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I've been anchor tonguing for all of my sax playing years so far, never having been instructed otherwise in any type of tonguing lecture, I taught myself how to do it and none of my teachers ever complained until now. My tonguing speed on bari is quicker then most of my friends on alto and tenor, speed isn't an issue for me. The issue is with my tone. My teacher and I are tryig to figure out why my tone isn't quite... "classical" enough. My teacher believes that having my tongue anchored into my teeth puts my tongue in a weird position inside my mouth, affecting the air stream, and when I tongue my tongue puts pressure on my bottem lip, which we also think may be messing with my tone. My tone's been described as "great for a high school bari player," but a little thin compared to the upper level players. My embouchure has been re-built this year, all that's left is straitening out attack and tongue position.

What are your thoughts on anchor tonguing?

Any any other thoughts on tone improvement are welcome too, if it helps, my setup is:

Yamaha 52 Bari, Vandoren Optimum BL4 mouthpiece, Vandi Opt lig, Van Trad 3 reed.
 

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I anchor tongue, not because of a large tongue, but because of a small mouth cavity.

However, from your description, the tip of your tongue does seem abnormally high. May I suggest the you move the tip of your tongue to below your lower teeth (on the gum) and anchor it there. Then try to tongue by moving just the middle of the tongue on the tip of the reed.

Just remember that our mouths are all a bit different, and different tongues can move optimally in different ways.

Good luck in your practicing.
 

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Man, I feel for you. I use to anchor tongue. It wasn't until my first year of college that my teacher told me I was anchor tonguing and that I should change. That was a rough 3 months or so. I was miserable. the good thing is that once I got the hang of the right way to tongue it was so much better than anchor tonguing. No comparison. It will be rough at first but hang in there.
 

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Of course you're right, Steve. If possible, you should not anchor tongue.
 

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I learned both ways and in retrospect I think it was a good thing. Anchor seems to come into play on lower notes mainly on tenor or bari, but I don't really think about it. It is more or less automatic. Sometimes after anchoring, I think to myself "did I just do that?"
 

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Its definitely best not to do it if you can break the habit. I anchor tongued up until I entered college and realized you can't get away with it on clarinet or flute (I wanted to be able to double). I could never get the clarinet up to pitch (even on short barrels) and trying to tongue that way on flute was a disaster. It's brutal trying to switch to the normal way, but it will very benificial.
 

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I just learned you should not anchor tongue when playing jazz.

I have been doing it wrong. Now my whole embouchure is out of whack trying to do it the right way. It does sound better- more open and crisper articualtion- more colors on the palette.

Playing palm keys a squeak like mad so far. Both happy and scared right now.
 

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I anchor tongued up until I entered college and realized you can't get away with it on clarinet or flute...
Maybe that was one thing lucky about starting out in grammar school on clarinet; it never occurred to me to use an anchor tongue (I only recently, after MANY years even heard of it) when I switched to sax. I guess the trade off was having to 'unlearn' a too-tight, biting embouchure.

DryMartini, I can't think of what you could be doing when tonguing that would result in squeaks. That usually happens when biting.
 

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It's where the tip of the tongue is 'anchored' to the gums just below your teeth, and the 'meat' of the tongue touches the reed.

As an update to my 2007 post, I successfully gave up anchor tonguing in 2010 by raising the back of my tongue, thus pulling it back enough that I could tongue just past the tip. It improved articulation immensely, and made it so that I could double tongue. When anchor tonguing, the tongue is relatively low in the back, when, for a good tone, you need the back of the tongue high. This makes it nearly impossible to do the 'ka' of the 'ta-ka'.
 

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Anchor tonguing is like trying to talk or sing without moving your tongue. Why would anyone even want to try to do that?
 

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I read an article in the 60's written by the great Fred Hemke, who know quite a bit about saxophone pedagogy, Prof of Saxophone then at Northwestern Univ. He said you should only anchor tongue if you can reach the bottom of your chin with the tip of your tongue.
 

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Maybe that was one thing lucky about starting out in grammar school on clarinet; it never occurred to me to use an anchor tongue (I only recently, after MANY years even heard of it) when I switched to sax. I guess the trade off was having to 'unlearn' a too-tight, biting embouchure.
+1

I was forced to start on clarinet, and this gives me some belated appreciation for it. I've never heard of anchor tonguing until today, and it certainly never occurred to me to try it.
 

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I do feeel like anchor tonguing gives a darker sound. Maybe one like paul desomnd? I have been asking lots of folks and a few players do use anchor tonguing, but the most not.
 

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I've found that I do not anchor tongue consistently. It improves the stability of low notes, but I don't need it so much in the middle or high range. I may be doing it on staccatos just to keep a uniform touch - I've had a low speed limit all my life.

But I also feel very little control over the back of my tongue. It only works by itself when voicing (ee-ah-oo). I can double tongue no more than 3 notes in succession.

And there are no exercises to build back-of-tongue control with a horn in your face. It can only be done by repeatedly failing to do the techniques that require it, and resisting the urge to start problem-solving.

(All the really difficult things in music are the things out of reach of your rational mind, where you must learn to be dumb and totally trust the process.)
 

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I learned on a leaky school tenor sax. I used a hard D tonguing to get the reed started. I did not go to college for music or study classical playing in general. But now I do play classical bass clarinet and have had to learn tip tonguing for some light fast passages.

