Hornmasters on Average Tonguing, Part V: Reynolds and Hill


To conclude our series on tonguing in general we turn to two more recent American horn teachers.

Verne Reynolds in The Horn Handbook ties the action of the tongue stroke to the air and that it all must happen in one, uninterrupted and automatic motion.

The tongue stroke and air flow must be timed precisely. A hesitant tongue stroke produces late and uncertain responses. A late air flow produces inaccuracies. The metronome is very helpful in timing the air intake with the tongue stroke and air flow. There should be no pause at the top of the intake, but rather the air should change directions immediately with the tongue stroke. The tongue should not rest against the back of the upper teeth before the stroke but should have an uninterrupted motion.

On examination you will find that the tongue is slightly tapered at its front and can be rather thick and broad. From behind the upper teeth a quick withdrawal of this breadth (there is no tip of the tongue), when timed precisely with the beginning of the air flow, can cause the lips to vibrate. Once the intake has begun, there must be no pause in the sequence of air intake-tongue stroke-air flow. A rhythmically controlled, slightly audible air intake and precise tongue strokes are indispensable in wind chamber music.

The process must become natural and automatic.

Douglas Hill in Collected Thoughts on Teaching and Learning, Creativity, and Horn Performance, after suggesting a basic articulation of “tahhh,” notes that for an articulation

The tip of the tongue very briefly touches the gum line near the top teeth. At the release of the warm air, the tip of the tongue drops quickly down and slightly back, resting near the bottom of the mouth. Let the air flow with a constant speed as described above. To stop this tone, you simply suspend the air. Let the motion cease.

It is almost never necessary to stop the air with a constriction of the throat or with a placement of the tongue up to the gum… The tongue helps only to establish a typ of beginning to each sound. This is just like normal speech. The softer the tongue touches the gum line, the less compression for the air release, and the more mellow, smooth, or legato the note will sound. There are many transient qualities, or consonants, possible, with “t” and “d” being the most commonly used by brass players.

So are the Hornmasters done talking about tonguing? Not by a long shot. Be looking for more soon on topics including staccato, rapid tonguing, and multiple tonguing.

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