I've been playing flute for a few months and the tonguing technique I was taught* is to sort of "tut" - the tongue rests on the roof of the mouth blocking air, then flicks forward when released.

However on a "introduction to flute" online video I saw an alternative technique taught. In this method the tutor demonstrated making a small hole in the lips, and blocking this hole with the tongue, almost like you're sticking your tongue out a tiny bit in a flirty way, then flicking the tongue up to release air and make a note.

Is there a correct way to tongue then or as long as the goal is achieved - a controlled enunciation - doesn't it matter?

4 Answers 4


You're probably already doing something similar in adjusting your tonguing to the embouchure you're using for different notes, using a wider, more open lip position for the lower notes. If you're not, then you need to experiment with it, or you'll produce a sharper attack and therefore a different tone on the higher notes than the lower ones.

To see the importance of triggering a clear attack, try blowing aross the top of an empty glass beer bottle to see how long it takes to create a note without tonguing. It can be done, it produces a beautiful sound, but it's utterly uncontrollable, as you're dependant on the inherent harmonic of the bottle to create the vibration which becomes the sound. It's also superb for developing breath control. Tonguing initially creates the vibration the flute is built to maintain, but just as the major determinant between instruments is the attack, so the determinant between flute players is the attack they give by their tonguing and embouchure. Yes, you need a fairly clear implosion to start the phrase, but once the flute is vibrating, it's far more a question of keeping it going, and that is a more subtle art. Experiment in your practice, using not just the tip, but sometimes the side instead, and different parts of the side. I am told that there is a genetic predisposition to being able to either roll one's tongue tip back or the sides into a tube - I can't do the first, I can the second - and that may limit what you can do, but unless you try, you'll never know. The question is then one of learning to control the weird noises you produce as a result. So, as ever, practice, practice, practice, not simply to embed the dots into your body memory, but to give that body memory a palette of techniques which can be called in when you want to do something unusual. No, not that common in the classical reperoire, but the meat-and-two-veg of jazz.


Aside from double/triple tonguing there is really no different technique. However, what you noticed is a discrepancy on how one should tongue. A vast of majority of teachers in the elementary and or high school level will teach their students to either tongue either right behind their teeth (what you were probably taught) which is the "tut" deal or right in front of the the teeth which was kinda of a more "tu" kinda sound (the person in the video). Furthermore, I recall my teacher saying there is "nu" sounding tonguing as well. I found an article that better explains this "nu" tonguing technique. Ultimately, these tonguing "sounds" are equivalent to each other in the same way that all guitar string are equivalent each other.

Link to the article I mentioned.


Actually, there are many different correct ways to tongue depending on the sound / articulation you're looking for, which is something commonly used in brass playing.

(Single Tonguing) For example:

"Too" and "Toh" both have a crisp articulation, but "Toh" focuses the sound a bit more. "Doo" and "Doh" both have a slightly softer articulation

(Double Tounguing) For example:

"Tuh-ka Tuh-ka" has a crisper articulation "Duh-ga Duh-ga" has a less crisp articulation

You can really modify most consonants + vowels to create your own articulations as well. For example: "Tah - Tee - Taw - Tur" will all create slightly different sounds.

In your particular circumstance, I wouldn't recommend "tut" as you impede airflow and breath management. For flute, you will actually need a combination of tonguing techniques to produce different sounds (just as a jet whistle or whisper tones). In playing flute I was always taught "Tooh".

The most helpful advice however, is to watch other flute players and see (and listen to) what they are doing.

  • It's quite hard to tell in my experience - the movements of the lips/embouchure can be very subtle and of course the tongue is generally inside the mouth :)
    – Mr. Boy
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 18:48

I was always taught NOT to stick my tongue out. You are supposed to whisper 'too' into the flute to separate notes, and more of a 'doo' for something a bit more Legato.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.