An aspiring jazz trumpet player's blog about jazz improvisation and ear training.

February 24, 2007 Trumpet Technique 4 Comments

Articulation Recordings

Back in 2004, I wrote a journal entry in which I discussed my limitations with fast articulation in jazz music. In that journal entry, I concluded that I'd have the best chance of improving my articulation speed if I tried to smooth out my double tonguing. Basically, I intended to replace the "tu-ku" syllables of traditional double tonguing with a smoother "duh-guh" attack so it would fit in better with jazz phrasing.

For several months after that initial journal entry, I practiced double tonguing for 5-10 minutes a day and posted a few articulation recordings on this site. Eventually my focus shifted to other aspects of trumpet technique, like improving my range and endurance, and I became less concerned about how quickly I could articulate. With this change in focus, I reduced my daily double tonguing practice to about one or two minutes each day. That's just enough time to double tongue Clarke study #2 starting on each note going from a G to a C in the staff.

I'm pleased to report that even with just a couple minutes per day spent on double tonguing, I've made significant progress with my ability to articulate quickly and smoothly with a double tongued attack. I still haven't started to use it when playing jazz trumpet, but I think I am getting close to a time where I could if I wanted to.

I'd like to make clear that it's certainly possible to play fast without any sort of special articulation method. None of my jazz solos to date have used anything other than single tonguing (with the exception of that one time I tried to triple tongue in "Fifth House"). And really, the combination of single tonguing and slurring notes is perfectly adequate for just about anything I'll ever need to play. So, this endeavor to improve my fast articulation is just for those instances where I really want every note in a (very) fast phrase to pop.


As I mentioned earlier, I made a few articulation recordings in 2004 which I posted on this site. Since my articulation recordings are few and far between, I have decided to put all of those old recordings, and any new fast articulation recordings I make on this page.

FEBRUARY 24, 2007

In both recordings I'm playing Clarke's technical study #2.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Double-tongued, with a smoothed 'duh-guh' attack, starting on a G in the staff. In my previous clips this was about as high as I could go with these exercises.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Double-tongued, with a smoothed 'duh-guh' attack, starting on a C in the staff. As you can hear, I can now go quite a bit higher and still maintain a decent smooth double tongued attack. Progress!

SEPTEMBER 18, 2004

Just a couple short clips to show my progress with the double-tongued Clarke study and the introduction of double-tongued arpeggios.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Double-tongued, with a smoothed 'duh-guh' attack.

I'm getting pretty good with my smoothed double-tonguing in the lower range of the trumpet. As I climb higher in range, things start to breakdown. In the clip above, the first example begins on C below the staff; the second example begins on a G in the staff. The difference is pretty clear. Obviously, my goal is to keep the articulation smooth in all registers.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Double-tongued minor 7th arpeggios

I started working on double-tongued arpeggios about a month ago. This type of exercise should strengthen my ability to double tongue over intervals while improving my ability to outline chords in all keys. The example above outlines minor 7th arpeggios, however I also practice major 7th, half-diminished, and diminished arpeggios in the same manner.

APRIL 25, 2004

All exercises are on Clarke's technical study #2.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Single-tongued. Fastest speed possible.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Double-tongued, with a smoothed 'duh-guh' attack. Increasing speed.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Double-tongued, with a 'guh-duh' attack. I'm reversing the consonants here to (hopefully) bring myself to care less about which sound comes first.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Articulation with only 'guh' attacks. Fastest speed possible.

It has only been two months since I've been working on the smoothed multiple tonguing. Each day I play the previous variations starting on C and ascending to a starting note of G or Ab.

I think there's noticeable progress since my first recordings (particularly in the end of the clip: iwasdoingallright - audio clip), however I still have quite a bit of work to do before I'll be able to use this in regular improvisation. For starters, when multiple tonguing I puff my cheeks quite a bit --much more so than in normal playing. As a result, my embouchure is less focused and my range is much narrower than usual. Anything above a D in the staff is difficult.


All exercises are on Clarke's technical study #2.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Single-tongued. This is as fast as I can articulate with a single-tongued attack.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Double-tongued, with a standard 'tu-ku' attack.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Slow double tongue, with a smoothed 'du-gu' attack.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Slow attacks using ONLY a 'gu' attack.

