Video transcript
Art Bites - Brass practice - 02. Double and triple tonguing and high register

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BRAD LUCAS: Hi. My name's Brad Lucas, and this is the second video in a series designed to help brass players practise more efficiently and more effectively. Now, in this video, I'm going to tackle the topics of double tonguing and triple tonguing and also getting comfortable in our upper register and extending our range.

Now, as I said in the last video, I'm a euphonium player, so I've demonstrated all of these things on my instrument. But, I want to assure you again that nothing that I'm talking about is euphonium specific, because it's all about my approach to practice and the concepts of my practice.

Now, I also want to encourage you to use this video as the resource as it's intended. Play along with me, feel free to pause a video at any time and try out anything that I'm doing, and come back to the video. You might notice something on a second or third or fourth viewing.

And, on these topics of double tonguing and triple tonguing, I want to really encourage you to be patient, and take time, but by implementing these strategies in your practice, you will see results. And, it will be more effective and more efficient. So, let's get on with the video.

So, in this video, I want to talk to you about double and triple tonguing. Now, so often people either groan about this, or they just practise a single tonguing so fast, that when they do it in their AMEB exam, they can convince the examiner that they are actually double or triple tonguing, and they get away with it, which is always - always makes me laugh. So, instead of shunting it to the side and not touching it, we'll try to give you some advice on how to approach practice here.

Now, the first thing is, if you can say it, you can play it. That's the key for me for double and triple tonguing. Now, when I was a very nerdy Year 5 or 6 student, I used to walk to school every day, and I used to walk along by myself saying [vocalising]

And [vocalising]

Now, there's probably a reason I was walking to school by myself, because no one wanted to walk with me, but what this did, it meant that when I came to actually playing it on my instrument, it was already natural. I'd practised it so many times, saying it, that it was just - I just picked the instrument up and it worked. So, that's a really key part of our practice, to say it.

Say it when you're doing your maths homework. Say when you're doing the dishes. Whatever it is you do, just say it lots, and get really comfortable with it, so you don't have to be thinking [vocalising]

Oh, what am I up to. As soon as you do that, then you're kind of lost.

The other really important thing is to think about what syllables we're going to use. Now, some texts use the syllables 'too' and 'coo' or 'tar' and 'car.' Now, for me, that's just too much movement in my mouth and with my tongue. I think it's quite inefficient, and it kind of gets in the way of my air. I want my air to be constantly flowing through here. We don't want to sound like a machine gun.

[imitating machine gun]

We want it to be a beautiful resonant sound on each note. They're just shorter notes. So, instead of using a 'tar' and 'car,' which if I'm using - it is my tongue, I think of my 'tar' as the very tip of the tongue here, and the 'car' is the very back, which is this big seesaw motion.

I used to - I use the syllables 'da' and 'ga,' so 'd-a,' and 'g-a.' That's about here on my tongue, and about here. It's a much smaller movement, but it means my air is not constricted as much.


It's a constant air stream, constant sound with minimal movement, but has still a clear attack, which is what I want.

So, we go to our instrument. You've been saying it all this time. Now, you have to realise that you've been single tonguing since the first day you picked up your instrument, but you've not actually ever worked on this 'ga' articulation.

So, my key to practising double and triple tonguing is focus on the 'ga.' That is the thing that's going to cause you grief. If you don't spend time on it, that's going to be a limitation.

So, I like to - I do lots of playing on 'ga.' I do my Arban's exercise, my double tonguing exercise, in Arban's, all on 'ga.'

[playing instrument]

And so on. I get so comfortable with that, that I feel that hopefully no one could tell if I was single tonguing or double tonguing. I want to make sure that my 'ga' is as close to my 'ta' or my 'da' articulation as I can make it.

Once I'm comfortable with this, I then will go and double tongue nice and slow, making sure my 'da' and my 'ga' are as clean as each other.

[playing instrument]

I want to keep everything relaxed and make sure my air's flowing. We don't want [playing instrument] ...

... that start-stop approach to our air. Keep that air flowing, stay relaxed, and you'll see the result.

If you find that your 'ga,' that second syllable, is weak in relation to the 'da,' try putting an accent on it.

[playing instrument]

Once you've done this, you can start taking away that accent until both notes are even.

