Flutter tonguing — A super easy method.
I was talking to a trombone playing friend of mine last night about flutter tonguing and he told me that he doesn’t really know how to do it properly so I thought that I would post an article on the subject. Flutter tonguing is called for pretty rarely so it’s no surprise that most people just don’t know how to do it. It can be a really interesting sound and if you follow my method, you’ll be able to control the rate and the intensity of the flutter. This is an easy skill to learn and won’t take much time at all. After a little bit of practice, most people will be able to do it right away.
Flutter tonging is often marked in German as flatterzunge in a score or abbreviated as flt or ftz. It is also marked as frullato in Italian.
The first misconception that many people have about flutter tonguing is that it is done with the tip of the tongue. This is totally wrong. The tongue is not used at all to create this effect. While it may be possible to approximate the effect with the tip of the tongue, particularly for brass players, the sound will be difficult to control and you won’t be able to articulate well.
Proper flutter tongue is done with the uvula. (the hangy thing in the back of the throat) In order to get started with flutter tonguing you’ll need to get control of the uvula.
Without the instrument, make a purring sound with your uvula. You should try to make the sound a quiet as possible. Eventually you’ll get it so quiet that another person in the same room won’t be able to tell when you’re doing it. While making the sound play around with the intensity of the air and how much you allow the uvula to vibrate. You can make it more intense or less depending on how you move the muscles in your throat.
Next, blow out with your normal embouchure (still without the instrument) and add just the slightest amount of flutter to it. Always try to make it a smaller amount. Switch back and forth from normal blowing to fluttering. Use a metronome and count 4 beats of regular, then 4 beats of flutter and so on. As you gain control of the technique move to 3 beats, then 2 beats, etc.
Once you have gained pretty good control and can purr very softly, try it with the instrument. This approach doesn’t change anything in your natural embouchure of require you to constrict your throat so it should be relatively easy to apply the flutter tongue to your normal playing. When you begin with the instrument, try to make the flutter as subtle as possible. Start in the middle of the range and work your way both up and down. It will be a little more difficult at the extremes of the range but ultimately possible with practice. Remember, passages with flutter are often written in the upper register for saxophone.