In this guide, we are going to talk about double tonguing — what it is,
how to do itand how to apply it in your music.
In the previous guide we looked at single tonguing on the
trumpet. Before jumping into this guide, you might
want to have a look at that if you haven’t. The “t” and “d” tonguing
detailed in that guide makes up one half of double tonguing.
The point of the double tonguing is to be able to play at faster
tempos that single tonguing. As fast as you can single tongue, if you
double tongue, you’ll be able to double tongue twice as fast.
You can have a pretty fast single tongue but it’s never going to be as
quite as fast as a double tongue.
Let’s dive right into the technique.
What is double tonguing?
In single tonguing, we used the front of our tongue to articulate notes.
The syllables we looked at that come from the front of our tongues were
typically “t” and “d” syllables. Examples of these were “ta”, “ti”,
“to”, “da”, “do” etc.
Double tonguing is training the back end of your tongue to articulate
the notes on your instrument together with the front end.
There are syllables that can come from the back end of the tongue
typically “k” or “g” syllables as we’ll see shortly. Examples of these
might be “ka”, “ki”, “ko”, “ga”, “gi” etc.
The syllables at the back of the tongue is where the back end of double
tonguing comes from.
When we put the front end with the back end that’s when we actually
get the double tonguing. You’ve got to use them both to get double
tonguing — otherwise it’s just back tonguing.
How to double tongue the trumpet with speed and clarity
You’ll remember from the guide on single tonguing that there are two
different ways to articulate. The first is using the syllables “ta” or
“da”, and the second is using the syllables “ka” or"ga”.
We’re now going to focus on that “k” consonant tonguing, known as the K
tonguing because it has some added benefits for other areas of our
K or “ka” tonguing
First, we use “k” tonguing in multiple articulation—double and triple
tonguing, so we want that “k” to be as similar to the “t” as possible.
If we just practice the “k” tonguing by itself, it will help improve
that quality of articulation. You can just do scales, and very easy
patterns disregarding speed completely.
Working on just “k” tonguing has another benefit beside helping our
double articulation, it’s going to help strengthen our tongue.
This is very important because as we go into the upper register our
If your tongue is not strong enough as we play higher and louder, your
tongue is going to want to drop because it isn’t strong enough to stay
in an arched position.
Working on just “k” tonguing will help strengthen the tongue to stay
in that “e” position in the upper register.
If you do your “k” tonguing exercises for 5 minutes, I guarantee you
that your tongue is going to be tired. That means that your working that
Each day, work more and more on improving that “k” tonguing because it
will strengthen the tongue while also improving the quality of
I also encourage you to work on this just on air — no lips or buzzing,
just working on getting that tongue in and out of the way as quickly as
And then you should proceed to find other material or exercises to use
just that “k”.
Of course, there are many syllables you can use for double tonguing, but
we’ll look the the most common “ta-ka-takataka…”. But exactly the same
concept applies to, say, “da-ga-da-ga-da-ga…”.
“T” or “ta” tonguing with “k” or “ka” tonguing — “ta-ka” double tonguing
Here’s the thing, we use the front end of our tongue all the time, and
so it’s really strong.
There are two steps we need to follow here, we need to do here is
train the back end of our tongue, and then we need to lock down
the co-ordination of the front and back of our tongue.
Double tonguing exercises come in handy for both of these steps. There
are some exercises that I will show you here that will help with that.
Double tonguing exercise
You’ll need a metronome for this exercise. Here are the steps you need
to follow for this exercise:
- Start the metronome at a fairly slow tempo, say, 100 bpms.
- Voice these syllables at every click (keep the order)
“ta-ta-ta-ta-ka-ka-ka-ka-kaaaaa…”. That is “ta” four times,
followed by “ka” four times, closing with a drawn out “ka” (about
four clicks). Note that you’ve not touched the trumpet yet.
- Rest for four clicks.
