Thursday, January 12, 2006

NAF Playing Tip #6: Tonguing

The first technique to control the attack of the note is called tonguing, because you will use your tongue to interfere with and control the air going through your mouth and into the flute. There are a variety of ways to use your tongue to control the airflow through your mouth, and this is one of the most basic ornamentation techniques. Experimentation is best teacher, so find an isolated spot to practice this technique.

To visualize how your tongue controls the airflow through your mouth as you speak, say the words: “Tu” or “Du” or “Ku”. Put you hand in front of your mouth, do you feel the air stopping briefly and then continuing as you say these words? Now say the word: “Tu-Tu” or “Tu-Tu-Tu”. Continue by trying to say “Tu” into your hand repeatedly as many times as you can in one breath.
NOTE: The most difficult note to blow with the tonguing technique is the lowest note on the flute (position 1, the fundamental note). This is because the fundamental note is most sensitive to overblowing (see Overblowing below). It is recommended that you initially try this technique on one of the notes higher on the flute (e.g. position4 with only the top three holes covered).

Controlling the Attack: A Soft Attack and a Hard Attack

The key to controlling the attack is in understanding what happens at the start of the abrupt airflow stoppage by your tongue while saying “Tu” or “Du”. The word “Du” is an example of a softer attack, while the word “Tu” is an example of a harder attack. You can verify this by saying “Du” alternatively with “Tu” into your hand held in front of your mouth. Try it into your flute. Do you hear the difference between “Tu” and “Du”?


Double-Tonguing is simply a technique where you quickly say “Tu-Tu”, “Du-Du”, or “Tu-Du” into your flute. In reality this produces a quick succession of two notes. Don’t forget that you can sustain the second note for a longer period of time.


Triple-Tonguing extends the idea of several quick notes, and is performed by saying “Tu-Tu-Tu”, “Du-Du-Du” or “Tu-Ku-Du” into the flute.

Creative Commons License

This Playing Tip is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

No comments: