Flute Punch

Posts Tagged ‘syllables

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.


Courtesy of Ann Yasinitsky, Clinical Assistant Professor of Music, Washington State University

Double and triple tonguing are often used for rapid passages. The syllables used for double tonguing are simply “ta ka.” To learn to double tongue, you should start slowly at first and then gradually increase your speed. For example, you can take any scale and play each note twice, using the syllables “ta ka” for each note. Next, play the scale, but this time play each note once, using “ta” and then “ka” — one syllable for each note. When you first try this, your double tonguing will be slower than your single tonguing, but with practice, your double tonguing will become far faster than your single tonguing could ever be. The syllables for triple tonguing are simply “ta ka ta, ta ka ta,” or “ta ka ta, ka ta ka.” To master double and triple tonguing, you must practice both regularly.

from “A Little Bit About Flute Playing”

Courtesy of Ann Yasinitsky, Clinical Assistant Professor of Music, Washington State University

Many different syllables are useful for various tongue strokes. I generally prefer to use a “ta” for crisp attacks and staccato tonguing. The placement of the tongue must be behind the teeth, between the gum and ridge lines. For legato tonguing, I find that the syllable “daw” works well. For a soft attack, use “pu.”

from “A Little Bit About Flute Playing”

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