Where is tongue when not articulating?


I was doing some research to put on a Master’s Class for High Schoolers and really have appreciated all of your helpful information. When putting together information about articulation, I discovered that I am "anchor" tonguing! I have been playing for almost 30 years!

So, I have figured out how to move the tip of my tongue up to meet the just below the tip of the reed. But, where is my tongue being held in my mouth when my tongue is not on the reed? If I blow a whole note, my tongue is touching my bottom lip. Am I supposed to hold it up so it is closer to the tip of the reed? That changes the feel of my embouchure. Can you give me more detail about where my tongue should be held in my mouth?

I would really appreciate your help.




Hello Janet,

Thanks for the question “Where is my tongue being held in my mouth when my tongue is not on the reed?” In my opinion, the tongue should hold millimeters away from the reed. As you describe anchoring your tongue on the bottom lip, (again in my opinion) your tongue is traveling too far to develop a great, rapid articulation.

Also, by anchoring the lip, you are restricting the tongues’ movement. Now, this is not to say some people might anchor the tongue with the tip on the lower lip or teeth and an upper part of the tongue touching the reed. That would take a lot of dexterity and I’m not 100% sure it is the best plan to develop a legato tongue or rapid articulation.

Yes, basically in my plan, the tongue is holding in the air, inside the mouth, just millimeters away from the reed ready at any moment to return to articulate on the reed.

A good way of practicing this is to try to do a slow motion articulation. Set your embouchure and start the sound. Now, try to be aware that your tongue is not on the lower lip. As you are blowing, slowly touch the reed with your tongue. It might tickle, as you are not used to touching the vibrations of the reed. Then, slowly deaden the vibrations by applying a little more pressure on the reed. Next, release the tongue slowly and as you take the tongue off the reed, keep it from going to the lower lip.

Your sound will go like “thu-aw, thu-aw, thu-aw” as you try it slowly. If you get the feel of it, attempt to speed up the articulation and make it a goal to not leave far from the reed.

Next, as you articulate on clarinet, have a goal of making a really legato articulation. Stroke the reed very lightly and even to a point where you can barely tell it is an articulation. If you do this, you have potential to develop a very fast, clear sounding articulation.

If you have not already done so, please read more at Clarinet Articulation, Professional Clarinet Articulation, Legato and Staccato.

Now, changing the feel of your embouchure. That is another issue. Your embouchure should be the same whether the tongue is articulating or not. If you have a change in feel, you might take a look in a mirror and watch your lower lip and chin during articulation. It is possible you are slightly moving the chin or lower lip while articulation

The slow articulation drill I gave you above is a good step for checking chin movement. Go to the mirror and check it out. I’d be interested in hearing what you find.


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