[playing instrument]

The same approach works for my triple tonguing exercises - [vocalising]

I, first of all, will make sure I can say it all on 'ga.'

[playing instrument]

If you have to go slower than that, that's fine. I go to triple tonguing as normal so [vocalising]

[playing instrument]

Making sure each note is as clear as the one before it. Once again, if I find my 'ga' is weak, I can put an accent on it and then slowly take that accent away.

[playing instrument]

Triple tonguing and double tonguing should be a fun thing to practise, and you should be able to see the improvements every time you do it. I like to write down the speed that I can get to, and set myself goals, and see how I improve over time. So, I hope this helps. The key is keep relaxed, practise that 'ga,' and keep that air flowing.

So, in this video, I want to talk to you about increasing your range and getting comfortable in your upper register. Now, there are lots of schools of thought out there about how you can do this and how brass players should do this, but a lot of them contradict one another. So, it gets very confusing, and sometimes you just want to give up. Hopefully, this video will help you. I'm going to tell you about my thought process when I'm practising my upper register, and hopefully that will help you in your practice.

Now, I just want to say that, just like in every video in this series, it's not the particular exercises that I'm doing that's important. It's the thought process and my approach that I want you to take away. When we're building our upper register, I want you to remember that it does take time, so please be patient. Consistency is key. Do this regularly, do this often, but don't expect it to happen overnight.

So, let's think about what we have to do when we play high. How do we play high? Well, for me, it's all about airspeed. So, if this is my embouchure - these are my lips - my embouchure here [blowing], that's my perfect embouchure setup. I grab my mouthpiece. [blowing]

It's a beautiful middle register note. Now, as we go higher, we want to blow faster air. What will naturally happen if we have our embouchure set like this - this is on side on - is if we blow faster air, our lips will just burst apart.

When that happens, our body's natural tendency is to push this mouthpiece in place to create an artificial embouchure. It keeps it in place, and [blowing] we can go higher. The problem with that is it constricts that sound. It's not as beautiful, not as resonant, and also you start getting a big ring on your face and it just looks weird. And, it can also cause some damage, which we don't want to do.

So, the other idea is that we can have - is we can smile. That will actually stretch out this embouchure [blowing]. The speed of the embouchure, and the speed of the buzz, goes higher, because the embouchure is being stretched. And, once again, the pitch goes higher, but the sound quality is negatively affected.

So, how do we do it? Well, our embouchure is set [blowing], and the job of these muscles is to hold that in place, no matter what. So, what happens is we blow faster air [blowing], and these muscles really have to engage to make sure [blowing] those lips don't fall apart, or blow apart.

So, it's not our - it's not our mouthpiece that holds our - holds our lips together, but it's actually these corners here. [blowing] When we - with that in mind, we want to strengthen these corner muscles. We can do these by simple lip slurs. We can do exercises like this in Arban's.

[playing instrument]

Exercises like that. Or simple Remington exercises.

[playing instrument]

Whatever lip exercises you want to do, they're going to strengthen these muscles, which will then lead to the point that you can blow fast air through your lips, and they'll be able to hold in place.

Then, when we're going higher, we want to really rely on our air. I want to think that I'm pushing down, from down low, not from up high. Keep everything relaxed. And now try to open up. So, a really simple exercise is to go from our B flat and go up 5 notes of that B flat major scale. Want to put a crescendo in to encourage my air speeding up. And I'm going to just hold that top F.

[playing instrument]

Want to make sure that this is nice, and free to vibrate, and all the work is happening here. I'm really supporting from down low with my air. Move up a semi-tone.

[playing instrument]

Once again, it's this is free to vibrate. There's no pressure here, and these are the ones doing the - doing the work.

[playing instrument]

Keep this nice and open and relaxed.

[playing instrument]

We can keep going.

[playing instrument]

We just keep going until the point that you can't make any sound that's open and relaxed and comfortable. As soon as you find yourself tensing, or being feeling tight, you want to stop. You'll see that this will - if you do this consistently, you will see results.

It might be a semi tone a week. It might be a semi tone a fortnight. But, if you just keep chugging away, you'll feel comfortable upping your upper register, and you won't find yourself squeezing that air out. You'll be relying on a fast air stream with relaxed embouchure. So, I hope this helps, and I'll see you in the next video.

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