In this guide, I want to teach you how to triple tongue on the trumpet. If you follow the technique I’m about to show you here, you’ll be smashing it out of the park in no time.
In the previous guide we looked at double tonguing, and before that, we had looked at single tonguing. You might want to have a look at those guides first because triple tonguing builds on the “t”, “k”, “d”,and “g” tonguing concepts covered in detail in both of those guides.
As you might expect, triple tonguing is a little more complicated than both single tonguing and double tonguing. But if you’ve got both of these locked down, it’s nothing you can’t pick up with a fair bit of practice.
Let’s dive right into the technque.
What is triple tonguing?
If you are curious about triple tonguing, you probably know that the regular single tongue position is “ta” or “da” tonguing.
You probably also know that what we do for double tonguing is a rocking backward and forward between two different tongue positions — the single tongue position at the front or tip of the tongue, and then another syllable that’s further back on the tongue, typically, “ka” or “ga” tonguing.
So, for instance, for double tonguing you might be going “ta-ka-ta-ka-ta-ka…”.
That’s fairly straightforward.
Triple tonguing is where we use two front tongues and a third back tongue. That’s front-front-back. Triple tonguing is, often wrongly, taught wrongly as one front-back-front. The difference between the two approaches is minimal, but there is a difference.
Both are worth knowing. Both exist as valid alternatives but the one that is the most acceptable in the modern era, and slightly more efficient, is the former.
How to triple tongue the trumpet quickly with clarity
If we are doing triple tonguing, it’s a little more complicated. We tend to go “ta-ta-ka-ta-ta-ka…”. That’s a sequence with two single toungues and the back of the tongue on the third of the triplet.
That’s two “t” or “d” toungues followed by a “k” or “g” tonguing.
The reason triple tonguing holds us up a little bit is because, quite simply, we are not used to articulating with the syllable on the back of the tongue — same as double tonguing.
So what we actually need to is to improve our double tonguing and get it co-ordinated.
We need to spend time single tonguing with that “ka” or “ga” syllable to get good at triple tonguing.
This is easy.
Whatever exercises we used to practice single tonguing at the front of the tongue with “ta” or “da” tonguing, we do with the back of the tongue.
With practice, your single tonguing and double tonguing will come together and work quite nicely. That’s what you have to do to make your triple tonguing faster and cleaner.
Practice single tonguing using the “ka” or “ga” tonguing to get it co-ordinated and working for you, and then get into practicing the co-ordination between the two for double tonguing, and between the three for triple tonguing.
Practice to get everything co-ordinated.
Of course, like we mentioned before, when you are developing that co-ordination for triple tonguing to begin with, it’s important to go slowly, particularly if you are playing things that aren’t on the same note, so you can get it nice clean and consistent.
A few note on practicing triple tonguing exercises
The exercises are pretty much the same as what we did for single and double tonguing, albeit with some variations as discussed above.
Do the practice exercises, as explained above, 5 minutes a day, for, at least, a week.
The reason it’s recommended you do tonguing exercises for at least 5 minutes is because we want to get oast the point of pain with your tongue.
Your tongue will get swollen and feel bad — we want to get it to the other side of that.
I’m not saying it’s going to feel good when you’re done doing this, but it will feel okay. You are training a muscle.
The other thing you need to look out for is not moving your jaw at all as you do the exercise. This is so that the tonguing does not mess with your embouchure.
Remember, that practice is not about speed. It is about clarity of articulation first and speed second.
So it’s important not to play them too short, otherwise you’re going to play them too fast.
Top tip for triple tonguing on the trumpet
Tip #1 — Work on timing between your tongue and your fingers when practicing
One advantage that the trombone has over the trumpet (and other brass instruments) is that with the trumpet, you really have to work on timing between our tongue and your fingers.
If you create a note that falls when your valves are only half way down, then the sound isn’t going to get produced properly.
It is really important that you tongue when your valves are all the way down or up.
So there is a lot of work that goes into, not necessarily technique but the timing of the technique. On the trumpet, your lips and fingers need to be in perfect sync.
A trombone will create a sound regardless of where the slide is, whether it’s halfway or whether the slide has arrived at the position we are currently search for.