Triple Tonguing for Bassoon
By Terry B. Ewell

I notice that many bassoon performers limit their tonguing techniques to just two options: single tonguing and double tonguing.

The single tonguing stroke starts with the tongue on the reed and then releases, allow the reed to vibrate. I represent that stroke with the “T” consonant The “K” consonant in the double tongue stroke starts with the tongue at the roof of the mouth. It then releases. I have developed several videos and practice materials presenting double tonguing (BDP 18, 19, 20). These are the links for the Youtube videos

#20 Multiple Tonguing 3: Practice Exercises for Double Tonguing  

#19 Multiple Tonguing 2: Practice Methods for Double  

#18 Multiple Tonguing 1: Principles of Double Tonguing  

Practice exercises are available on the Bassoon Digital Professor website: Although many bassoonists use only the single or double tonguing techniques, this is not the case with many of our colleagues who perform other wind instruments. Flute and brass instrument players commonly use single, double, and triple tonguing. I regularly employ even another technique: mixed or combination tonguing. Figure mixed tonguing My videos on the excerpt from Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony presents that tonguing pattern (BDP# 78-80)




You may be asking, “Why go to the trouble of learning different tonguing patterns?” Well, I think that having the right tool for the appropriate job is important. Single, double, mixed, and triple tonguing all sound different and have varied strengths. Matching the best tonguing pattern to the musical passage makes sense. Spending time mastering the different tonguing patterns will give you more options and better results. The study of double, mixed, and triple tonguing will take months or even years, but the effort will be worth it.

There are several musical passages with triplets that sound better with triple tonguing. I know that many respected performers and teachers have advocated for using double tonguing over the triplet pattern, but to my ears it does not match well in articulation. With few exceptions, I use triple tonguing for the fast triplet passages. Let's  start with examining a few exercises for triple tonguing.

All of these exercises and the excerpts mentioned in the video are available on under the triple tonguing section. Here is the link. There are two patterns for triple tonguing. TKT TKT and TTK TTK. The "T" indicates the tongue releasing from direct contact with the reed. The "K" indicates the tongue touching the roof of the mouth with either a "k" consonant or something similar. I only use the first pattern.  I haven't yet seen the need to practice the second method of triple tonguing, but there might be instances where this tonguing pattern works the best.

All of the tonguing patterns using "K" consonants are best when tongued as lightly and legato as possible. Practice slowly by tonguing lightly and fluidly. Keep the tone going as long as possible with just a quick interruption of the sound. In general, you will need to pull out the reed slightly and give more air for the best tonguing. Using all of these techniques will allow for quickest increases in speed and fluency. As is the case with practicing all methods of tonguing, the use of sprints is indispensable.

Sprints are a method of practice where you drive, push the tempo to the last note. Aim for slight increases in speed at each repetition. When the point of failure is reached, reduce the tempo and finish with perfect sets.

Several excerpts are provided in the practice materials. I suggest that you practice first each on a single tone, a monotone. Isolate and master the tonguing patterns first and then add the fingers.

One of the most challenging solos with triple tonguing is in Weber's Andante and Hungarian Rondo. Please see the video devoted to the Rondo movement for my comments on the articulation at the end of the movement.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Terry B. Ewell. All rights reserved.