Topic: Aging and Tonguing Speed

I would be interested in knowing if anyone has noticed a correlation between aging and the loss of tonguing speed. Anything shared to this list would be great or you can e-mail me personally.

Terry

Terry Ewell
Professor Bassoon, Towson University
Former President, IDRS
Former Principal Bassoon Hong Kong Philharmonic, Wheeling Symphony

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Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

Regettably, as we age most things get slower.

Robert Stein
UCLA
Los Angeles, CA

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Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

Conventional wisdom says that tonguing speed starts to decrease when one reaches their mid-forties.  I have seen posts where people claim that this is the time to master double tonguing.  My experience is a bit different.  I am closer to mid-fifties but have been able to increase my tonguing speed by using a lighter, more responsive reed, moving my air more efficiently, and minimizing tongue movement.  This probably says that I was operating at less than full efficiency, but the message is that one should experiement and change what you are currently doing to try to counteract the effects of age.  Naturally, practicing tonguing speed on a regular basis helps.  This has worked well enough that I have put off mastering double tonguing for the time being.

Dave Knorr

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Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

My undergrad teacher, who I think was around 60 when I was studying with him could single tongue amazingly fast.  Burst speeds of well over 170 and sustained tonguing in the 150's if I were to estimate.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

After over 40 years of playing, that'd be the bassoon, I neither have improved or dis-improved my tonguing speed. One of the most memorable lessons learned in music conservatory, was, that to be a musician, we need to develop, in some proportion, 5 skills. He said further that; We all came here with a talent, in at least one of these  skills. But no one, comes talented in all, and each of us will have to struggle with at least one of the skills. It's not important what they are right now, but one of them being articulation and tonguing. Concisely, tonguing wasn't one of the strengths that awarded me a scholarship. However, believing that I need to make the best of what I have, my articulation and rhythm, was always immaculate. I was better at maintaining my setup, to enhance whatever tongue I had. I developed my tongue as best I could, and there is where it remains. Not faster, not slower. Presently, and reflecting on previous threads about the tonguing apparatus, I'm trying something new for me. I've been reading about using shorter movements to develop a faster tongue. I learned a long time ago, that to develop, speed and suppleness in a muscle, that we need to develop the long muscle fibers, so one must exercise speed, first by elongating the motion. Now,I'm going to practice the correlation between the two. First concentrating on the length of movement, then seeing if I have a more reliable speed when putting into practice, a shorter motion when practicing a piece. This is new information now, and so far, I think there's something there. Sorry, That's as far as I've gotten to date. One regret I do have, is not being pushed to double tongue early on. Seems that folks didn't know I had this limitation, and I of course, foolishly, didn't let on to it! I did get away with a fast 4th in performance. No doubt, with the help of abject fear, anxiety, and caffeine. Maybe more than you wanted to know. Thanks for your indulgence. I like stories. All the best to you, Nicholas Evans

Nicholas Evans-Bassoonist, Bassoon Repair and Restoration Mechanic.

Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

Hi Terry et al.,

My experience has been (at my age of almost 48) that intense work even for just a couple of months on improving speed of articulation has had very positive and lasting effect.

My single-tonguing speed has always been very fast but not as controlled as it should be at some tempi -- I finally took some time to work regularly on this last May-July, along with regular exercises on double-tonguing, and I find that the benefit from that work continues to be evident in my playing, even though I haven't had time to continue the daily exercises.

Susan

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Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

A different focus has helped me and a few of my students --- that of using what I suppose is good old educational psychology to approach the issue of tongue speed (which is more often an issue of tongue/finger coordinaton), as the "appointing" of an heirarchical "time manager" to determine the actual moment of the note along with all its parameters i.e. the brain says "NOW" and the finger pattern and the tongue respond simultaneously - rather than having the tongue practise bursts of speed and trying to match the finger speed to that tongue speed -- or vice versa.

This strategy can result in clean decisive playing which is based on good time-keeping. A lot of the coordination issues just don't occur and with very little actual mechanical drilling, rehearsing, etc. Obviously practise of the passage-work benefits from repetition but in the area of familiarity so good "decision-making" goes on.

Having said that, I have never quite manged a good double -tongue action on bassoon - I find it more natural on recorder & flute but the higher pressures required for bassoon have always presented tone compromises and attack issues on the "k".

Neville

Last edited by NevilleForsythe (2006-10-28 01:21:39)

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

Two things have happened with respect to my speed of tonguing with the advances of age:  my double tongue has improved; my single tongue has slowed and lost endurance.  I attribute the latter not really to advancing age, but to less use of it concomitant to increased reliance upon the former.

