As Light as Air – Articulation Exercise Recommendations

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday! As we reach the final days of January, the momentum we had at the beginning of the month to tackle that list of New Year’s Resolutions normally dwindles (especially if we set goals that are a bit too lofty on unreasonable timelines). This is a great time to reevaluate and seek out new, better resources to reach our goals. Was working on articulation on your list of flute resolutions this year? If so, today’s blog is for you! In today’s post I will be discussing some of my favorite exercises to practice lightening and simplifying articulation. The first part of this list includes my recommended never-fail, gold standard exercises. This is followed by a list of exercises that can be used to diversify your articulation practice or focus on specialized articulation challenges. You may choose any combination of articulations to use for many of these exercises, but a good place to start is by practicing your toos, coos, and too-coos. For more ideas on articulations to practice and some of their suggested uses, please see my blog “You Say Potato, I Say Potatho”

Articulation Exercises – The Gold Standards

These are my very favorite, no fail exercises. Memorize them! Mix and match during your typical daily warm-up and you will see your articulation improve tenfold in record time.

1.  Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Daily Exercises, Exercise #4. Are you sick of me recommending this exercise on my platform yet? We all know and love this one, am I right? I’ve been practicing this exercise for decades and it is forever burned into my brain. Exercise #4 is great because it functions as a basic canvas to try any combination of articulations. The basic articulations to use on this exercise are toos, coos, and too-coo (I recommend alternating your articulation on key changes). I really prefer practicing my coo’s on this exercise to strengthen the back of the tongue. Another great idea is to practice one of the MANY scale games devised specifically for this exercise. Please see my blog “Scale Games – Are they Really “Fun”?” for a listing of available scale games or devise your own, practicing a new articulation each day

2. Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Felix Mendelssohn, Scherzo Excerpt (Found in Orchestral Excerpts for Flute by Jeanne Baxtresser). This is a very standard orchestral excerpt requested at most orchestra auditions. The challenge of this short segment is to keep your articulation super light while taking breaths at appropriate places that do not interfere with the momentum of the line. My favorite way to practice this excerpt is using “chirps” or articulation-less puffs of air. This is great for working on projection using only your air. Switch back to double-tonguing after playing once on chirps and you will notice a world of difference.

3. Sonata No. 4 in C Major, II. Allegro by J.S. Bach. This is also another great one to memorize! I use this movement to practice various approaches to double tonguing. Some of my favorite syllables to use on this exercise are uka-tuka (which helps develop the back of the tongue) and duk-ky (which I learned from Keith Underwood back in the day as a way to keep articulation crisp and light).

4. Trevor Wye Practice Book of the Flute, Articulation. Articulation II (Page 10). Although the instructions in this section indicate to single tongue all of the mini exercises, you may mix it up with a combination of articulations to fit the line. What I like the most about this particular exercise is that the emphasis changes on Page 14 from duplets to triplets, allowing you to fine tune your single, double, and triple tonguing all with the same basic melodic outline.


Articulation Exercises – Various Approaches

The next set of exercises are taken from various other exercise books and can be used to address specific issues in articulation or function as an interesting melodic canvas to practice your favorite articulations. Be creative with these etudes! Try out all of the articulations listed on my blog “You Say Potato, I Say Potatho” or any others that you come across in masterclasses or your own flute lessons.

1.  Karg-Elert, 30 Studies, Opus 107. Exercise #24. is a great exercise to practice alternating quickly between double and triple tongued patterns. Pick your favorite or experiment with new syllables. The name of the game in this etude is to remain flexible, keep your eyes moving forward, and plan ahead (mark all duples and triples in your score).

2.   Koehler, Eight Studies, Opus 33. Exercise #5. This etude is perfect for practicing embouchure flexibility while refining your articulation. Essentially patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time #work. There are huge jumps from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high. Remember to move your lips slightly forward for the high notes and back for the low. This is a great challenge for any double-tongued articulation. I also recommend practicing some of your coos on this exercise for an added challenge to strengthen the back of your tongue.

3.  Koehler, 12 Studies, Opus 33. Exercise #7. Get ready to practice those triple-tongued syllables! This exercise demands light articulation but also a flexible plan as slurs interrupt many of the patterns in unexpected ways. Indicate in your score where you will use double tonguing and where you will use triple tonguing. The octave jumps are not as wide as in the previous example, but many will still require some embouchure flexibility. And finally, do not forget about accents and tenuto marks. This etude requires juggling many techniques at once. Happy juggling!

4.  Moyse, Grouping of Keys (Op. 125) by Furstenau. Exercise #16. This is the perfect exercise to practice your triple tongued patterns. Triples dominate two pages of varying articulations amongst complicated accidentals and key changes. Remember to circle those accents and hit them hard with a “Too.” Like the Mendelssohn, this is an excellent etude to practice your “chirps”. Quite a workout!

5. J. Donjon, Pasquinade (Etude en MI Majeur), No. 6. (Found in The Modern Flutist, Southern Music Company). This etude is great for practicing your various double-tongued passages! Not only does it feature various accidental changes but it also includes quick 16th note trills and requires a bit of embouchure flexibility (particularly in the final measures). Again, musical multi-tasking! Take this etude slowly at first to master the accidentals. Then add the trills. I recommend using a duk-ky syllable combination to keep your articulation as light as air.

6.  Boehm, 24 Melodious Studies for Flute. Exercise #19. This is a great canvas to practice all of your most favorite double-tongued passages as quickly as possible. Word of warning – the accidentals are a bit complicated. You may want to begin by slowing the tempo waaay down and practicing a few variations on single tongued syllables to both learn the notes and refine your single tongue technique. I recommend experimenting with a “tut” articulation, which will set the tongue in a proper place for each subsequent note. When you are comfortable with the notes and articulation, switch to a double tongue syllable combination. This is a great exercise to refine your uka-tukas or to try out one of the more complicated multiple articulations such as ta-ka-da-ga-ra-ga-ya-ga (challenge accepted!).

7.  Cavally, Melodious and Progressive Studies. Exercise #9. This is another great exercise to practice your various triple tongued syllables. Be very careful, however. There are certain groupings that work better as duples rather than triples (the opening measure is a good example). I suggest practicing a du-gu-du (or du-gu for duples) articulation on this etude as the tempo is a bit relaxed. Try connecting each note to the next for a fluid type of articulation.

8. Andersen, Twenty-Four Progressive Studies for Flute, Opus 33. Exercise #11. Another great exercise for your triple tonguing! This one moves fairly quickly and requires a very light articulation. I am reminded of the Mendelssohn in this etude. I recommend practicing your “chirps” or uka-tukas on this one. The wrench in the mix this time, however, are the grace notes. Remember to also keep these light and swift and avoid lingering so long that you rush the subsequent articulations.


What are your favorite articulation exercises? Do you have your own Gold Standard exercises that you practice every day? What is your go-to syllables to practice single, double, and triple tongued passages? Are there any exercises not listed here that you would also recommend? Please comment below!

Happy Fluting!

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