Flute Punch

Double and Triple Tonguing Practice Techniques

Posted on: September 14, 2008

It’s fairly common for flutists to become easily frustrated with double and triple tonguing. What’s important to remember is that it just takes time, and that’s really OK. It doesn’t have to be mastered overnight!

Here are some helpful tips for practicing double and triple tonguing:

  • Practice saying the syllables (“ta ka”) away from the flute, such as when you are showering or taking a walk.
  • Isolate and practice the “back” syllable — the “ka.” Play scales or excerpts using only the “ka” syllable. This will feel slow and awkward; that’s OK.
  • Never play/say the syllables faster than you can while keeping them even. Practicing fast doesn’t make you able to play fast — it just makes you sloppy.
  • Start slow and gradually speed up. Use a metronome. When the tonguing becomes uneven or sloppy, slow back down to a speed at which you can play correctly.
  • It’s easy for the syllables to become clipped and detached, where the sound produced consists mostly of articulation sound rather than tone. This will only make it harder to coordinate your tongue with your fingers. Even if the passage you’re practicing is marked staccato, think of the syllables as being smooth and connected.
  • Be sure your fingers are properly coordinated. If you have a couple of slow fingers that don’t move with the rest of your fingers, this will prevent notes from speaking properly, a factor that will become very apparent when trying to double/triple tongue.

I would like to note that in the case of triple tonguing, I prefer the syllables “da ga da, ta ka da.” The “d” and “t” are similar, as are the “k” and “g,” but in my experience, the mind seems to struggle less with the above suggested syllables vs. the also commonly used “ta ka ta, ka ta ka,” which is actually double tonguing attached to triplet figures.

It should be noted that double/triple tonguing is an important skill. In the earlier years, a flutist can get away with learning to single tongue faster, and might therefore get the idea that it’s not important to learn. But unlike other skills, such as the less-frequently used flutter tonguing, double/triple tonguing is a skill that will be useful and necessary to use much more often.

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3 Responses to "Double and Triple Tonguing Practice Techniques"

I am embarrassed to say i am one of those people who never learned to double/triple tongue and am struggling now. I am going to try this method and see if it helps.

At 17 and almost ready to take grade 8, am i too late in learning? I’m working at it, but finding it really hard!

I’m not familiar with the graded music studies used in Canada and the UK… but I believe it is never too late to learn something. It can feel like it’s “too late” if other aspects of your playing are more advanced. I think the important thing to remember in this case is to remain patient with yourself. The tongue is a muscle and it will get tired as you are learning; in those cases it is best to stop practicing the double/triple tonguing and come back to it later or the next day. But again, in my opinion, it’s never too late to learn something. 🙂

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