Sequence 22

with Paul Edmund-Davies

Articulation is a very important part of the language of music, most often though it is either ignored or taken for granted (or both!). In the end and in particular in the case of playing the flute, it requires us to develop a completely new dialect, where it is necessary to use our tongues in a very different way to our normal, every day speech.

However, articulation doesn’t necessarily always have to take place behind the teeth. The tongue can momentarily travel forward of the front teeth, between the lips. This will give the start of a note a very different and unique focus.

In Sequence 22, each note should be lightly articulated by using the tongue between the lips. The action should be very gentle (more of a stroking movement) to create a soft ‘popping’ sound.

When students first attempt this form of articulation they tend to allow the tongue to travel too far forward. We need to be careful not to disturb the embouchure too much. Therefore, it really is only the tip of the tongue that we want to focus on and the very centre of the middle of the lips.

I have illustrated this in the accompanying video for Sequence 22, but effectively we need to place the tip of the tongue gently between the lips and then draw it backwards and upwards, as though we are smoothly stroking the inner curve of our top lip. Once the tongue has reached the end of the flesh, try to make it stop there and don’t allow it to travel further into the cavity of the mouth. Being close to the point of contact will also assist greatly when tempi become faster. The further into the mouth you allow the tongue to disappear, the further it will need to go to travel back again. Ideally, for both economy and efficiency, the tongue should remain as close to the point of contact between the lips as possible.

I have found this form of articulation incredibly useful at the start of numerous pieces, where the first note needs to arrive with the minimum of fuss and certainly without any hint of percussion!

The opening of the Fauré Fantaisie and the beginning of the Poulenc Sonata immediately spring to mind.

I hope that you enjoy working on this form of articulation. If at first it feels awkward, weird or peculiar…don’t worry, because initially it is! However, do try to persevere. It is such a useful addition to our portfolio of tools in the search for ultimate musical expression.