How do I learn how to articulate as fast as my band music is requiring?
It seems like every clarinet player at some point or another has wished that they could
articulate faster – especially when playing unison passages with flutes or brass instruments that
regularly use double‐tonguing. But not to worry, a slow tongue can be remedied! Like any
other muscle in the body, it just needs regular workouts; that, along with a good reed and lots
of air will have you eventually nicknamed “super tongue!”
1. You must have a good reed in order to articulate quickly! If your reed is too soft and/or too old, it makes tonguing fast passages impossible so check this first.
2. You must use lots of air! Keith Stein says this in his book, “Imagine the breath as the
river and the tongue as the waterwheel. Should the water level fall below the reach of
the paddles, regardless of any adjustment in the mechanism of the wheel, there can be
no action.” (Stein 24).
3. Don’t try to play the notes too short! The faster the note values, the longer you should
psychologically think of playing the articulation – playing too staccato will slow you
down. The notes will end up sounding light and short anyway because of the fast
4. Use a metronome and slowly increase the tempo over time! From something as
simple as playing scales with four repeated 16th notes on each pitch while using a
metronome, to the more involved exercises from the method books of Langenus, Klose,
and Kell, can really improve your ability to quickly articulate fast passages over time.
Soon you’ll be able to play Mendelssohn’s scherzo excerpt as light and fast as the pros!