Rapid Clarinet Articulation

by Tony Sanders

I have played clarinet now for many years but could never master the art of fast tonguing saying the word two to strike the reed is o.k. for normal staccato but what about double and triple tonguing as all the books that I have been through don’t show how this is done.

Thank you


Hello Tony,

Thanks for the question. I have to say, articulation is hard to teach well, especially the “rapid” articulation. I will also tell you that I’m in the human category, I have to WORK at rapid articulation. Some people are gifted and can articulate fast; but I often find that since they have this gift, they do not spend the time getting the rapid articulation with rapid fingers.

I hope that didn’t come off as a rant? The first question I’ll ask, is have you gone through all of my Clarinet-Now.com Articulation pages? Check that link to read the first page and all the links on that page.

In short, keep your tongue very close to the reed. I mean millimeters away from the reed. Do not tongue like a snake, make the tip of the tongue go up and down (not back and forth). Try to make your articulation as legato as possible. Do this on the chromatic scale or a major scale.

I’ve worked with Kalmen Opperman on articulation for years and am currently working with Steve Hartmann on the same subject. For me to feel good about articulation, I usually have to do a system of chromatic scales that will take an hour to complete. That warms up my tongue and makes sure it works with the fingers. Kal told me once, “If you wish to articulate well and fast, you need to articulate everything.” So, it might seem weird, but on your next practice session, articulate everything you are practicing (remember, this is just practice, not performance).


I have fooled around with double tonguing a little bit and have never tried triple tonguing. It is tougher for clarinetists as we have a mouthpiece and reed inside our mouth. For flutists and brass players, the instrument is still on the outside of the lips.

However, say this, “ta-ka, ta-ka, ta-ka.” The ta touches the reed. The ka comes lightly from the back of the throat. Try this on one note like a first line E in eighth notes. Try to make the ta and ka sound the same, not one louder or more accented than the other. I’ve never tried triple tonguing, but I believe the concept is like this, “ta-ka-ta, ta-ka-ta, ta-ka-ta” on and on.

Probably, if practiced diligently, "ta-ka-ta, ka-ta-ka,ta-ka-ta," on and on. That, my friend, is a tongue twister.

Another concept of double-tonguing is keeping the tip of the tongue close to the reed and instead of single tonguing just below the tip of the reed, you would keep the tongue back a little bit, and do a double stroke up and down. The tip of the tongue would move up, touch the reed, then off the reed and on the way down, touch the reed again. The tongue would go below the reed (allowing it to vibrate) and then return upwards to stroke the reed again.

I’ve tried this version and believe my tongue is too long to hold back and stroke it up and down like this. However, if I’ve described this well to you, you can see that conceptually it should work easy. Think of taking a guitar pick and strumming one string up and down. That is how this concept works. Single tonguing is like taking the pick and strumming only one way.

Again, please read through my articulation pages for a more complete description of single tonguing? One of these days I’ll post videos on these subjects. Best to you and let me know how this works out for you.


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