How Can I Double Tongue?

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Reproduced by permission from : - THE CLARINET AND CLARINET PLAYING pps. 96- 105, © David Pino. Sorry that the musical notation is left out!

A new edition of this book is now available, so the page numbers may be off when compared to the new version.


I have discovered through experience that the double tonguing part of the technique is not only easier than the triple tonguing, but it is also more useful. I use triple tonguing wherever it is appropriate, of course, but double tonguing is needed more often. For this reason, if you have much greater difficulty with the triple tonguing, you should forget all about it until you have practiced on-the-reed double tonguing for quite some time. Let several months pass, if necessary, between learning double and triple tonging. For some clarinetists, of course, triple tonguing will present no more problems than double tonguing.

Finally, if you have terrible difficulties coordinating the tonguing technique with your moving fingers, the cause of the trouble will be, almost invariably, the tongue's moving far too quickly! It is your tongue that is ahead, not your fingers that are behind. Remember that you have literaly doubled the effective speed of your tongue tip. You must remind yourself that you have become capable of tremendously fast tongue speeds, while the tongue itself should feel lazy, relaxed, and slow. I had one student whose only difficulty with double tonguing, from the very first day he tried it, was to slow it down enough so that his speed could be measured on a metronome! After several minutes of experimentation he finally slowed it down enough that, while he held a long open G, I "clocked" his double tonguing tempo at four beautifully tongued notes per beat at a metronome marking of 160.

On-the-reed multiple tonguing, as I have described it, continues to please me very much. I have now used it for several years and I have taught it successfully to players who have been interested in learning it. I spent most of one summer gaining a command of the technique, and during that time I never let it take up too much of my practice time at any one sitting. During the following fall, I felt confident enough to use on-the-reed double tonguing during one of my solo clarinet recitals. My naturally slow tongue need never be a problem again, and that is gratifying!



PART1: The Introduction to the Technique

Record the metronome markings at which you can single-tongue repeated open Gs both four to a beat and three to a beat.

Momentarily putting the clarinet aside, simply sit in a good playing position and say the words "Tuttle-uttle-uttle-uttle" (etc.) making sure that the tongue remains low, relaxed, and wide across the middle; not pointed.

Take up the clarinet and single-tongue a few repetitions of open G again, this time at only a medium tempo. This is just to become reacquainted with the reed, and to relax the tongue. Begin a fairly long open G with a regular single-tongued stroke, taking care to pronounce it "Tuh" as in the first syllable of the word "Tuttle." Do this a few times, totally relaxing the tongue during each held tone.

Begin another open G with "Tuh" but this time finish the word "Tuttle" by returning the tongue to the reed after "Tuh" in the manner of "tle." This second stroke should carry the tip of the tongue up past the tip of the reed to the roof of the mouth, and it should leave the middle of the tongue relaxed and broad across the bottom of the mouth.

Staying relaxed, return the tip of the tongue to its resting position b y passing it downward over the tip of the reed, pronouncing the s yllable "Uh."

The tongue is now ready for another upward stroke, as in pronouncing a nother "tle," and to be brushed past the reed tip again on its way t owards the roof of the mouth. Now another downward stroke, brushing past the reed tip again, to r eturn to the resting position in the bottom of the mouth. Repeat this whole process, quicker but still without extreme speed; in o ther words, do a very relaxed, smooth, and even "Tuttle-uttle-Uh." The last syllable could also be "Ah" if desired. Remove the reed and mouthpiece from the mouth and say again, " Tuttle-uttle-uttle-uttle" (etc.). Replace the clarinet into the embouchure and do it again on the open G, this time adding another stroke: "Tuttle-uttle-uttle-uttle-Uh." Stay relaxed throughout, aim for evenness. Keep practicing this on open G until the double tonguing begins to sound like very fast single tonguing, very smooth, even, and homogeneous. The tongue need not move quickly to achieve this similarity.

At this point you should stop practicing this technique. It is very important to let the tongue rest now. Normal practicing, using only the usual single tonguing technique, may be resumed. Follow this procedure again later at other practice sessions, still using open G only, until you are satisfied that the effect is a good one, and that the up-and-down strokes sound identical to a listener.

After you are satisfied with the effect, record the metronome marking at which you can tongue four open Gs to the beat by using this form of double tonguing. Compare this with your fastest tempo for single tonguing four notes to the beat. (Triple tonguing comes later.)


PART II: The Development of Double Tonguing

Extend the procedure (a tong tone followed by "Tuttl-uttle-tuttle-uttle-Uh," etc.) from open G to thumb F, low C, low F, thumb F again, top-line F, fourth-space E, throat E, low E, low F again, low C again, and finally thumb F again.

