Today’s practice with me is Low Register Tonguing.

We all have trouble getting our low notes to come out with a very short tongue. If you have to triple tongue or double tongue in your low register, it often comes out as big puffs of air.

Even when you use a short single tongue there often is just an airy puff of sound.

You can work on this to improve your short low register tonguing. It takes work, is tedious and doesn’t happen quickly. But, if you work at it, it will get better and you conquer the beast.

I’m going to explain an exercise that I’ve used for a long time both for me and for my students. The exercise is just a C chromatic scale going down. I’ll explain the exercise to you and what you should look out for and how you should do it.

When you begin to practice low register tonging you have to tongue very short. If you tongue with any length at all, then you allow for the sound to start vibrating and come in. You can actually fool yourself into thinking that you actually got it.

By keeping the tongue very short you will get a dose of reality.

What really happens when we tongue our low register is that we get air and then sound.

Tongue – Air – Sound

Try tonguing a low C and see what happens. Is there a delay?

The key to working on your low register is learning how NOT to blow air.

Always, always, always, there’s too much air coming out.  For some reason our instinct is to blow harder. Here are the bones to the exercise. You are going to take a C chromatic scale going down. You’re going to use C as your anchor. You’ll begin with tonguing a middle C, then B, back to C, B♭, back to C, A, back to C, A♭, back to C, G, all the way down to low C.

At first, it may appear that you can get it, C to B is not bad it’s only when you get down to E♭, and D, and low C♯ that they start getting really tricky.

Now the nitty-gritty:

  1. Take a good breath and gather that support.
  2. Don’t let the air out, tighten your stomach muscles so that you can control the air.
    In other words, create support by creating pressure.
  3. When you “ta” the note, make sure your tongue is as far forward as you can get without being on your teeth. You should be tonguing on that little nob on the roof of your mouth between you front teeth. You are NOT tonguing on your teeth. Think of your tongue as a point and use that point to tongue. If you tongue farther back you will hear that your tongue cannot be as sparkly sounding. It has a duller “ta” sound. But when I keep it on the nob and very pointed the sound is crisp and clean.
  4. Keep space between your teeth when you get ready to tongue the first note. Think of your embouchure being an “ah” sound with perhaps a fingers width between your teeth. This gives the sound room to vibrate and resonate as it comes out.  Make sure that as you tongue your teeth stay apart. Your instinct will be to close your teeth. So, fight it!
  5. Now get ready to tongue the first note. Open the embouchure, take your breath and hold it for a second. Position the tongue, and then tongue a very short C.
  6. After the C, descend chromatically, always returning to the C after each note.
  7. You must tongue very short and hold your air in.
  8. One way to think about it is to only use the air that is in your mouth. Don’t blow any air. Hold it all in.
  9. When you find a note that doesn’t come out try tonguing it a few times, always using the technique above.

This exercise can be very frustrating and tedious. It is best to do this a few times a day for 10 minutes or so. Any longer and you won’t be concentrating. Play the difficult notes a few times. Then move on.

This is not a quick fix. It’s an exercise that you figure out over time. It may be a few weeks or maybe a few months.

Just keep at it.

When you feel this is beginning to work for you, then mix it up by doing the same exercise upside down. Begin with low C as your anchor, and go up chromatically, always returning to that low C.

This one is a real barrel of laughs.

You want to get your low notes to speak when tongued quickly?

Here is where you start.

Now get to it!

Have fun.

Watch me demonstrate this: Practice with Me Low Register Tonging