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To tongue or not to tongue
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Author:  Rusco [ Wed Jul 03, 2019 12:22 pm ]
Post subject:  To tongue or not to tongue

Hi Fluters,

Just looking for some advice (as usual).

Playing the Jig Coleman's Cross, there are several repeated 2nd octave Es and Ds just in the first 4 measures alone. Now, I'm learning this tune from Shannon Heaton's First 50 set. In the book she mentions tongueing some and cutting others. This works but I know tongueing is frowned upon by some. You can seperate the three Es in the 2nd measure by using a roll and it worKs OK. Can't do that on the D though so maybe a crann? Glottal stops sound a bit awkward, or maybe I'm not hitting them right. If I use a kuh type of glottal it isn't to bad.
Does anyone who plays this Jig have any suggestions? Tongueing works fine and I'm tempted to think that if it's good enough for the likes of Shannon Heaton and Aoife Granville, it's certainly good enough for me.

Any advice appreciated



Author:  MadmanWithaWhistle [ Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

Tonguing is not frowned upon; far from it, it's essential to many of Mary Bergin's techniques, including combined with cuts to add additional punch. Playing the whistle like it's a recorder, i.e. tonguing every note so as to play with no lift or grace, is frowned upon. Glottal stops on the whistle can be done but are typically not as crisp as tonguing.

Author:  jim stone [ Wed Jul 03, 2019 3:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

Tonguing is accepted on the whistle, less so on the Irish flute. In my experience it's generally frowned
on there, though at least one of my teachers recommended it. I do think, with a bit of practice,
the 'Kuh' from the back of the throat works very well. There's nothing on its face the matter with using
a roll. But if you finally want to tongue, go for it. I usually stay away from it, but sometimes it's called for.

Author:  sjpete [ Wed Jul 03, 2019 6:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

It was Shannon Heaton who told me "you never tongue, until you do." It was also Shannon who told me "rhythm first, melody second, ornaments third." Therefore, I think a better question might be "what's the way I can best play this passage cleanly?" I found myself too often trying to play things with cuts/rolls and bad glottal stops instead of tonguing the damn note because it was the "right" way. Luckily I learned with time (and some teaching) that it is not right if it interrupts the flow of the tune. So, if you can't play something cleanly at tempo without tonguing the note, than tongue it. The "d' instead of the "t" is a softer approach. It's not like all of a sudden you've started articulating every note staccato style - and is anyone really going to notice that in an entire tune, you tongued a few notes? All this "frowning upon," I think we judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else.

Author:  Conical bore [ Wed Jul 03, 2019 8:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

My take on it, as a non-expert who has only been playing for a few years so take it for what it's worth:

I think the caution against tonguing for Irish flute playing in Irish trad is primarily aimed at Classical flute players, who will instinctively tongue every single note when they first get interested in Irish trad. Like Classical fiddlers who instinctively add heavy vibrato, when that's an articulation best used sparingly in this music.

The common thread in every printed tutor I've read for "Irish flute" and the many videos I've watched, including the OAIM series, is that tonguing is one technique among many. Maybe best used sparingly, because we're inheriting a tradition based on the pipes, where only finger ornamentation was possible. We tend to honor that tradition on the instruments that arrived later on. But tonguing, glottal stops, and all the in-between ways of mouth articulation shouldn't necessarily be avoided completely. Just not tongued on every note, as in Classical flute playing.

Personally, I'll use tonguing a few times here and there where it seems like the best alternative. Often combined with finger articulation, like breaking up the initial triplet in "Brenda Stubbert's" reel with a tap and a light tounged note at the same time, just to add a little emphasis to the tap. I'm not good at glottal stops, still working on that, and maybe that would be better. But I'll use a little tongued note here and there where it seems to make sense.

Author:  an seanduine [ Thu Jul 04, 2019 2:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

True enough, the caution is to not tongue. But that doesn't always work. Nor does it suit every artist's style. Most traditionalist flute players will tend to use some form of throating or glottal stop. Northen fluters will use breath pulsing. Some, seeking to emulate Matt Molloy will seek to employ finger articulations. Some, like Catherine MacEvoy, will tongue.
Conal O'Grada points at critical listening to answer these sorts of questions. And then listen some more. And then. . .so on. What we want to do is use whatever is our choice of articulation to point up the basic pulse, and rhythm of the tune. Many times these are expressions of your personal 'voice'. As a beginner, you really don't want to have a 'classical accent'. We are in a pretty broad church, but you have to do a great deal of really critical listening before you can be sure of flowing down the main path.
If you can, get a copy of Conal O'Grada's tutor.


