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I have been trying to play relatively fast pieces (e.g. staccato sixteenth notes at ≈200 bpm) on a soprano recorder lately. Single tonguing on them is impossible, I have found. I have done some double tonguing on the cornet, but when I try it on the recorder, the second part of it comes out overblown and harsh. Is double tonguing performed differently on the recorder or do I just need to practice more? Are their any other techniques for quick tonguing on the recorder?

EDIT: For example, which notes in the circled measure would I tongue using the back of my tongue and which would I tongue with the tip? Snippet

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

While the characteristics of the trumpet (or other brass instruments) will cover any inconsistencies in your double-tonguing technique, the recorder will not. You'll need to very carefully work on evening out the syllables. Simply thinking of an even, uninterrupted airflow will help, but you'll likely need some additional work. Visualize a continuous airstream throughout the double-toungued phrase, and your articulations as simply placing dents in the airstream. Or visualize your tongue as floating on the airflow. That in particular helps me. Finally, to even out the syllables, try single-tonguing using the syllable (ka or ga) that you use for the second syllable of your double-tonguing technique. Then double-tongue, but reverse the syllables. I imagine it'll take a lot of work to even out enough to sound consistently great on a recorder.

EDIT for your edit: I would try using the syllables "da-ga" or "doo-goo." In my experience, they are softer, and more naturally even syllables. They may work better on the recorder. I would tongue that circled measure as: "da-ga-da-ga da da." This is easy on brass, more difficult to get even on recorder. If you still have the problems with overblowing the second syllable even with the "da-ga," try using the backwards technique I detailed above; it really helps to make them even!

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Read what Quantz has to say about the matter. Syllables like te-ke and duh-gah were not considered beautiful. He recommended did'll or dood'll, made using the sides of the tongue.

Playing all the notes in a passage evenly was not the goal either. Play them in pairs, or one vs. 3, etc. Varying the tonguing helps keep the tongue from getting tired.

Francis Blaker's The Recorder Player's Companion discusses all this and presents a series of useful drills covering all 3 possibilities given here. Highly recommended.

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Did'll is clearly the way to go. Count on it taking LOTS of hours to get you there. I used to practice in the car on long driving trips.... did-ll--di-dll... etc. For HOURS.

Eventually this becomes LIGHTNING fast. I can do running 16ths on a g scale at a metronome count of over 200 beats/minute (800 notes a minute).

Quantz "On Playing the Flute" is the bible. Read the chapter on the use of the tongue.

You will also need te-re to give you slower passages a nice lilt.


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Though Quantz's did'll is a good and working option, it isn't the only one. It seems to be used most when an especially fluid effect is wanted, and other tonguings may be employed when seeking for more separation between the notes. For a contemporary author's take on double tonguing on recorder (rather than on transverse flute), see van Hauwe's Modern Recorder Player vol. I (the technical "bible" for recorder players, if there ever was one).

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I don't have a copy of van Hauwe handy. Could you summarize a bit about his take on double tonguing? – American Luke May 4 '14 at 13:08
I can't really do that, as it's a fairly long section with many exercises. His books are worth getting for their detailed breakdown of technique. However, he uses T, D and R (which he seems to equate with Quant's diD'LL). At a glance, he doesn't mention G. Gudryn Heyens deals with D-G in her Advanced Recorder Technique vol. I. – Cousin Emily May 5 '14 at 8:23

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