I was inspired by a recent post on the Facebook Horn People group about flutter tonguing. It is a question that comes up fairly often, and I find myself writing the same thing over and over again. Which is not a bad thing, I think it's great that people want to learn to flutter, and am always reassured when people show up (in comments) to support the value of flutter tonguing as more than just an "effect", which it also gets written up as.
I think it is of value to note that flutter tonguing comes up often, in many contexts. The more new music you play the more of it you will encounter. There are times where one can make an argument that it is merely an effect, as well there are times where it is a colour, or a shift in timbre, a musical device, etc. So we can't just view it as a singular and one dimensional technique. That would be like saying that stopped horn is only an effect to make something sound brassy.
So the goal of part one is to outline the approach I took to learn to flutter, as well to provide some other thoughts I have been fortunate to gather from other horn players, brass players, and more in regards to having a functional and effective flutter tongue.
Up First, the Approach:
The first thing I want to do is break down my approach to teaching, and how I myself learned to flutter. I want to emphasize, if it's not a thing you just get right away, it will take work. Like anything else, there is no magic pill, or light switch we can flip to make it suddenly happen, it will take some effort, but, here we go
Step 1: Take away the horn, and the mouthpiece, we are only going to need your face, and maybe a piece of paper (I'd recommend the piece of paper).
Step 2: Place the tip of the tongue in the place you would do your usually TA articulation (this is important as we want to relate this technique and placement to something we already know). Once here you want to keep the tip of the tongue in a point, or shaped like a ski tip. Relax the back of the tongue, and then blow air towards a piece of paper, or hand that you are holding in front of your face. You want to try to keep the tip of the tongue pressed against the TA location with as little effort as possible.
Rinse, lather, repeat until you get a flutter going.
Here are a few key things you can keep focused on: tongue placement, make sure you are blowing your air with energy and intent towards that external point (piece of paper, hand, etc). We want to make sure we aren't blowing at our tongue, but past it. We are in essence, obstructing the air stream before it starts the embouchure in motion so AIR FLOW is crucial.
Step 3: Once you get something going (it may be kind of janky at first, but keep with it, keep using the monitor) repeat the process with the mouthpiece, and the again with the horn. When we add the metal into the mix the feeling will be that we "lose space" for the tongue, but keep focused on the key points of tongue placement, and air flow. I would recommend starting on a mid-range note (something around the middle C range) and when that becomes secure start doing intervals, scale fragments, etc. Remember the goal at this point is working on the fundamental skill and getting that down (remember things like lip slurs, and long tones... this is like that, you can even do lip slurs, and long tones with a flutter.)
So beyond needing to have this skill as a horn player what are some reasons we care? Here are some points to consider, flutter tonguing needs great air, so you will get incredible air control from it. It helps tremendously doing flutter scales over your break, and even more. Anything air related will benefit from this. So stick with it.
Part 2 of this post will be a look at some examples of flutter in practice in different settings, and more!
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