Practicing Beethoven’s 4th Symphony: Articulation. This video series (BDP#77-80) discusses performance techniques and practice methods for the sixteenth note passages in the fourth movement. By Terry B. Ewell. Bassoon Digital Professor # 78.

<music: 1st Sixteenth Note Passage in Beethoven's 4th Symphony, Last Movement>

<music: 1st Solo>

<music: 2nd Solo>

<music: Last Sixteenth Note Passage>

Well, you are going to have several decisions to make in this movement about articulation and unless you have a very rapid single tongue, you probably will use a combination of the double tongue--and that is what I do.

But let me first address ways in which in which I practice this composition over the years. Ways in which I think it will be helpful for you with your articulation on the bassoon. Not only in this excerpt--Beethoven's 4th--but also in your other repertoire.

One, I suggest you take the opening tutti section and practice this in multiple ways.

Make sure that you fingering is sound. Practice is all slurred.

<music> I tongued the eighth notes here. That's OK.

We are mainly concerned about the sixteenth notes. I practice is slurred and then I practice it with legato tonguing, single tongue.

<music> You get the idea there. Then as short as possible, single tongue.


By the way make certain you are using the correct fingerings that I discussed earlier.

The flick key is down for every B flat, A, and C natural. That is Bb3, A3,and C4--all of those above open F. OK that is two of the articulations, the slurred, single tongue, or the very legato single tongue, and the staccato single tongue. Next I work on the double tongue.

When I play the double tongue here I play it as legato as possible: trying to minimize the K consonant, the K or G consonant.

<music> That wasn't very good. Let me try again. <music> A little better.

At a slow speed it really sounds pretty bad. A a faster speeds a lot of that is minimized. But at a slow speed work on keeping the K or G consonant as far forward in your mouth as possible, as legato and unobtrusive as possible.

You will notice as you are switching registers on the bassoon that the way in which have to tongue has to change slightly as well. Many people find that pulling the reed out of the mouth is a more successful way to engage double tongue or multiple tonguings. The final method I use is the method I use most for rapid tonguing. This is called “mixed tonguing.” Sometimes I call it “combination tonguing.” It combines a double tongue grouping with a single tongue grouping: T K T T T K T T


So very slowly. What you heard in the very opening of this video is me tonguing with that pattern.

So, what I suggest is that you have five different styles of working
on the sixteenth note passages in fourth movement of Beethoven 4th. I suggest you take a metronome and every day start it off slowly, maybe quarter note equals 80, and slowly progress up the different metronome markings.

What you are going to find is that there will be a certain place where the single tonguing--the legatissimo and staccatissimo single tonguing--
start coming closer and closer and closer together. There will be a metronome marking where you can no longer separate them.

You want to keep them as separate as possible because once they are together I usually find that one more metronome marking or two (when I speak about metronome markings I am talking about the old fashioned metronomes where it went in sequences: 116, 120, 126, 132, 138, 144) so that you'll find that when these two join on a certain level you don't have much longer up the speed scale, the metronome marking scale, before your single tonguing will stop.

The nice thing about working all these tonguings at all these speeds is that you learn about the ability of your tongue to move. You will discover that there are certain "ruts," certain places where, "Wow," the single tongue didn't work there but then you go a little faster and now it is working. Or this mixed tonguing is working and then it doesn't work. And this double tongue...etc.

So you are working on speed. When you single tongue drops out hopefully you have practiced enough so that your double and mixed tonguing are going.

The reason I encourage you to use all of these tonguings and to practice different patterns is that you may not know which tonguing will work for you right now [or in the future].

It may in fact be several months until you know that. I ask my students, "What is the sure way of winning a horse race?" And they are puzzled. They say, "you pick a fast horse and you work him really hard." No, I tell them the sure way of winning a horse race is to make sure that every horse entered in that race is owned by you.

Then you're a sure winner! If there are six in the race and you win with one and then your other five lose. But that is OK. You want to find the tonguing pattern that will work best for you.

It may be that in some situations one pattern will work better than another. So if you have this flexibility with your articulation I hope that you can always come out as it were a winner; that you will always have something that is successful for you.