Topic: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

I am excited about the possibility of opening a dialogue among IDRS members concerning articulation. This is a broader topic than just the tongue on the reed. At a minimum I view five mechanisms that influence articulation:

1) Respiration (breathing in and out),
2) The larynx and surrounding structures in the throat,
3) The back of the tongue,
4) The front of the tongue,
5) The embouchure.

Just a discussion of these mechanisms could keep us corresponding for years. There is a wealth of information and studies focussed on the mechanism of articulation including "x-ray motion picture" research.

But that is not all. Historic writings on articulation are fascinating. It is clear from Baroque sources and scholars of the Baroque period that tonguing strokes by performers were far more varied than what we practice today. I am interested in learning more about the application of these techniques to the performance of those works on modern and period instruments.

In addition we could discuss sports related research, articulation studies, methods for increasing articulation clarity and speed, solutions to articulation problems, and much, much more.

I look forward to our discussion,

Terry

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

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Re: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

Great topic, Terry, and I just happen to have a question that has been occupying my mind lately...

In my very first oboe lesson with James Caldwell, he told me "NEVER....EVER.... end the tone with your tongue!" I accepted this advice, but now wonder if this is a rule to be occasionally broken. Of course, when you are tonguing a rapid succesion of very fast notes, this is a moot point, because the beginning of one note and the end of the the previous note are both produced by a single touching of the reed with the tongue. That's not what I'm taking about. It would be difficult to describe in detail, but suffice it to say that in a world of infinite possibilities for musical expression, I do sometimes find myself very unobtrusively and neatly ending tones with the tongue the instant before starting the next tone. I think I can safely say that a collegue of mine in the MS Symphnoy Orchestra, who studied with Robert Bloom, never ends the tone with the tongue, at least not that I have ever been able to discern.

What does everyone think? Occasionally end the tone with the tongue, or NEVER?

David Crispin
Crispin's Creations and Accessories
freelance oboist. Mississippi Symphony Orchestra
www.CrispinsCreations.com

Re: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

One of these days (if they haven't already) some contemporary composer will come up with a symbol for having you do just that.  Otherwise, surely there are times when there is no space between notes.  If there is audible space...I say NEVER use the tongue to create the space.

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Re: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

David,

Stopping the tone with the tongue is absolutely necessary in many circumstances. For instance, for rapid tonguing and portato (very connected) tonguing it is a necessity.

There is a lot of confusion about how to stop and start notes. Perhaps your Caldwell was trying to get you to end notes in an elegant way.

Terry

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

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Re: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

Articulation definitely drives me batty sometimes! It's a good topic to open up discussion on. I have trouble synchronizing my tongue and my fingers when doing fast chromatic runs. (There's one in the Mozart Oboe Concerto in C major that drives me insane.) It sounds embarrassingly flubby. Practice, practice...

As far as ending notes with your tongue, I can see why it would be advised against, but once in a while it can't be too evil. smile

Claire Binkley
Oboe/English Horn
West Chester University

Re: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

Dear Mr. Ewell,

Would you mind taking a moment to summarizing your aproach to double tonguing on the basson.  Do you find this to be a necessary skill?  Thanks for your time.

Steve Welgoss
Long Island, NY
bassoon@welgoss.com

Re: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

Also, for examples such as when Stravinsky writes "tres sec" ("very dry"), you could stop the sound with your tongue to achieve the dry sound.  Kent

Dr. Kent Moore
Principal Lecturer In Bassoon and Theory
Northern Arizona University

Re: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

I was taught that you should be able to both stop the tone with the breath as well as the tongue- which is how I play, with a mix of each method. With a little practice you can make your roundest tongue stop (or release) as round as the roundest breath stop (release).(I usually use the term 'release', but this thread is referring to it as a stop.) Learning to stop the reed with the tongue is one good way to be able to make rapid articulations. It's the old round peg/square hole thing- you can't tongue faster than your shortest note!

Paul Barrett
   -Principal Bassoonist, Honolulu Symphony
    -Lecturer in Bassoon, University of Hawaii

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Re: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

