top of page

How to Tongue Faster: 5 Innovative (but Stolen!) Tips for Brass and Woodwind Players.

There are lots of tips out there to help brass and woodwind players tongue faster but in this blog post I am going to explore what can be learnt from a variety of different instruments (those who do not need to use their tongue) and the steps those musicians take to increase speed on their instruments.

I guarantee there will be something here in these 5 expert tips that you have never tried before!

This post and those it links with, will contain some affiliate links to products I personally like. Always browse for the product that best suits you.

Brass player tongue
The tongue is an awesome tool for brass and woodwind players!

All instruments have instrument specific techniques. It is something GCSE and A-Level music students have to study for the listening exam part of their courses. It is something that composers have to be very aware of in order to fully exploit the potential of the instruments they are composing for. Check out my GCSE composition tips blog post here.

Instruments across the different musical families are played in very different ways and that is what makes them unique, but when it comes to speed of techniques, there are crossovers and I hope to show from this article that we can all learn from each other, or even steal some ideas from other instruments. One of the main ones for brass and woodwind is how to tongue faster.

An example of these crossovers can be found in the use of the tongue (for brass and woodwind) and what the equivalent technique is for other instrument families. Here are some examples:

Drum kit double bass drum pedal technique could be likened to double tonguing.

Guitar downstroke picking could be likened to single tonguing.

Detache bowing on the violin could be likened to tenuto tonguing.

Hand speed in triplets on the djembe could be likened to triple tonguing.

Singing repeated vocalisations (la la la) could be likened to single tonguing.

So all musicians, at some stage need to practice speeding something up, whether that is the tongue, the arm, the wrist or the feet. There are some very common trends though, that everyone regardless of instrument or musical style need to do if they want to make any improvements at all. They are:

Always warm up, just like you would if you were doing any physical exercise.

Start slowly, do not increase speed unless you can do it perfectly at a slow tempo.

Aim to remain as natural and relaxed as possible in your practice.

Make sure you have the correct posture and are holding your instrument correctly.

Have belief in yourself. Practice without belief is useless.

Be patient and measure your progress with a metronome.

Now lets explore 5 tips from a variety of instruments that can help all musicians develop speed, but the comparrison between these tips and how brass or woodwind players need to increase their tongue speed will be very valuable.

1) Double Pedal Workouts

Drummers who use double pedals need to develop strength in both feet and legs. Most people have one dominant side, left or right. So drummers incorporate specific exercises that target each foot individually as well as both feet together. When working on double and triple tonguing, it is essential to do the same by working on making the KA sound as strong as the TA sound. So work on accenting the Ka sound, play it louder than the Ta sound on purpose until the sounds balance.

2) Practice Away From Your Instrument

When speaking with other instrumentalists, they often agree that they can work on a specific technique without actually using their instrument. Pianists use air piano or finger tapping to improve flexibility and range of motion without touching a piano. For brass and woodwind, we can do this by just saying the sounds that we use when we tongue, for example tah-tah-tah-tah. If you can say it, you will be able to play it!

3) Variety Helps Us Learn Faster

Violinists often practice short bow strokes and long bow strokes. This helps them develop clarity and also consistency of sound. Those are things us brass or woodwind players also need. When aiming to improve tongue speed, do not just do it one way. Work on increasing the speed of staccato and legato tonguing and try swapping quickly from one to the other. This will also help you play more accurately when those styles are required in the music you are learning.

4) Metallica Style Down Picking

My guitar hero and one of my musical idols is James Hetfield from the band Metallica. He is known for his amazing down picking speed. Check out this video and you will see him in action.

Two things that guitarists do when trying to increase down picking speed is string skipping and short burst practice. String skipping is when you might play four down picked notes on one string, then another four on another string and so on. A guitarist can probably do four incredibly fast down picked notes, but probably cannot sustain that speed for many more notes unless they are well conditioned. For brass and woodwind this could look like these exercises below, which are extremely effective at helping you tongue faster.

String skipping = tonguing across intervals or arpeggios

Tongue speed

Short burst practice = tonguing very fast bursts with a rest after

Tongue speed

These exercises can be developed or adapted to suit you, but if you want a good lesson in speed, you cannot go wrong with learning from a guitarist who plays heavy metal! 🤘

5) The Paradiddle

A paradiddle is a funny name for a fundamental rudiment that is widely used in various drumming styles. It is a versatile pattern that helps improve hand coordination, control, and speed. The basic paradiddle consists of 4 strokes played in the sequence:

R - L - R - R or L - R - L - L (or this pattern of 8 strokes altogether)

Here's a breakdown of the basic paradiddle:

  1. Right-Hand Paradiddle:

  • R (right) - L (left) - R (right) - R (right)

  1. Left-Hand Paradiddle:

  • L (left) - R (right) - L (left) - L (left)

As a brass or woodwind player, using the paradiddle with your tongue is an absolute game changer and secret ingredient that will help you speed up your tongue. If we translate the pattern of 8 strokes above into double tongue for brass or woodwind it would look like this:

Ta - Ka - Ta - Ta - Ka - Ta - Ka - Ka

The right hand hit is being swapped for a Ta (sound with our tongue) and left hand hit swapped for a Ka. You could also think of it the other way around if you prefer. Either way, it is a pattern no brass or woodwind player would ever realistically need to use.

Due to this tongue pattern being incredibly awkward to do, it is one of those things that once you have worked on it for a session and you revert back to regular double tonguing (Ta, Ka, Ta, Ka), it will feel much easier, will flow better and will feel like you can go faster.

Good luck!

Thank you for reading, if you like it, please share with other musicians. ❤

You can also see blog posts shared on my Facebook Alchemy For Musicians page - Facebook

Mark Glover


245 views2 comments


Alex Mulama
Alex Mulama
Dec 30, 2023

Woow am trying it now and it does

Dec 31, 2023
Replying to

That is great news!

bottom of page