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Single articulation speed

Alternate Fingerings, Scales, Tone, Studies, etc.

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Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2019 1:06 pm

Single articulation speed

Postby fluteapples » Fri Feb 15, 2019 1:26 pm

Hello - I am an adult who picked the flute back up after playing in school. I've been back at if for 8 months and in that time, read Jennifer Cluff's wonderful blog to learn to turn in my headjoint (oh the years of tone-finding pain that would have saved me), and that apparently I spent those years doing "french tonguing". Who knew. That explains why when I worked on single tonguing with a private teacher she would always say to use "less" tongue, and why double tonguing never worked for me. I was tonguing in the wrong spot!

I spent a month going through my first "learn to play the flute" book to practice tonging in the correct spot behind the teeth. Then I went through some old easy etudes to practice tonging and the new mouth position, especially for bigger changes like jumping octaves. Then I worked on the RCM Level 4 curriculum (which is right at my current level; back in the day I think I was around RCM level 5 based on the book). In doing so, I found my tonging needed practice to speed up. I also own Trevor Wye's Ominbus, so used his single tonguing exercises. I got up to 108 and found a few tweaks to my embouchure to clear it up and make it more effortless. That solved the RCM Level 4 book. But I'm starting in on Level 5, and find that I can do the Trevor Wye exercise at 108, but playing a whole song at that speed seems impossible.

I'm guessing the first response will be to practice - I've gotten my tonguing speed from 88 to 108 in 2 months from work, and now for the last 3 weeks have been sitting stuck at 108 (doing the Trevor Wye exercise). I can single tongue sixteenths at 120 if it is just one single note and only for 1 beat (the next exercise in the book). I've seen people on here post that they try to get to sixteenths at 120 bpm before changing over to double tonguing. Should I just continue to have faith that at some point I will get past this plateau? Working on tonguing for 3 7-minute spurts a day is getting really old with no progress being made, and it's only been 3 weeks! How fast do you all tongue?

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Joined: Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:29 pm

Re: Single articulation speed

Postby Nodda » Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:17 pm

You will overcome this plateau! It takes time and variety of tonguing work.

My single tonguing speed is about 120 bpm/sixteenths for long passages, and my max is maybe 132; my present goal is 144, so I understand.

I've found what works best for me is playing fast articulated sonatas. I have a book of "12 Sonatas" by Johann Mattheson that I like to play, and they range in speed from very slow to very fast.

Rather than learning one entire sonata, I can jump around from movement to movement, progressively increasing speed. Several movements are the same speeds, and so in the time it takes me to learn two movements of two sonatas at, say 112, my tongue speed will improve immensely and by the time I've mastered them, I'm ready to move on to 116. Playing sonata's like this forces me to practice rapidly tonguing intervals, too, instead of just one note (equally good for the embouchure if you focus on clear tone on each note).

Sonata's are also effective because even if a movement is straight 16th's start to end, there is usually variety of articulation (tongue 12 notes, slur 4; tongue 4, slur 2; etc), and breaking it up like that gives the tongue a chance to recoup so it's easier to make it through an entire movement without slowing down.

I'd suggest even starting with pieces that are slower than your present cap. Learning to play an entire sonata movement tonguing 16's at 96 bpm will increase your max tongue speed too.

3 weeks isn't really a very long time to develop a muscle like this. It's taken me 11 months to increase my consistent speed from 16ths at 100 bpm to 120 bpm. But I also find that after I learn a piece, if I take a month away from focusing on my tongue and work on something else, when I come back to my tongue the muscle has had time to rebuild itself stronger and I can tongue faster even if I haven't practiced tonguing for a month. Keep in mind that the tongue is a muscle and needs time to rest and rebuild.

JS Bach, CPE Bach, Mattheson, Handel, Telemann, Quantz, Vivaldi all have good sonatas and concertos and fantaisies and suites to practice this way. You can probably find a bunch of them on imslp for free.

Hope this helps!

Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2019 1:06 pm

Re: Single articulation speed

Postby fluteapples » Sun Apr 07, 2019 4:22 pm

Thank you Nodda! I read your post back when you made it, and it has helped with my motivation. Since hitting 108 bpm back in mid-February, I have kept up my 10 minutes a day of single articulation practice, and now I'm up to 115 or so. Woo! I'm hitting plateaus more often now, and they last a little longer, but usually after 5 or 6 days I can see some sort of improvement. I've gotten a lot better since February - I now warm up my articulation exercise at 110 and speed it up in 2's, then 1's from there. So now I can start cold at a faster speed than I had been stuck at :)

And I totally agree with your excellent point on playing longer pieces at slightly slower tempo. The first few pieces in the RCM Level 5 book are heavy on articulation, and the tempo listed is 100-108, so I got them up to 104 and played each for almost a week at that speed. That greatly strengthened my tongue - mixing in the slurs helped break it up, but nearly 2-3 mins of quick single tonguing did wonders.

Thanks for sharing that it took you about 11 months to go from 100 to 120 bpm. I'm now closing in on 4 months, and it will probably be at least another month until I can regularly get up to 120, and it will probably be several more until I'm comfortable enough with it to play a piece near that speed without undue effort.

Thank you again! And best of luck with your work to keep speeding up your tonguing speed!

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