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Help Your Child Learn Good Articulation (Tonguing)

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Hi everyone! Today's tutorial is all about developing a good technique for articulation. This vital skill allows the saxophonist to separate notes rapidly in a relaxed and controlled way, maintaining a good sound while doing so. This is a foundational skill that is vital for progressing beyond the beginner stage. Although it can be frustrating to learn for some students, with the right support and some perseverance all students can develop this technique effectively.


Learning to articulate (tongue) properly on any wind instrument can be a wildcard. Explaining the technique can be extremely challenging, as like breathing the technique is internal and not visible. Some students instinctively know how to tongue and can do it straight away, others get confused by the explanation and learn the technique more slowly over weeks. It's really important to get the technique correct right from the beginning.

Tonguing Technique

The basic tonguing technique is explained in the video above. The main thing is to remember to maintain the airstream while separating the notes with the tongue, avoiding puffing air for each note. When tonguing the tip of the tongue must strike the tip of the reed, interrupting the airflow and separating the notes. To develop the correct technique, say "ta-ta-ta" and feel how the tip of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth. Replicate this technique on the tip of the reed while blowing.

Visualising with Alternate Imagery

For parents who don't play the instrument themselves, it can be helpful to visualise the breath / tonguing system as a kitchen tap. Imagine the airstream as the column of water in the plumbing, leading to the tap outlet. The column of water is under pressure, until the tap is turned, which opens the valve and releasing the pressurised water. If the tap is left open water continually pours from the tap under pressure. Imagine this open tap running as analagous to blowing a long note through the instrument. If you quickly close and open the tap while its running, the water stream is briefly interrupted before resuming flow. Imagine the valve as the tongue, interrupting the pressurised airflow briefly. Imagining this can help to explain to a child how they should maintain the airstream while tonguing.

Round Up

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