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