Working on the Berio Sequenza, I’ve been trying to figure out ways to double tongue faster. Theoretically, I presume, one should be able to double tongue exactly twice as fast as one can single tongue. [1x ST = 2x DT] So if I can single tongue 16th notes at mm.=120, why can’t I double tongue 32nd notes at the same speed? It works sometimes, but only for a short burst of time.
Here’s how I’m working to prolong it: practice double tonguing as fast as possible independent of the beat – not trying to fit two or for or however many on a certain note. It’s kind of like how you try to get vibrato to sound smooth, not sounding like 4 or 5 to a beat but just natural. Try it with the tongue!
Take Taffanel/Gaubert e.j. no. 4
I’ll play the ascending line slurred, then descending with double tonguing as fast as possible independent of the beat, but keeping the fingers in time. Usually I start with tempo mm.=100 then work up. Then I will switch, ascend with double tonguing, then descend legato.
Going back and forth between fast articulation and legato gives a good rest for the tongue, and it’s a good way to focus on the tempo again. (For some reason, my brain can turn off when articulating fast!) When I feel confident, I will try articulating ascending and descending.
One thing that helps: with the tongue moving so fast, it really does interfere with the airstream. Therefore, you really need a steady support from the abdominal muscles – it actually helps when keep them firm and moving in and up when exhaling.
Berio uses this technique of double tonguing as fast as possible in his woodwind quintet, Ricoorrenze, as well, so learning this technique is good preparation for his other works!
Photo: Arthur Sassa/AFP-Getty Images File