of “Brass Tactics,” “Jazz Tactics,” “Tuning Tactics” and “Music Business Tactics.” He teaches at the University of Toronto and is a Yamaha Artist. Chase has just released his fifth CD, titled “Double Double.” Visit him on the web at www.chasesanborn.com.

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