Hello Steve, I wanted to clarify the use of the tongue at the end of notes a-la-John Mack. In one of his many wonderful Q and A periods at an early IDRS conference, I remember a great analogy used by John to describe his term, "tongueing on the wind", that he learned from Marcel Tabuteau. John said, "We all know what a child's phonograph box looks like" (that WAS early days - there are hardlyany phonographs left save for the aficianados who insist that phonograph records at the high end give infinitely more true to life sound than any CD can ever do! Back to topic: John Mack then described a use for the child's phonograph : imagine, he said, that you have placed small name cards on clothes pins fixed to the edge of the turntable all aroung this item. Each card represents a new note. John then explained that he could keep the tonal support moving at all times (like the turned on child's phonograph) and when he had a note to play, his tongue would gently start that note with "ta", and when the next note appeared (soon) he would put his tongue back on the card (reed) to both end the first note and form the start of the second note. I have explained "tonguing on the wind" to bassoonists in my new book "Bassoon Trills, Shakes and Skills" on page 78 of my book in my chapter titled "Tonguing on the Wind"
Whenever I hear the best woodwind players perform articulated running notes, I have recognized in the effect produced a technique which I (luckily) was taught as a student at the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, NY).
   David Van Hoesen, my excellent teacher then, asked me to turn my reed a few degrees to the right on the bocal (I use the angle of 17 minutes after the hour on the clock minute hand to teach exactly how much I angle the reed to the right).  Next, Mr. Van Hoesen explained, "Now, as the reed enters your mouth, the place where you will first make contact with your tongue will be the bottom blade, right hand corner.  I then learned to perform a long tone and, during the holding of the tone, to put the tongue back on the corner of the reed while maintaining the long tone's sound.  It tickles, at first. But, as I soon came to realize, it was now physically possible to keep the reed in live vibration, when my tongue touched that bottom right hand corner of my reed.
To the left of this corner is a reed opening which can now accept all of the wind support I want to give to the column of air inside my instrument.
Thus, when a group of notes occur in a pattern of tongued articulation, each note I play hs the perfect shape described to me by Maurice Allard, as, "exactement comme la note jouee par le timbale (tympani) ou par la contrebasse en pizzicato!" Each note begins with a small excited stress and remains ALIVE, filled with energy even when the note is ending and my tongue has returned to end the note I am playing and to begin the articulation of the next note I will sound. This technique was described by John Mack, the recently-retired renowned solo oboist of the Cleveland Orchestra as "Tonguing on the Wind".

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Re: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

I have a new 7th grade oboe student who simply cannot (will not?) make his tongue touch the reed. I have tried everything I can think of for the past 2 months, to no avail! He also moves his mouth and/or jaw, and I can't get him to stop that either. I'm sure it's all "tied up" together. Help!

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Re: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

Terry, A grand idea to begin more specific discussion about articulation. The topic will probably always be controversial due to the wind player's reality: we cannot SEE any of our articulators: tongue, throat, air, supporting muscles.  In this we can envy the string player who can see the bow, arm, wrist, fingers in action.

Christopher Weait,
Principal bassoon, Toronto Symphony (1968 - 1985)
IDRS Honorary Member; Emeritus professor Ohio State University
www.weaitmusic.com

Re: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

peggygrant wrote:

I have a new 7th grade oboe student who simply cannot (will not?) make his tongue touch the reed. I have tried everything I can think of for the past 2 months, to no avail! He also moves his mouth and/or jaw, and I can't get him to stop that either. I'm sure it's all "tied up" together. Help!

I had the same problem when I was a young (7th grade) clarinet student.  I was "tonguing" on the roof of my mouth, not on the mouthpiece.  That is causing the jaw motion you're seeing.

Have the kid stick his tongue out at you and use that motion as a starting point.  Have him put the reed on the tip of his tongue outside of his mouth.  Use a mirror so he can see what he's doing (and of course, demonstrate yourself).  It'll look goofy and you can have a good laugh about it.  Make sure you are having him put the reed on the correct part of the tongue that he would use when tonguing inside his mouth.  You'll have to do a little work in front of the mirror on your own to see what the physical variables are and things like that.

The idea of this exercise is to get the student to see what should be happening as best as we can.  Like the post right above me, it's hard to teach something we cannot see.  All of this should be done without the instrument.

If you can get him over the funny feeling of the tongue touching the reed  - and it does feel funny when you've never done it, it might even be slightly unpleasant - you're halfway there.  Practice crowing the reed starting with the tongue.  Don't worry about rapid articulation or tension at this point, you want to get the student over the sensation.  Once he's able to start a sound with the tongue, then you can work on repeated articulation after a week or so of his own practice.

It's a difficult habit to break, but I did it at that very age, so it can be done.

I hope my suggestions are helpful.  Good luck!

Last edited by Trent (2008-09-02 10:51:43)

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: Welcome to the Double Reed Articulation Forum

Trent has some great suggestions here. As we worked through them in the student's lesson, I found out that this student had been keeping his tongue on the reed all the time rather than moving it to articulate. I wonder if some people have weak tongues? Anyway, Trent encouraged him to hang in there and I'm sure he will. It was a great lesson!   Peggy

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