The word articulation can be a mouth-full of a word let alone understand what it really means to do. For beginner instrumentalists, the concept of articulation is sometimes something that doesn’t really become known until many months of in home music lessons in Houston if not years down the road.
The Tongue Is Important For Music
Did you know that your tongue is made up of many groups of muscles that run in different directions to carry out all of the tongue’s jobs? Each section has a specific purpose! The front is very flexible and can move around a lot, helping the teeth create different types of words. This part also helps you eat. The back of your tongue helps you make certain sounds like “K” and hard “g” (like in the word “go). When doing simple articulations with instruments or during private voice lessons in Houston, we use the front of our tongue. When we do more complex tonguing patterns such as double or triple tonguing, we use both the front and back. Just like any muscle in our body, our tongue requires strength exercises to keep up with what we are trying to play!
Try this- say the word “ta”. Now think about where your tongue touched the roof of your mouth. Did you find it touching where your teeth meet your gums? If so, that will work for most all instruments except for those with a reed. Reed instruments include clarinet, oboe, saxophone, bassoon, and other forms of those same instruments (tenor sax, English horn, etc.)you use during online music lessons with your private flute teacher. Tonguing with a reed can be much more complicated.
Reed Instruments And Articulations
If you play a reed instrument, you can still practice tonguing using the word “ta”, but apply that same motion and feeling to the tip of the reed. I like to think of it in terms of taste buds. Think about how many taste buds you have on your tongue… any guess? Try MILLIONS! Now, to get the perfect articulation, try isolating only 5. (yes, of course this is impossible to only get 5 tiny buds grouped together, but the visualization will do the trick). The main thing to remember when saying “ta” is that your tongue touches your gums (or reed) and pulls right back. A common mistake is when someone says “tut”. This type of articulations causes a harsh sound and stops your air from flowing.
Here are some great visual references with how different articulations should sound (or look):
When you start each note, it is important that you pull your tongue back and continue your air to proper dictate each marking. This article by Richard Williams and Jeff King explains each marking in full detail.
Here are more examples with the notes getting progressively faster:
With the sixteenth notes picutred above, the sound is most always tenuto, or full. Your tongue should quickly touch the reed or gums and move as fast as possible. It is possible, however, to get a “lifted” sound by pulsing or darting the air on each attack.
Practice Is Essential
In order to practice articulation and get your tongue moving properly, there are many good exercises to try. This can be used for any instrument on different notes as well as voice or percussion instruments!
Here are some goals to follow while playing the exercise:
- tongue each note in the same place on the reed or mouth
- maintain a consistent air stream with each style, try not breathing between lifted notes!
- make sure your embouchure does not move while articulating
- try to produce a good tone quality for every note, not allowing different articulations or rhythms to affect the sound.
- articulate at the same time with the same strength (doing this many times will help build your tongue muscle)
- listen for your attacks and releases- they should all sound the same!
- listen for balance during each sustain- this is most important when playing with an ensemble.
The article previously mentioned also gives more detail on what each marking dictates.
Working on articulation and tonguing is very important to be able to play any instrument well. Thinking about these concepts helps us realize that there is much more to playing than we think! Do you need some extra help with ideas or ways to practice? Sign up for in-home flute lessons and let a teacher help you! Contact us today.