If I hope to succeed with double tonguing in an improvised jazz solo, I think I'll need to do two main things: (1) smooth my double tongue into a 'du-gu' style of attack, and (2) reach a point where I can use double tonguing interchangeably with single tonguing.

The second point is important because I want the double-tongued passages to blend in seamlessly with the rest of the improvised solo. If I have to consciously think about starting on a particular syllable or beat, then I feel like the double-tongued passage will stick out like a sore thumb. It might sound *fancy*, but it probably won't sound good from a musical perspective. With this in mind, I recorded the 'gu'-only track. It's an experiment to break traditional tonguing habits. I have no idea whether or not it will help, but I figure it's worth trying.


I listened to your double-tonguing on the Clark study, it sounds good for what it is. But, I would never use that style of tonguing in any jazz solo ever. Just my opinion, but I don't think it has a jazz sound at all. Perhaps it would be appropriate in other styles of music.

Clark Terry once told me, in a private lesson many years ago, that the best jazz "double tonguing" would be to use what he termed a "fake double tongue." He said sometimes he used a "to-lou" or a "du-lou" type of tonguing for fast passages.

Another solution is to slur the passages some of the times, but put in several single tonguing passages in the middle. Many of the greatest jazz trumpeters have used this technique. In a fast solo it sounds like you're tonguing but you're just adding in the single tongue in certain places where it works.

Articulation is very important as a part of any jazz solo and often it is what defines your style and makes the solo stand out. Along with dynamics, pacing, phrasing, note selection and other technical aspects, it contributes to the coloring and sparkle that make your solos come alive.

It's good that you are practicing this tool. I would like to hear you try it on a jazz solo and see what it sounds like.

Dan Jacobs

Comment by Rick

Hi Dan,

I'm familiar with Clark Terry's doodle tonguing but I believe I have physical limitations which make it impossible for me (I can't roll my tongue, I can't flutter tongue, etc). I elaborated a bit more on those issues in the following post: http://www.iwasdoingallright.com/trumpet_technique/63/

My attempts to get a usable double tonguing technique for jazz are purely experimental at this point and I only spend a minute or two on this each day. But, I'm gradually developing a smoother and more flexible double-tongued attack that *might* someday come in handy for jazz.

I've tried to use this double-tongued attack in jazz a few times already, but I don't have the dexterity I need to have a controlled attack over various jumps in range. I'm not too concerned about it one way or another, though, since I do just fine with slurring and single tonguing.



I understand physical limitations that can make it impossible to do certain things. You do what you can with what you've got. I had a misalignment on my front teeth that limited me in my early playing until I got them fixed. Still I was stuck with some bad habits formed as a result of trying to adjust to a physical situation.

But, later I realized that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and you just keep playing because you have to. At least that's the way I see it.

I commend you for all that you have and are doing in your own playing and in this website which is an inspiration to many. Very well done!


Comment by Isaac


I tried to listen to the recordings above in Internet Explorer but they woudn't load. Anyway, it's been a long time since I've come across articulate, in-depth thoghts on multiple tonguing and reading through your posts was insightful. Indeed, the attack makes a big difference in the overall phrasing and sound!

I'm a vocal percussionist and some of the best experiences I've had have been impromptu jams at open mikes where a couple of musicians just get on stage and play together. My background is in rock and jazz drumming, and the articulation for single and multiple tonguing takes years to develop; however, keeping it up constantly just a few minutes a day really does improve chops, as you mentioned.

My main issue with most vocal percussionists and beatboxers that I've seen is the lack of "articulate" articulation. Similar to drum kit dynamics, there are natural rises and falls to phrasing, as well as comping with the soloist and other performers. Things like feathering a bass drum, matching a soloist's emotion, or manipulating time seem to be completely overshadowed by loud, in-your-face beatboxing. And forget the fact that all solos are done in 4/4 time; I mean, there's an entire world of time signatures out there for variation!

I always found triplet phrasing to be more "free" than straight time. Good syllables that worked for double and triple tonguing were tktk, dgdg, and dbdb. Generally, the softer the attack, the more precise the phrasing.

So, reading the in-depth thoughts was very refreshing; thanks for posting!


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