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The following ideas will help you to develop good tonguing:
  • Tonguing is closely linked with breath support. Good breath support will allow you to develop quick, light tonguing.
  • In general, the tongue is used to start the tone but not to stop it. The tone is stopped by stopping the flow of air.
  • To prepare for the initial tone, rest the tongue against the back of your top teeth and bring the supported air up to the tongue. To start the tone, release the tongue at the same instant that you blow the air into the flute.
  • For notes after the starting tone, the motion of tonguing is the same motion as used when saying the syllable "too".
  • For softer attacks, the syllable "doo" may be used.
  • For quicker tonguing, think of bouncing the tongue.
  • Think of the tongue interrupting the tone, but with the flow of air continuing.
  • Work to minimize movement when tonguing. You want to disrupt the embouchure as little as possible.
  • In practicing tonguing, aim for consistency. Being able to repeat the same tongue motion will allow you to refine the motion and tongue more cleanly.

Tonguing Exercises

These exercises will develop tonguing coordination. A page with exercises specifically for double- and triple-tonguing is on the way.
  • To get the feel for ending the tone with your breath and not your tongue, practice singing a sustained note and ending the note by stopping the air. The air is stopped at the stomach, not by closing the throat. Repeat this exercise with the flute, keeping the same feeling at the end of the note.
  • Beginning at the middle of the flute, practice starting notes:
    • Rest the tongue on your teeth as described above.
    • Bring the supported air to just behind the tongue.
    • Release the tongue.
    • By practicing this, you will learn to start the note without an explosive attack (releasing the tongue too late) and without a breathy start (releasing the tongue too soon).
    • Repeat this exercise, moving to the upper and lower ranges of the instrument.
  • For agility, practice scale passages, varying the articulation. For example, for an eighth-note pattern:
    • Tongue all notes
    • Slur in groups of four
    • Slur two, tongue two / Tongue two, slur two
    • Slur three, tongue one / Tongue one, slur three
    • Tongue the note on the upbeat, slur on the downbeat
  • To develop agility in the tongue muscle:
    • Practice tongue-twisters, especially ones using the consonants "t" and "d". (Tie twine to three tree twigs. More Here.)
    • Practice reading aloud. This exercises your articulation as well as your expressiveness.

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©2014 Brad Johnson
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