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As I frequently tell students, the tongue is used to start a note, rarely, if ever to end a note. So if there is a distinct “T” sound on the release, you are going to have some really nasty sounding note endings. Not to mention big problems single tonguing any faster than moderately slow. All that tongue noise from the tongue flailing around in your mouth isn’t tone. Or as my teacher Tom Nyfenger was wont to say, “Tonguing is the anti-tone”. Related to the tongue stop is the jaw drop release, which will slow you down even further. In both cases, you will get a distinctive popping sound on the release.

If you hear a popping sound on the release, the first thing to determine is how the popping sound is being produced. It’s either going to be because of a “tut” style of tonguing or by dropping the jaw to end the sound. If you discover any other methods of creating this kind of release, please let me know. How are you going to address and correct this habit with your students? The fastest way is to have them do some kind of articulation exercise without tonguing! I use Reichert Seven Daily Exercises #2 (available on IMSLP), but any kind of scale or arpeggio exercise can be used. Start on an easy key like F, rather than a key that goes really low on the flute like D. Play each note with a forceful puff of air without the tongue. Keep the embouchure in position without opening the aperture after every note. If you observe a chewing type motion with the jaw, the student is involving more resources than are necessary. The less motion the better. Direct the students to think of still/poised rather than rigid. Have the students work on placing the air precisely for best tone on each note without the tongue. Learning to do this takes some practice and determination, because it requires real precision of placement for the best sound in every part of the flute. When you reintroduce the tongue, make sure the tongue is only involved in starting the note, not ending it. Also be sure to continue having the strong puff of air with good placement behind the tonguing. There are many additional ways you can vary up the exercise with different rhythmic patterns in all keys. Here’s a link to a video I did on various ways to practice good placement and tonguing.

As always, if you find these entries useful, please subscribe, share with your colleagues and come back regularly. Feel free to comment. If you have a topic you would like to see explored more fully, you can contact me via IM/Messenger on Facebook or email me at dr_cate@sbcglobal.net. For information about clinics, workshops and performances, click here.