Author:  kenny [ Thu Jul 04, 2019 4:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

It's entirely up to yourself, and the kind of sound you want to achieve. Here are 2 quotes from classes I have attended :

Willie Clancy Week 1982 - Matt Molloy turned up that year, and generously gave up some of his time to play some tunes and answer questions from the assembled flute classes. He was asked something along the lines of "What do you do with your tongue when playing?"
Answer - "I keep it out of the way".

Conal O'Grada - Ballyvourney 2017 - "Anyone tonguing will be required to leave the class" - only semi - "tongue in cheek".

At the end of the day, it has to be your decision - no one can decide for you, nor should you let them.

Author:  bradhurley [ Thu Jul 04, 2019 7:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

It's funny that Catherine McEvoy was mentioned as someone who tongues, because it was a workshop with her back in the 1990s, organized by the late Bill Ochs, that convinced me to switch from tonguing to glottal stops! She said she occasionally uses her tongue, mainly on the highest notes, but otherwise she's always using glottal stops...even on staccato triplets (she recorded a hornpipe on one of her CDs where she does triple-glottal-stop triplets that sound very much like tak-a-dah tongued triplets); I have a recording somewhere of her demonstrating that in a class. She's also a great whistle player and does tongue when she plays the whistle. She is an accomplished piano accompanist too, but as far as I know she doesn't use her tongue. :)

Deirdre Havlin is a good example of an Irish flute player who uses tonguing effectively, it sounds fine to me in her style of playing.

Even though I came to the flute from the pipes, I'm not sure I agree that we're inheriting a tradition based on piping; Irish flute playing has evolved in its own way and if you listen to some of the standard-setters like John McKenna you'll not hear much in the way of piping in that.

I actually started learning tonguing again recently, but only for Breton music.

Author:  Rusco [ Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

Thanks a million for all your replies; all very helpful comments guys. I probably should have specified I'm talking about flute not whistle. Obviously tounging whistle is pretty much essential.

I guess I'll try to work on my fingure articulation and throat articulation. If I can get it clean with that then If I add tongueing it's an artistic choice rather than a technical cop-out.

Got Belfast tradfest workshop with Kevin Crawford and Harry Bradley in a couple of weeks. I'm sure they'll steer me right as well. :-)

Author:  kenny [ Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

Those fellas will keep you right ! But seriously, ask them for their opinions on tonguing, specifically in playing Irish traditional music on the flute. And please come back and let us know what they tell you. I'm sure many people here would be interested to know that.

Author:  flyingparchment [ Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

this is something i've been wondering about myself recently and i'd love to know what advanced players think about it - please do let us know!

Author:  ChrisCracknell [ Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

Tonguing and Glottal stops both with and without cuts sound different. The increased space between glottis (?) and embouchure means that there is a bit of a wave of pressure building up before the note sounds, leading to a bit more of a plosive effect on glottal stops - or at least it seems so to me. I perceive a glottal stop with a cut as being a bit wilder than a tongued cut, though both obviously vary a lot depending on what notes are involved, what pressure you are playing at, whether you are timing it with a pulse from the diaphragm, etc. Tonguing I see as a bit more of a precise on/off switch for the note - capable, done properly, of being much faster than a glottal stop (especially if "double tonguing...).

That's how I perceive it anyway - which is "correct" depends on what you want to hear at any given point.

I would also agree, that coming from a classical tradition and seeing music written with no slurs, one would tend to tongue every note, which would be wrong here. Though the error here is one of understanding the way the notation is being used, rather than a mad predisposition to tongue everything.

Author:  hpinson [ Fri Jul 12, 2019 7:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

Judge for yourself:

Author:  kenny [ Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

Or :

Author:  ertwert [ Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To tongue or not to tongue

I am nearly 100% sure, that even Matt Molloy uses tonguing (or at least glotal stops) sometimes. Not in every tune, but listen to some of his solo or duo albums and you will definitely hear it from time to time.
Athen great flute players like Tom Doorley or Orlaith McAuliffe it quiet often. I think there is nothing wrong, using it from time to time as a stylistic device or variation. It just shouldn't be the default tool for a passage.
I can't imagine anyone would dare to say that these to performances are somehow flawed, because of tonguing:

Tom Doorley: Indepence Hornpipe/ New Policeman

Orlaith McAuliff: Colonel Fraser's

Even Kevin Crawford who has a very, very fluent style, uses it from time to time as a form of ornamentation.

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