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Flute/Matching up fingerings with tonguing


Hi Denise!

I am in my high school's band but without a private teacher. A problem I've encountered while working on a piece is as silly as it sounds, my fingering and when I tongue. The problem is this piece's tempo is definitely on the faster side and lots of short staccatos. So what I've had trouble with is when I tongue, it seems like my fingers aren't catching up or they've already moved on, things just seem out of sync. Do you have any tips on how to practice this in a more efficient way other than just endless repetition?


Hello, Jessica!
Thanks for your question.  Getting one's tongue and fingers in sync with each other is not as "silly" sounding as you might think.  We all have experienced it at some time during our music careers.  In answer to your question, I have two things to tell you about.

First, we'll discuss technique.  If you have a faster passage, especially with staccato, it is sometimes wise to consider DOUBLE-TONGUING.  If you have not heard of this, let me briefly describe how to do it.  Instead of using the "too--tooo--tooo" sound when you tongue, you use a sound like "tukka-tukka-tukka" or "dugga-dugga-dugga."  Doing this forces you to articulate notes by alternating tongue-throat-tongue-throat.  Faster, cleaner playing is the result.

Of course, it is not automatic, and must be practiced to perfect said technique.  And that brings me to the second thing I want to tell you today.  How we think about practice is almost as important as the practice itself.  As you said, "just endless repetition" is really not so good.  (But better than no practice at all.)  So what should we be thinking about our practice time?

We are not going to do "endless repetition."  Instead, let's "train" ourselves to "conquer" this part, and this technique.  How may we do this?  Find a place to practice where almost nobody will be paying attention to you.  This will sound stupid at first.  But do it.  Start REAL SLOW and deliberate.  Play only one note.  Tongue "tukka-tukka" on that note.  Make it sound like 4 notes.  Learn to control that Tukka Tukka sound, and make the notes clean.  When you get the "one note" song mastered, try a scale.  Do Tukka Tukka on each note of the scale.  When you get really good control on that, play a whole scale, Tukka Tukka Tukka Tukka, changing the pitch for each syllable.  Do more scales, increasing and decreasing speed, practicing control.  Now you're ready for the big time, Sweetie!

Get out that piece of music for band.  Very slowly. (Who cares, it's only practice, and ok to sound stupid.) Very deliberately.  Play one of the "faster" passages.  But do it slow. However slow you need to, until you are able to train that tongue and fingers to work together.  Then, speed it up only a little.  Then a little more.  In your practice time, only go as fast as you can, and still get the technical accuracy.  Before you realize it, you will be "up to tempo."  An amazing thing happens when you "train" this way.  Your fingers get so used to doing this passage, that they can do it almost automatically.  On concert day, you'll be glad.  Even when you are a bit nervous before the performance, your "training" will kick in, and you will still be able to play that fast stuff.  

I have written more fully on "double tonguing" in past "AllExperts" articles.  It may be possible for you to read some of those for more help.  And you can always write me here any time.  I'm wishing you the greatest success, even to the amazement of yourself, and all of those who will hear you play.  


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Denise J. Sipe


These are the topics I CAN answer... How to play, from beginner to professional. Tips and tricks, breathing, auxilliary fingering techniques Tone Quality Listening--Developing your ears Technique --Bringing the notes up and off of the page, and making them "your own music". Playing solo, small groups, bands, orchestras Digitally reproduced, vs live accompaniment Accompanying vocalists, dancers, other instrumentals.


Soloist, small groups, large marching bands, symphony orchestras, stage bands and orchestras, theater, church music, jazz, classical, folk music

I'm independent. But professionals have often hired me to play in their groups. Giving back to the community where I played in the High School Band, I am a former member of Williamsport, MD Community Band, a current member of New Horizons Band in Hagerstown, MD, and Bass Flute Player for the TOOT UNCOMMON FLUTES flute choir of Williamsport, MD. I often perform solo as "Toot Uncommon" and had a web-based business where I sold flutes of all sizes, shapes, and colors. The show is uncommon. The locations are often uncommon. And the variety of musical instruments is definitely uncommon! I am a member of NFA, the National Flute Association.

I didn't write for any publications. I leave that up to the more elite musicians.

This should have been my career. I am an engineer,and a trained professional clown. But my music is my passion. Flute is my favorite, though I also play many woodwinds and some brass. I am currently playing percussion in a volunteer concert band, and have drum corps experience, where I often played marching bass drum. I am totally self-taught. But I have often played in groups made up mostly of professionals. All in all I am still the area's best-kept secret.

Awards and Honors
Biggest honor of my career was playing an emotional piece, and looking out over the audience. Two big, tough construction workers had tears rolling down their cheeks.

Past/Present Clients
I've been teaching beginning and intermediate flute/piccolo students of all ages in MD and PA since the early 1970s.

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