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Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

I tread carefully on this issue, but should point out that tongue muscle use (for any style of articulation) is no different than the use of other body muscles in an athletic sense. Achieving any goal of muscle activity (marathon, triple-tonguing, or 100 metre dash) requires the appropriate muscles to be in proper condition, in regard to both strength and endurance. This requires exercises and other conditioning routines specific to the need at hand. Tonguing activity and endurance will benefit by repetitive training of the necessary muscles for both speed and endurance. Other posters have alluded to this and have given their own useful experiences.

As with any form of muscle education, a tonguing or articulating task should start gradually and intermittently, progressing in both frequency and intensity as the person's tissues allow. Avoid overuse and its sequelae of muscle pain; increase gradually the time and intensity/frequency of use in the desired task and look for the positive results.

Hope this helps; contact me with any questions or concerns.

Bill

Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"

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Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

Thanks, Bill. Excellent advice!

Terry Ewell
Professor Bassoon, Towson University
Former President, IDRS
Former Principal Bassoon Hong Kong Philharmonic, Wheeling Symphony

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Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

My own experience has shown that tonguing can improve with age, although I am finding that single tonguing still always needs attention as an ongoing project. It is important to remember that the AIR is really what gets the tone moving in any instrument. Students frequently get hung up on this idea and it causes far too much tension in  their articulation.

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Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

i am turning 70 soon, and my 5K race time has increased substantially (ok; it's a joke), as my ability to articulate quickly decreases on the oboe.  i have managed to learn a pretty effective double-tongue technique, but i'm not great at this.  The wonderful bassoon prof Hugh Cooper discussed this in an IDRS interview a few years back.

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Re: Aging and Tonguing Speed

Thanks for this topic, Terry! About 10 years ago, I broke my wrist in a freak accident - had to have major hand surgery and was in a cast for 6 months. I was lucky and had a great surgeon (head of orthopedic hand surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital here in NYC). He restored my hand/wrist beautifully. After not playing for 6 months, I slowly began to play again - after this hiatus, I didn't notice problems with my chops - embouchure-wise; played lots of long tones, etc. The main change I found was that my tonguing seemed to have slowed down a bit, and I resumed doing single tongue exercises, shown to me by the first clarinet in the Vienna Symphony - Alfred Rose. I continue to do these daily to this day - just concentrating on one note a day - in every octave, playing single short tones, then double, then triple, 4, 5, 6 notes to a beat (at around 60 on the metronome). This always helps my single tonguing.

That being said, I have noticed some slowing of my single tonguing as I get older. I incorporate double tonguing much more than I used to - mainly making sure that it does not 'sound' like double tonguing, but like a very fast single. I've written in the past about my learning this technique from Milan Turkovic when I worked in an orchestra for 3 years in Switzerland in the mid-70's. (I had a fast single tongue, but playing 2nd bassoon for 'Cosi Fan Tutti,' there was a sizable triplet passage at one point, and I HAD to learn double tonguing to get it up to speed, which the conductor demanded!)

Here's what I wrote in a past article here:

"Confession time - when I was a senior in high school, during a private lesson with the band director, he asked me where I placed my tongue on the reed.  To which, I responded, what are you talking about - I don't place my tongue on the reed!  It turns out that I had spent 4 years 'ka'ing or 'guh' ing the notes and had never used my tongue.  Duh - at any rate, we began to remedy this situation, and I slowly learned to use the tongue on the vicinity of the tip (as described above). 

The good news is that a few years later when I was studying with Milan Turkovic, my earlier guttural use came to great use when he taught me double tonguing - Milan had me spend one month, just ka-ing (or guh-ing, or kee-ing, whatever works for you) - I spent 15 minutes each day just playing scales slowly using this.  After a month of this, I added the tongue - tuh-ka, tuh-ka, (or again, da-guh or tee-kee) and practiced this way for a month.  The 3rd month he had me reverse this - ka-tuh, ka-tuh (guh-da or kee-tee).  Again, I did not do this for more than 15 minutes a day - making sure the double-tonguing sounded exactly like single tongue.  (If not, I would slow the practice down until it did resemble the single.) After 3 months of this, I had no problems with double-tonguing.

Although initially learning to 'tongue' the wrong way, this mistake was a great help later on.  Just sayin'....!"

As I get older, this method is increasingly effective - but I continue to do the single tonguing exercises daily - the most important concept for me in tonguing (or for that matter, any difficult passages) is EASY DOES IT. Relaxation is the key. Hope this helps.  Jim

James Jeter, D.M.A., NYC Bassoonist
"To love human beings is still the only thing worth living for; without that love, you really do not live." Soren Kierkegaard
"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Mahatma Gandhi  "Mach' es kurz! Am Juengsten Tag ist's nur ein Furz!" Goethe