But there is no need for the “never anchor tongue“ dogma. It has its place and some classical pro clarinetists use it quite well.
 

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Are you still anchor tonguing - with all the disadvantages - if your tongue doesn't stay against your lower lip?

Are the disadvantages of tonguing too far back - say front 1/2" instead of 1/4" - the same?

Is there a step to take to control the spitty/rattly sound on tip or close-to-tip, or is this another matter of dumb repetition?
 

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I'm going to try answering my own first question, even tho I've only played about 30 min in the past week...YMMV. In the process, I think the 2d and 3d questions answer themselves.

(Warning: The following may discourage you. That's an entirely different issue. I'm just trying to define the task at hand and explain the difficulty. If I overexplain it - tough!)

I think the problem with anchor tonguing - the thing you do not want to do - is stabilize the tip of the tongue at any point in its motion. Not all the time, not part time, not at all.

Why do we do it? I say it's because the tongue wants a reference point. It wants to know how fast and far to move based on tactile sensation. But your tongue needs its own sense of spatial awareness within the mouth. It needs to float free, yet be under complete control - back and front moving independently and precisely.

This can only be developed thru muscular intuition - bypassing the conscious mind by regular, intense repetition. I'm going to use this term in place of "dumb repetition," which I used earlier. It's mindless, yet focused and demanding. It doesn't engage the rational mind - at least not constructively! - yet it is anything but "dumb."

If you have issues with muscular spatial awareness - say you don't always hit the right piano or typewriter key without visual or tactile cues - you are missing something in your hand muscle memory that requires this kind of intense repetitive drill. Those fingers need to know intuitively where they are at all times.

In the case of the tongue, it's the same principle. It needs to get along without a tactile reference point. Unless you can control the front 1/4" precisely thru intuitive spatial awareness, it will cost you speed, accuracy, cleanliness of articulation, and clarity of tone.

The above is also true of the back of the tongue - and then some. It has to do all the work in voicing and the back stroke of double-tonguing, without a tactile reference point to the throat opening.

It's a very thick piece of muscle that seldom feels fine sensations and moves mostly autonomically (in tasks like swallowing). You need to isolate it from the rest of the tongue, give it relatively fine control, and the spatial awareness to use it - without special exercises. Because unlike the front of the tongue, the back can be trained only by drilling tasks that require it to act in combination with the front.

Singing or syllable voicing (oo-aa-ee) doesn't get you there, because the sound isn't coming from your throat when you play sax. Only the air is. With no feedback from your vocal cords, you need that much more fine control over the air. And it has to come literally from nowhere - by regular, intense repetition.

There is only one hint, and it's a "don't." Don't let your tongue loll forward and flatten in the mouth. It may give you a bigger oral cavity and fuller sound, but you'll be using the middle of the tongue to voice notes - singing style - rather than the back. That means unreliable high notes, trouble leaping octaves, and poor overtones and altissimo. And to make things worse, you'll be biting on the highs, because "drawstring bag lips" can't do it all on their own.
 

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To me, anchor tonguing is like using your fist to type rather than your fingers. Why on earth would you purposely immobilize the most agile part of the tongue? It makes absolutely no sense.
 

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I started on clarinet and bass clarinet, then learned the sax and I have anchor tongued for 20 years at this point. I took to the clarinet pretty naturally when I was a little kid and somehow just started out anchor tonguing. When I was in college getting my bachelor's degree, my clarinet teacher realized what I was doing and we spent a quarter trying to get me to stop doing it, working out of the Kell staccato studies, etc. I don't think I have ever been so down on my playing in my life as I was that quarter. It felt like I could never get my tongue in the right place, like it was always hitting my teeth or just running out of space. Clarinet playing had always felt natural and all of a sudden it didn't. I couldn't voice properly, I couldn't articulate properly and I felt like a beginner.

At some point in that quarter I told my teacher I didn't want to do it and it didn't feel natural and he insisted that I had to learn to tongue the normal way. So I got a sense of what he wanted to hear and it just went to the practice room and decided I would learn to play those exercises anchor tongued and see if I could get them to sound acceptable. Eventually I got my staccato to a place where my teacher was happy with how it sounded and, since it sounded right and he couldn't see the inside of my mouth, he either believed I was tonguing normally or gave up and we didn't really focus on it.

I find that anchor tonguing helps me control the arch on the back of my tongue exactly the way I like to for voicing. If I play tip-of-tongue-to-reed, it just doesn't feel like a natural position for me to voice from.

Beyond that, I see one major, major advantage of anchor tonguing: the ability to continuously and quickly vary the amount of tongue you use on the reed to allow for a really easy access to a wide spectrum of percussive articulations. I've always felt like it allowed me very fine control over the amount of slap tongue in my articulation, which I've always used as an expressive device, especially on the bass clarinet. I took bass clarinet lessons from a great local player last year for a while and at some point I disclosed that I anchor tongue, expecting a lecture on how I shouldn't. Instead, he actually told me that he anchor tongues as well and, to paraphrase, is more than happy to give up the ability to play Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream more delicately than everyone else to have access to 17 different kinds of slap tongue. He is an outstanding player with actual, "legit" cred and I felt very vindicated.

By the way, the same basic principles of tonguing lightly apply when anchor tonguing: let your steady air do the work. The tongue just interrupts the reed's vibration.
 
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