- Then you’re going to go “ta-ka-ta-ka-ta-ka-ta-ka-taaaaa”. This time
with the drawn out “ta” at the end, for four clicks, but after
alternating between “ta” and “ka” four times at every click.
- Rest for four clicks.
- Then your going to go
time we are just combining the second and fourth step without a rest
- Apply the exercise to the instrument.
This is a brilliant exercise to start on. Remember, the idea is to match
the front end of the tongue with the back end of the tongue.
You’re going to start this slow, and then over time, you’re going to
work the tempo up. You’re goal is however not to kick up the tempo, but
to make them as neat and clean as possible.
You want them to be similar in how they sound, despite the change in
tempo, whether you’re using the front end or back end of the tongue.
You shouldn’t be able to hear the difference whether you’re using the
front end or back end of the tongue.
Getting the co-ordination going will feel much like getting used to a
tongue twister. It will take some time but you can get it going
Using double tonguing in your music
Once you get a hang of “ta-ka” double tonguing, instead of just
jumping to the “da-ga” double tonguing, try the rest of the vowels to
get a feel of different positions also i.e. “tu-ku”, “ti-ki” etc.
This is important because soon you want to apply double tonguing to your
music. Just being able to switch between the front and back isn’t the
end goal here. The ultimate goal is music, not exercises.
So how do we go about applying double tonguing in a melodic context?
Expanding into other positions, as I mentioned earlier, is a good way to
ease yourself into melodic content.
Working up and down a scale with just “ta-ka” is a particularly good
starting point. And then you can go to different keys and do the same
I find that it is a little more challenging in the lower register, for
After that, I recommend you do “da-ga” and repeat the same process
Ultimately, between “ta-ka” and “da-ga”, I recommend you find one that
really works for you, but only after trying various position. And then
that one will be your go-to double tonguing articulation.
Let’s pretend that we’ve practiced this for a long time and now we are
at the ability where we are working up the tempo.
You want to practice double tonguing at your fastest single tonguing
tempo. If you do that, you’ll be double tonguing twice as fast as you
can single tongue.
Top 3 essential tips for double tonguing on the trumpet
Tip #1 — Start with slow repetition
The thing with double tonguing when you’re not good at it, even when
you are pretty good at it, is that doing it slowly sounds terrible, but
you just have to keep at it.
What you are going for with this slow speed is just clarity.
You want to hear a clean articulation. When you start, it will sound
messy. That is what you want to clean up, slowly.
Working on it slowly really develops the muscle memory of your tongue to
be able to get used to the technique. It will feel very heavy to begin
with, that’s what you want to work on.
That’s where you need. You want to make your tongue tired.
Double tonguing is a physical muscular skill, you have to build up the
endurance to be able to do it for longer periods of time.
The other thing you’ll notice as you work on it slowly is that the
heaviness tends to go away and you’re able to use air and a lighter
So that’s the trick — slow repetition. Keep it up everyday and you’ll
find that it really starts to get better.
Tip #2 — Practice with a mute
Practice double tonguing with a mute.
The resistance of the practice mute helps you to have to tongue more
clearly in the beginning when you’re learning. So it’s a great learning
aid for double tonguing.
Tip #3 — Learn doodle tonguing
I’m sure you’ve heard of doodle tonguing. Maybe you’re having some
challenges with it, it’s not a simple concept. But neither is double
In double tonguing the dominant sounds are “t” and “d” and the passive
sounds are “g” and “k”, you end with a “ta-ka-ta-ka-ta-ka…” or
“da-ga-da-ga-da-ga…”. As a trumpeter, you have to absolutely have
double tonguing in your arsenal.
The problem with double tonguing is that it’s kind of stiff and
doesn’t lend itself well to jazz.
Doodle tonguing will allow your double-time ideas to flow smoothly and
naturally out of your single-time ideas.
And it really does lend itself well to swinging.
Doodle tonguing is what helped me do what I wanted to do — sound how I
wanted to sound.