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Tim Price
SOTW columnist

Double Tonguing on the Saxophone

by Tim Price

Double tonguing on the saxophone is something that is becoming more and more common practice. A common technique of many flute and brass players, double tonguing is becoming an everyday occurrence in the saxophone world.

You can hear this approach in masters like Al Galladoro, James Moody, Sal Nistico, as well as one of the shining examples of jazz saxophone double tonguing Johnny Griffin.

Of course Rudy Wiedoeft was one of the masters of this technique. In his book "Secret of Staccato" he mentions that he actually tongued everything. He challenges his students to tongue everything up to 208 on the metronome. For each player there is a different point of departure on this technique. Here are some important issues to keep in mind when you practice this.

  1. Practice syllables without the instrument. Say "dah-gah, dah-gah."
  2. The "dah" is on the reed. The "gah" is on the roof of the mouth. Alternate your syllables and match the sound. You must keep in mind these points:
    • A. When you legato, do it with a very connected note.
    • B. Slow to fast tempos daily. Be extreme. Support a fast air stream through your articulation. It's a wise idea to work on these topics for only 5-10 minutes at a time, just for mental peace of mind. Midrange application works best here. Take scale passages and jazz phrases or classical excerpts and apply these techniques bit by bit.

Art of Saxophone Playing by Larry Teal
UK Sheet Music Plus
Power Search 114x37

Suggested books:

  • Larry Teal: The Art of Saxophone Playing. (This is the most accessible)
  • Rudy Wiedoeft: Secret of Staccato for Saxophone. Robins Music published this in 1938. It's not that hard to find. Look for it in high school libraries, small town libraries, and some better than average pawnshops that keep old books they found in instrument cases.

For the jazz saxophone player transcription of some of Johnny Griffin's work with "Monk at the 5 spot" on Riverside Records or any of the mid-60's Woody Herman Bands that Sal Nistico was in, show crystallized examples of this technique. You can also start to apply these approaches on some of my lessons on  , such as major and minor chords to get your feet wet.

This is a time consuming technique. You do not master it in one practice session. Tape your practice sessions on this; listen to your attacks. Go slow and keep a notebook on your progress. Relax and get it together slowly!

saxophone books

Work hard!
Tim Price
June 23, 2003.

Created: July 23, 2003
Update: November 20, 2003

©2003 Harri Rautiainen
and respective authors

Tim Price is a Selmer Clinician, professional musician, jazz journalist and author. He teaches in New York City and Pennsylvania. Tim can be contacted for clinics, master classes, private teaching, gigs, and concerts by e-mail.

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