HBM – Articulation

Reasons we tongue:  repeated notes, clean start, phrasing sounds different than slur (communicates a different emotion)

Critical!!!  Tape recording with attacks and releases cut off

Read Edward Kleinhammer The Art of Trombone Playing (also for breathing)

Tongue is very complex:
Inner and outer muscles control it

It can only be controlled by speech

Tongue placement is not the same for everyone:  depends on tongue size and shape, yet we can all speak clearly

What you think happens is TOTALLY wrong – fluoroscope studies

Joseph Meidt XRAY-Movies of Trumpet and Horn player –

(MRI) Chamber Music with Sarah Willis –

Goal:  clarity of expression and consistency within a given context – equivalent to diction
     (not true in the Baroque:  ta-ra-li-ra, tonguing inegale)

Go for the sound you want, not the process

Two main consonants:  T and D (K used in multiple tonguing) – begins the note

T = sharp (tongue moves fast, air hits hard);
     Sharp T:  Bernie Adelstein (Cleveland Orchestra); policeman carries parking
           tickets, billy club, pistol – use at the appropriate time

D = soft (tongues moves slower, allowing air to start slower); only trombonists need
           to develop an inaudible D tongue; otherwise, slur it!

Farkas – if lips and air are right, even “z” will work

Two main vowels:  Ah, Oh – form the tone
Ah and Oh keep the tongue lower; EE raises the tongue and makes the sound smaller; advocated by some for high range

Should not be between the teeth (except, some use this for low notes)

Jaw should not move – indicates tongue between teeth or lack of air


Don’t let students misread slurs, unless you’re close to the performance

Many times a person is so wrapped up in thinking about the tongue that they forget to blow – – the tongue stiffens without air; too much tongue is usually lack of air

Ideal teaching:

  1. Teach without tongue – air, long tone    
  2. Oh, tu:  say, whisper, blow, play – still on long tones
  3. Learn to slur
  4. Tongue first 1st note of slur, beginnings of groups; no clipping – not piano!
    stay with same pattern for a time to let the body learn; integrate into the same exercise
  5. Define fast vs. slow staccato
  6. Learn to play fast staccato;  radial arm saw; the illusion of staccato
  7. Mixture of two
  8. Learn to play separated:  slow staccato = most sophisticated concept

Three meanings of staccato – short, separated, sharp

Class #6 – Tonguing Teaching Aids

ADSR Pattern

Articulation Teaching aids

Need many different teaching tools:  every student is different, and the same kid may be different on different days

Keep corners firm, especially in low range

Illusion of staccato – long air through fast tonguing

Practice without the tongue – emphasizes that the air makes the sound; the tongue simply insures a clean start; start with lips together and blow them apart

Farkas:  the tongue cuts up long tones into shorter ones – to demonstrate blow a long stream of air and move hand across air – garden hose with sprinkler, single and multiple tongue

Think of releasing notes, not attacking them – “attack” comes from science:  ADSR = attack, decay, sustain, release; attack implies violence; now called “front”

Think of tonguing a dot, keeps tongue light and free

Emphasize vowel, not consonant –keeps tongue relaxed; consonant stiffens the tongue

Five meanings of staccato and staccato mark:  1. short, 2. separated/spaced, 3. sharp or pointed, 4. light, 5. reminder to tongue the notes; busy teacher says “short”

Short notes should be just as full as long notes – the tendency is to use less sound and tongue harder; play long tone, then play just the 1st part for short notes

100-watt light bulb machine

Slow motion = long (Chariots of Fire); sounds wrong, but gets better as tempo speeds up

Bad Habits:

Do Not use the tongue to stop the tone (pitch falls) – very unmusical, simply stop blowing

Do Not swell after the attack

Multiple and flutter tongue – later

Trombone – two schools of thought:

Tongue everything

Use the natural slurs when possible