Every time you play a (separated) note on the trumpet, you’re tonguing. It’s the most natural aspect of playing any brass instrument – if we didn’t tongue our notes, we would simply be blowing one long slurred phrase until we ran out of air!
Learning how to single, double, and triple tongue notes on the trumpet is the path to technical virtuosity.
In other words, if you can play really fast and accurately, you must learn to tongue effectively.
How To Practice Tonguing Exercises
There are two main ways to tongue on the trumpet, and two generally accepted syllables for doing so.
Single Tongue: This is the normal way we play, with a burst of air in the front of the embouchure.
The single tongue can be played with a “ta” syllable for a hard attack, and “da” for a soft one.
Double Tongue: To play two notes very quickly together – generally 16th notes and smaller – you’ll want to use a “ka” syllable for accented notes, and a “ga” sound for softer ones.
So, a hard double tongue would be “ta-ka-ta-ka” whereas a soft double tongue would be played like “da-ga-da-ga” in a given passage.
Triple Tongue: Similar to the double tongue, triple tonguing can be performed in two different ways – either “ta-ta-ka” or “da-da-ga”. A variation on this might be “TA-ka-ta-KA-ta-ka” when six 16th notes or more are played in success, for instance.
IMPORTANT! Start these slowly and work your way up. Accuracy is key, not speed. The speed will come naturally the more you practice!