Triple tonguing is an excellent technique for fast flute music. If you want to get good at the instrument, you’ll eventually need to learn this method.
Then, you can play almost any piece you find. And you can help other areas of your playing in the process.
What Is Triple Tonguing?
Triple tonguing is a technique you can use on the flute to play faster notes. It helps you play groups of three notes, such as triplets.
You can triple tongue notes to keep from getting your tongue tied. If you’ve never learned double tonguing, I’d suggest learning that first. Then, you can learn about triple tonguing.
Ways to Triple Tongue
If you want to use triple tonguing, you have a few options. Consider the two common ways to combine different syllables in your mouth.
Then, you can choose the one that makes more sense for you or for each specific piece you play.
The best option to start with is to use TKT TKT to get the feel for triple tonguing. You can use a variety of vowel sounds, such as ah, eh, ee, or oo.
Another option is to use similar consonants. You can swap out T for D and K for G. I will switch consonants and vowels when practicing triple tonguing to keep from playing the same thing and getting bored.
If you have a long passage with triplets or something similar, you may want to use a TKT KTK pattern. This combines double and triple tonguing since you don’t have to tongue the T syllable twice in a row.
Like the other pattern, you can swap out vowels and consonants. That way, you can keep from overworking your tongue. Different letter sounds can also help you change the tone or sound if you do so carefully.
Benefits of Triple Tonguing
Triple tonguing is an excellent way to make playing music easier. You can practice it like any other flute fundamental. Then, you’ll know how to do it well whenever you have a piece that calls for it.
Here are some of my favorite benefits of triple tonguing.
Play Faster Parts
Single tonguing only sounds good when you’re playing so fast. If you have a lot of fast parts, you may get stuck if you only use single tonguing. But double tonguing doesn’t always work either.
Knowing how to triple tongue on the flute opens you up to more music. You can play much faster than if you only used the T or D syllable to attack notes.
Even if you don’t need to play that fast, using the backstroke helps you keep things loose. Then, you may have more energy and stamina to play for longer practice sessions.
Maintain Good Tone
If you try to single tongue too fast, you can compromise your tone. Your tongue has to go up and down at a much faster rate when the notes are shorter. So being able to triple tongue helps.
You attack with the front of your tongue then the back in sequence. This can help you with your tone on long triplet passages or even on shorter parts where you only have a triplet or two.
Good tone is crucial to sounding good on the flute. You can combine triple tonguing exercises with tone work to help even more.
Better Single and Double Tonguing
As you master triple tonguing, you can use those skills to help your single and double tonguing. Any work to help you with your articulations can help your overall playing.
For example, if you get good at the K syllable when triple tonguing, you may find your double tonguing is much better. Or you may learn that single tonguing is easier since you know how to find the right spot for your tongue to hit within your mouth.
If triple tonguing is hard, work on your double and single tonguing. Then, you can figure out what the problem is and address it.
Triple tonguing is an easy way to spice up some otherwise boring exercises on the flute. Instead of using single tonguing for your scales, use triple tonguing.
Or maybe you start use the technique for your arpeggios. Find ways to help make your practice more interesting. Then, you may look forward to playing, and you will be able to improve your skills.
You can adjust the tonguing patterns on almost anything. Even if an exercise is better to play with a single tongue, test it out with a triple tongue to experiment and see what works.
Triple Tonguing Practice Tips
If you know the basics of how to triple tongue and how it can benefit you, that’s great. But it helps to know some tips to make practicing the technique easier.
Consider the following tips whether triple tonguing is new to you or you’ve been practicing it for years.
Like many other techniques, it’s hard to triple tongue well when playing fast. So start at a much slower tempo to practice the motions your tongue has to make. You can get used to the different patterns and have time between notes.
After you feel good about an exercise at one tempo, slowly increase it. You can learn how to triple tongue well at faster speeds without forcing yourself to play too fast.
Take a few days to slowly increase the tempo. Eventually, you’ll be able to triple tongue at the necessary speed for the pieces you’re playing. Then, you can use those skills for music you learn in the future.
Practice the K Syllable
Most flute players are pretty comfortable single tonguing with a T or D syllable. But doing so with a K or G syllable is much harder. A good way to prepare for triple or even double tonguing is to practice that backstroke.
This forces you to focus on that one syllable that isn’t as natural. You can practice it slowly, and use it to play through a real piece. I once heard you should try to play the J.S. Bach Partita with the K or G syllable.
You don’t have to take things that far, but you should practice it. Then, it will be much stronger, so your front stroke won’t feel much faster or easier than the backstroke.
Play What You Know
Find an exercise, etude, or piece that you know well. Use that to practice your triple tonguing and to make it feel more natural. If you try to learn triple tonguing while also learning the notes, you can confuse yourself.
You have to focus on multiple things, which can make it harder to learn. So by finding music that you know, you only have to focus on the tonguing.
That helps you learn the new technique. Plus, you can use other practice tips, such as to start slowly or to use the K or G syllable.
Consistency is essential with any new skill, especially a musical skill. You don’t need to practice tonguing for hours a day. However, you should practice it a bit every day for a few weeks or months.
Once you master the basics, you won’t need to triple tongue every day. If you find it harder to do so, add it into your daily routine. Then, you can maintain the skills you learned.
Start Triple Tonguing Today
Triple tonguing isn’t easy at first, but it gets more manageable. Learning how to do it can help you when learning new pieces of music. Then, you can play the music well and play faster.
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