My private teacher for clarinet introduced me to what she called "chunking" to improve tonguing and articulating faster, but not as a music memorizing tool.

You take a piece of music that has straight sixteenths for many measures, for example, and you change it from sixteenths to having the first note elongated so that it is a quarter note, then three sixteenth. Another example is turning it so that the rhythm was syncopated.

I understand the psychological aspects of it, but can it help me articulate faster? Has anyone heard of this method? Does it actually work?

  • Is anyone else getting serious déja vu? I feel as though I've seen this question before on this site, and certain phrases in the question sound extremely familiar to me... Maybe I'm crazy, because no recommended dupes, but idk.
    – user45266
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 5:31
  • @user45266 - You're not alone: music.stackexchange.com/questions/72693/… doesn't quite seem like a dupe, but it's definitely closely related. I must admit that it's easier to pull off those sorts of rhythmic exercises on the piano than the clarinet.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 6:34
  • I think the difference between piano and a wind instrument is large enough to merit it’s own question.
    – Tim H
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 9:42
  • This seems an excellent way to practice. It will bring you control and fluency. Basic stuff really.
    – PeterJ
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 11:18
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of What's the name of this rhythm technique at piano?
    – coconochao
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 13:27

3 Answers 3


I don´t now much about clarinet but what you mention is pretty much standard in all fields of training. From my personal experience with learning instruments my teacher for violin asked me to do so and my teacher for drumset asks me to do so. My daughters teacher for cello also uses this type of exercise from time to time.

Regarding the clarinet: E.g. Keith Stein in "The Art of Clarinet Playing" says that training with the "Schottische Figure" (that is dotted 1/8 with 1/16) trains uniformity of note length and maintenance of breath and embouchure.

My 2 cents: I don´t see that the type of instrument plays a crucial role for this type of exercise. Of course, when applied on piano you won´t train maintenance of breath but the basic principle is the same:

In cognitive sciences these approaches are named, to my knowledge, de-accentuation or desynchronisation. And they deal with two effects: To perform a periodic task you will have to continuously manage phase correction and period correction. Phase corrections is not cognitively controlled, while period correction is.

With de-accentuation you remove the focus on period correction and you can use the limited resources of the brain to focus on other aspects.

As a professional trainer I see two other advantages: 1. breaking routine can support interest. 2. breaking routine can tackle frustrations and frictions coming from repeating a routine too often without rewarding progress.


Yep, this is an excellent exercise. My teacher called it "galumphing", but same idea.
I recommend not only two-note chunks, short-long and long-short, but also three-note chunks.

As a companion exercise, especially for runs, play the first 3 or 4 notes until they are solid. Then play the first 4 or 5, then 6, etc. (rather like "suicide drills" for athletes, but less tiring). Then do the same thing, but starting with the last 4 notes, then the last 5 notes, and so on.

  • My teacher gets me to do the long-short and the short-long variants. She says that it helps because you train your fingers to switch quickly from the short note to the long note but then you have a bit of time to think before the next short note. When you play the rhythms as written again, it feels easier because you feel like you have more time between all the notes
    – lioness99a
    Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 11:56

I'm also used to this kind of exercise. To get a run of 8th easily running, one first assumes the odd notes have a dot and the even are shortened accordingly, and then vice versa.

If you achieve the even/odd smoothly with a bit more more time for the other transitions (to think, to adjust the fingers), chances for success are noticably better. After having boosted the other transitions as well, the original sequence is no longer appearing problematic.

I guess, this is as much a psychological process (the certainty, that one even is able to complete this faster) as the physical challenge to train the fingers to move faster (even in a restricted scenario) than required for this specific run.

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.