How to Double Tongue on the French Horn

Learning to double tongue on the French horn will double the speed that you can effectively articulate notes. With a single-tongue technique, you are limited to the speed at which your tongue can create each articulation. Double tonguing consists of two components -- the initial and secondary articulation. The initial articulation involves the tongue striking the point where your teeth meet the roof of your mouth. The second articulation occurs when the tongue is pulled back and pushes a short burst of air forward. This technique requires some practice, but in time, you will be able to improve the speed and efficiency of your double-tongue technique.

Step 1:  Pronounce the sound "tu." When you say it, you will notice the tip of the tongue hits the roof of your mouth, right behind your teeth. The sound "tu" is used in a single-tongue technique.

Step 2: Pronounce the sound "ku." Notice how it pushes air forward as the tongue pulls back, while the tip of the tongue touches the base of the mouth. The "ku" sound allows you to articulate a note by forcefully pushing a burst of air into the instrument. This sound is used in the second articulation.

Step 3: Practice playing quarter notes on your French horn, and articulate each note using the "ku" sound. Continue to practice quarter notes using major scales, at 60 beats per minute. Aim for a clean articulation, and try to match the sound achieved through single tonguing.

Step 4: Play major scales again on your French horn, but this time, alternate between the syllables "tu" and "ku." Use "tu" on the first articulation and "ku" on the second. Continue practicing this technique until it becomes comfortable. Play each scale using eighth notes at 60 beats per minute. Gradually increase the tempo by adding 4 beats per minute, per day, until you can double tongue at 120 beats per minute.

Sit or stand using proper posture. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your feet about shoulder-length apart, regardless of whether you are sitting or standing. Breathe properly by taking in air using your diaphragm. To do this, expand your stomach muscles and bring the air deep into your lungs.

The French horn requires a much cleaner articulation than other instruments. Ensure you are using the tip of your tongue for the first articulation. Avoid using the flat part of your tongue. Set your metronome by inputting the appropriate number on a digital metronome, or adjusting the metronome bar on a mechanical one. For example, on a digital metronome you can adjust the tempo to 60 beats per minute by entering the number 60, using the up or down button on the side.

On a mechanical metronome, adjust the beat by raising the bar on the needle to increase the tempo, and lowering it to decrease the tempo.


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