Aspects of articulation

July 20, 2017

The concept of “articulation” in woodwind playing is really a bunch of concepts mashed together. Suppose one of my students comes in for a lesson and I tell them their “articulation” needs work. Do I mean they should:

  • be more accurate about tonguing the notes that are marked tongued, and slurring the ones that are marked slurred? This an issue related to their commitment to practicing and performing precisely what is indicated by the composer.
  • improve the movement of their tongue, so the tongued notes sound clearer or otherwise better? This is a mechanical matter, to be trained and drilled carefully, perhaps incorporated into a warmup or assigned in an étude.
  • change their staccato to be shorter or longer? This is a matter of timing when the note is released, plus a matter of musical taste and style.
  • change their accents to be more or less aggressive? This is a matter of controlling airflow from the embouchure to manipulate dynamics, perhaps increasing or reducing the contrast in volume from the note’s attack to its sustain, or making that change happen more quickly or slowly. It is also an interpretive matter.

Be precise in critiquing students’ articulation (and your own).