This etude presents a challenge in tonguing, where 9(a) works on single tonguing and 9 (b) double tonguing. Before embarking on a tiring journey, there are few things you could do to help make life easier:
1. Practise slurred
By practising the etude slurred, you can negotiate any tricky fingerings and more challenging, interval leaps. Your embouchure needs to be flexible to negotiate interval drops (bar 5) and also leaps up (bar 17).
Try to find a sound that is effervescent and rich. You will want to copy this when you start tonguing. Often it can sound weak and lifeless when one starts tonguing, but with the right sound in mind, you have a clear goal of what your tonguing should sound like.
2. Practise on one note
Often, tongued passages can sound messy because of poor coordination of the tongue and fingers. Therefore, practise your tonguing on B semiquavers (16th notes). Combining your work in 1. above and 2. here, your fingers and tongue should be better coordinated.
3. Slow practise
Not only slow, but with a particular focus on sound and coordination. Finger the note first and then play it with the tongue.
4. Without the tongue
You can even try it without the tongue and just blow (“ha -ha-ha”) – this gives you a more vibrant sound with the correct air speed. Students will often over-compensate with the tongue to get a note out, so this method is useful and also a good work out for the abdominal muscles.
5. Put it all together up to tempo
Gradually build up speed day by day. Don’t ever sacrifice sound quality and coordination for speed. If your tongue gets tired, have a break. Sometimes I flutter tongue passages, which helps relax the tongue muscle and also give me a better supported sound afterwards.
Double tonguing in 9b.
For 9b, you simply have to double tongue each note. You can try backwards tonguing (GD, GD, or KT, KT). Make sure the rhythm is accurate and not swung (long-short) in any way. I remember at college, somebody played a piece involving a double tonguing section and it sounded unsuitably jazzy! Practise a reverse swung rhythm (short-long) to counter this tendency.
Flexibility of tempo
Practise it at different speeds so that you are flexible. Many students have an automatic single tonguing and double tonguing speed- work on making sure you can play at any speed with different tonguing.
This etude is particularly useful if you are working on a piece that involves extended tonguing passages. For example, I am working on Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from Midsummer Night’s Dream and I use this method to make sure the excerpt sounds exciting, bubbly and has a good sound. Voliere from Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens is also an excerpt that benefits from this method of practise.
Extension: Triple tonguing
If you are working on Mendelssohn’s 4th symphony with all that triple tonguing, you could extend this etude by doing your own 9c by triple tonguing each note (TKT TKT or TKT KTK).
Thanks for reading and happy fluting!