Flick tonguing

Flick tonguing involves flicking your tongue very quickly up and down across the tip of the reed.

It can be used as an effect or ornamentation or else as a very fast actual articulation technique if you are able to play it in time with the notes you are fingering. However this is extremely difficult to coordinate with fingering several notes, although if you can apply it with a regular tempo then it can indeed be used instead of double or triple tonguing for fast articulated passages.

In this example (at bar 4) it is used on a single note as an effect or ornamentation:

Hooligan Blues

To do this it is best to use an embouchure that involves playing close to the tip of the mouthpieces, putting a lot of mouthpiece in your mouth will make this very difficult.

As an articulation technique:


How to develop your flick tonguing

As with vibrato, I suggest the drum roll technique. In order to get a very even roll drummers with start of practising the roll in an exaggeratedly slow tempo, often against a metronome. As the flick tongue technique is not a natural movement for most people, it can be used to do the same.

  • While sustaining a long note, brush the tip of your tongue upwards across the tip of the reed so that it makes a very slight sound without interrupting the sustain of the note.
  • Repeat downwards.
  • Once you feel confident that your flick-tongue action is light enough, try it in time against a slow metronome beat (e.g. 60 BPM) and very gradually work up to faster tempos.
  • Once you have developed to a fast tempo, then you can use flick tonguing either in a specific tempo, or you can use it more freely, like trilling a note where there is no specific beat division – it can just be an effect or ornamentation.
  • If you are able to do flick tonguing in a fast tempo then you can use it as a legitimate articulation. Try playing scales at various tempos using your tongue like this.
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