Often when we articulate a lot of our focus is on what the tongue is doing. This seems pretty logical but I think it is always important to remind yourself that the tongue makes zero sound on the flute (excluding extended techniques) and the quality of your articulation is inextricably linked to the quality of your air.
Keeping this in mind, the basis for achieving great sounding staccato is having really good detaché. You should aim to sound really good with your detaché alone and then add in your tongue, to give that final level of clarity and finesse to your staccato playing. Remember the following tips from my recent ‘Basic Tonguing’ blog:
- Tip of the tongue
- Just behind the top teeth
- Back and forth like a snake’s tongue
- Imagine the roof of your mouth is super hot. You have to touch it but you don’t want to stay there too long.
- Use the tongue lightly, like a feather
To start simply; choose a scale and play three short crotchets followed by a rest at around mm = 60. Do this without your tongue but with good detaché kicks. Once this is sounding good, repeat your scale adding in your tongue to achieve a nice clear staccato. This can then be followed by some more challenging exercises.
Try the Reichert inspired single tonguing exercise in Trevor Wye’s Articulation book (from A Practice Book for the Flute). Play this exercise in many different keys with very short notes, using just your detaché. Once this is sounding very clear add your tongue in for sparkling staccato.
I also like to use Studies 12, 15 and 18 from Moyse’s 24 Little Melodic Studies, approaching them in the same manner as the previous exercises. First the detaché and then adding in the tongue.
How about Taffanel and Gaubert 17 Daily Exercise no 4? Play a whole key with short detaché and then repeat it adding the tongue in as well.
Boehm 24 Caprices No. 6 is one of my go to staccato practice studies. Of course the flute repertoire has many examples of great staccato passages. How about the famous Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream flute excerpt? Feel free to post your favourites in the comments below.
Whatever exercises or pieces you decide to use to sharpen up your staccato, always remind yourself that detaché is the secret you should never forget.