After doing that exercise on thumb F, do the following also on that note: Tuh-tuttle-uttle-uttle-Uh" in the rhythm of: (music). Repeat the foregoing exercise, and then slur this passage: (music)

Now, using the double-tonguing technique, play the following exercise: (music)

The next step is to repeat the last exercise, this time tonguing every note in all four measures rather than slurring the last two. In this manner, double tonguing has been accomplished while rapidly changing pitches. Now do the following two four-measure exercises (first, the one containing a slurred scale; second, the same one played all tongued) up a whole step, thus transposing them from F major to G major: (music)

Transpose all eight measures (the two exercises together have become one longer one) down to E pure minor in the lowest octave of the clarinet's range. Now transpose the eight-measure exercise back to F major, then to G major, and then to E minor again. A rest for the tongue should occur here; put off further practice of the technique until another occasion.

The next transposition of the eight-measure exercise is to G major in the second octave. In other words, play the exercise as it is printed above, in the key of G, but take it up an octave. When satisfied with that, next do it in F major down a whole step, so that its range begins on top-line F and ends on thumb F.

The next step is to transpose the same exercise into any or all descending one-octave major or minor scales, but avoid the range above G on top of the staff. Do this until crossing the "break" downward is satisfactory.

Having become satisfied with your execution of one-octave descending major and minor scales over the "break," double-tongue the following exercise. In syllables this exercise would be pronounced "Tuh-tuttle-uttle-uttle-Uh, tuttle-uttle-uttle-Uh." (Again, the last syllable could be "Ah" if that seems more natural.)

Double-tongue this last exercise as slowly as possible and as fast as possible. Rest from this by throwing in an occasional run-through at a medium, comfortable tempo.

Transpose it now up a step to G major, and then to G minor at the same pitch. For variety, do all three forms of G minor. Now transpose it up an octave to G minor beginning on the G on top of the staff. In this manner you encounter double tonguing over the "break" ascending. (Do not try that particular octave yet in G major.) Now rest the Tongue.

When rested, or at a later practice session, transpose that exercise down a step to F major (not F minor yet). Make that work satisfactorily by employing the same over-the-break principles you have always used: Keep the fingers relaxed, the air flowing smoothly, and use as little finger movement as possible. It will probably help to put the right hand down when ascending from B-flat to C-natural at the "break."

Next, go back to the G scale up a step again, this time playing it in major. Now the "break" will occur between A-natural and B-natural. Employ the same principles of smoothness and relaxation. After this can be done to good effect, transpose the same exercise to any and all major and minor scales for one octave, using the range again from low E up to no higher than G on top of the staff.

Continue exactly the same thing, but now extend the range of the scale exercise higher, going no higher than high C-natural. Now the exercise must be reversed.

Take this new exercise up one octave.

Now take it up another octave, which which will extend your double-tonguing range to high F. Now up one step to G major, which extends the double-tonguing range to high G.

Next, practice two- and three-octave major and minor scales, four notes to the beat, all over the range of the clarinet. Begin each new octave of the scales with this rhythm: (music)

Double tonguing has now been accomplished over the entire range of the instrument, since it will be quite easy now to extend it even beyond high G. You are now ready for the printed page.

Obtain a copy of Reginald Kell's "Seventeen Staccato Studies" (International Music Company) and look at the first study. Disregard the words at the top of the page, which are directed toward single tonguing only.

The entire study reiterates the "eighth-and-two-sixteenths" rhythmic pattern. Practice the study first all slurred to become completely familiar with the notes.

Next, at a comfortable tempo, practice the piece using the usual single tonguing. Do not bother to make much, if anything, of the dynamics in order to concentrate on smoothly flowing air. When you are thoroughly familiar with the piece, completely disregard the dynamics this time, and apply double tonguing to it in this manner: "Tuh-tuttle-Uh-tuttle-Uh," and so on. Maintain a good forte volume throughout.

If you feel musically and technically ready, you could try playing the piece observing the dynamics now; however, it will be absolutely necessary to use continuous breath support as well as concentrated tongue control. Dynamic variation, executed simultaneously with double tonguing, will become easier to achieve later on.


PART III: How to Practice Double Tonguing

On-the-reed double tonguing should now be established. Proceed with the Kell Study No. 2, one beat to the measure, after practicing it first slurred and then single-tongued, just as you prepared No.1 earlier.

Systematic practice should proceed essentially as follows: First, with a metronome, find a comfortable tempo at which you can double-tongue four notes to a beat, and do the following exercise at that tempo, using the metronome: (music)

Now set the metronome only one notch faster, and do the exercise again. Continue setting the metronome one notch faster and repeating the exercise until you cannot double-tongue any faster on that exercise. Now set the metronome one notch slower and repeat the exercise.

Continue setting the metronome one notch slower and repeating the exercise. Soon you will be back to your starting point on the metronome, but continue setting it one notch slower and repeating the exercise until your double tonguing cannot be slowed down anymore. By following this procedure you will greatly extend the tempo range of your double tonguing.

Also extend your new double tonguing to the solo literature for clarinet. Try tonguing the long sixteenth-note passages in the fast movements of the Mozart Concerto and in the various solo pieces of Weber, for example.

When this sort of thing happens in music: (music) you must put the tongue "in gear" by single-tonguing the first note (E) and beginning the "Tuttles" on the next notes (F and G). In addition to using the clarinet's solo literature, applying double tonguing to other music will be profitable. Use more of the Kell studies, other studies, and ensemble music.

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