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

February 19, 2004 Trumpet Technique 7 Comments

Fast articulation

I'm getting to the point where I can play pretty fast, but my tongue can't keep up. Once I reach a certain tempo, I'm no longer able to articulate each note. Instead, I just try to tongue every few notes. The tongued notes become accented and sometimes this sounds ok… but most of the time I think it sounds sloppy.

It seems like all of the great players have some technique for playing well-articulated fast lines. Miles, Freddie, Clifford, Clark Terry, and Wynton, are but a few of the jazz trumpeters that can play fast lines and each note sounds like it has a separate attack. I can't say for sure how they do it, but I'm guessing they use some form of doodle or double tonguing.


Doodle tonguing is a technique used mostly by trombonists. The syllables doo-dle, da-dle, or dee-dle are used to create a light sounding articulation. I haven't personally met any trumpeters that doodle tongue, although I know some famous trumpeters, such as Clark Terry, use the technique regularly.


Double tonguing is probably the most common form of multiple tonguing. The syllables ta-ka and tu-ku are typically used to create a precise attack on both notes. This sound is generally too harsh or rigid sounding for jazz, but I have read that some people have developed a dah-gah or duh-guh sounding articulation that they use for jazz. Steve Turre (a well known trombonist), among others, is known to use double tonguing in this fashion.


I should mention that I have a few limitations when it comes to tonguing. I can't flutter-tongue. Flutter tonguing is a fast movement of the tongue used to roll R's in Spanish, also used by most players to create a raspy growl sound in their playing. I also can't roll my tongue (a common genetic test). I've never met another trumpet player that can't do these things, but my guess is that the ability to roll the tongue is tied to the ability to flutter-tongue.


I've tried to doodle tongue, but I'm ridiculously slow. My best doodle tonguing is about the same speed as my fastest single tonguing. I suspect that my physical limitations are preventing me from moving my tongue properly. As a test, I recently had 2 friends try to doodle tongue on my trumpet. They both can roll their tongues and flutter tongue, but neither of them play ANY instrument. Guess what… they picked up my horn and doodle tongued at a rapid pace within a handful of attempts.

Since doodle tonguing doesn't seem to be a great option for me, and since I can already double tongue pretty well, I think my best shot is to try smoothing out my double tonguing. I expect this to be a lengthy process, but I guess I have to start some time. You can expect some audio recordings in the near future…

UPDATE 2/24/07 - Read my Articulation Recordings journal entry for more information and audio recordings of my progress with fast articulation

Comment by HHS Jazz Trumpeter

I am a semi-advanced trumpet player, top trumpet player in the city, and I have a few tips. If you want to flutter tongue, say ruffles have ridges and keep saying that over and over again. It is suppose to help. Anyway I have a range up to a double g and if you want to play higher, you just have to relax all of your muscles, open your embouchure up a little more, take a deep breath and blow. PRESSURE IS NOT THE ANSWER! NEVER USE THE TRUMPET OCTAVE KEY AS MY TEACHER SAYS. Well anyway there you go.

Comment by ERNEST

HiHi, I am a clarinet player from HK, I also cannot roll my tongue, but I can flutter tongue. Rolling the tongue is related to genetics, but not flutter tongue! Try hard, you can do it one day!

Comment by TrumpetSamurai

In order to learn how to roll Spanish R's, a tried-and-true technique that worked for me (and allowed me to learn flutter-tonguing VERY slowly afterwards) was as follows:

Say "Pot of tea." A lot. No, I mean a lot. Like, when you're in the car, when you're at work, when you're watching TV, all the time. Say it as fast as you can (which will sound kinda like "Podatea".) Suddenly, after 2-3 days, you will roll the "t" in "pot" and end up saying "Parrrrra ti." After you figure this out, the muscle memory will develop enough to flutter a little bit, then a little more...etc.

Hope this helps!

Comment by acebone

Just wanted to chime in. Right now I am sitting besides a person (non-trumpetplayer) who can definately roll the r's, but she cant roll the tongue. So obviously the two are not connected

Comment by cnr

Rolling tongue and Flutter-Tonguing is not connected. Here, in Turkish, we use the letter 'r' that sounds like flutter tonguing in many words. Only few people can roll their tongues (i can't roll too). Just touch the back of your upper teeth with the tip of your tongue, and blow hard.. Good luck

Comment by Charles Hines Jr.


I am attempting to learn jazz articulation correctly, what are some methods that I can start with to help me with this? I listen to a lot of Booker Little; Lee Morgan, Freddie and Myles, Woody Shaw, Kenny Durham, and Donald Byrd....All awesome trumpet players and All my favorites! They all had the Jazz trumpet articulation down pat! I am currently workng on my single and double toungue trumpet technique. But where/how do I start for jazz articulation with hopes of improving to play faster Jazz techniques? Please listen to Booker Little's "Minor Sweet" from the 1960 Album Booker Little (can be heard on Youtube).


P.s. I got the book "The Innnger Game of Music"......thanks for recommending this book to me.


Comment by Jens

Hi Rick,

The Flutter sound can be faked by fluttering your uvula.

I couldn't roll the 'R' with the tip of my tongue until recently (I'm over 30 now), but I practiced to do it with my uvula to a point where you can't hear a difference.

But I just sought help from a speech therapist. Just train your tip of your tongue by saying "prince of prussia" like "bdince of bdussia". The "bd" works like one stroke. As soon as the tongue gets strong enough it will start to flutter.

After all the tongue is a muscle. And muscles can be trained.

Alle the players I learned from, that can really play fast (Ingrid Jensen, Randy Brecker, Axel Schlosser, Gerard Presencer, Nicolas Folmer, and many more) can really play extremely efficient and cleanly at a low speed.

Because if you're expending too much much energy at every finger stroke, tongue stroke, etc. it all adds up and messes up your speed. Precision is the key!

Take out your phone, record videos from you practicing easy stuff like clarke 2nd study at 80 bpm and analyze yourself: can my fingers be closer to the valves? can I strike harder with my fingers? can I relax my breath more? are my facial muscles as still as possible?

I fixed a few bad cases of lip damage, if you're interested in a free skype lesson, I'd be happy to have a look. :)

Never give up and keep on sheddin smart man!



Post a new comment



Your Website (optional)


Security Code: type the numbers you see in the image shown above
Note: Your email address will be used to send you notification if/when your comment is approved for public viewing. Additionally, I will use your email address to contact you if you ask me a direct question. Your email address will not be displayed online, nor will it be used for marketing or any other purpose.