Standard articulations

Like the C flute, a range of different articulations is possible on the alto flute. Unless specified by the composer, in view of a particular effect, the player will choose a form of articulation to suit the tempo of the written passage. This will usually correspond approximately to single tonguing (the tongue flicking to the roof of the mouth as if saying ‘de’ or ‘te’ at the beginning of each note) for semiquavers at speeds up to approximately 120 crotchets per minute, and double tonguing (the single tonguing action followed by a reflex ‘ge’ or ‘ke’ at the back of the mouth for alternate notes) for faster speeds. Triple tonguing may be produced in a range of ways (‘de-ge-de de-ge-de’ and ‘de-ge-de ge-de-ge’ being the most common on the flute) and is only usually reserved for triplets at very fast speeds. Prolonged passages of tonguing at fast speeds may cause fatigue. It may therefore be advisable to consider adding slurs or rests in longer passages.

Scale played single tongued

Scale played double tongued

Scale played triple tongued

Generally speaking, the player will choose which form of articulation to use according to their own abilities and preferences, so it does not need to be specified by the composer. Double and triple tonguing may be employed at slow speeds but is usually less successful than single tonguing. Repeated notes of the same pitch may be notated in shorthand in the normal way.

Notation of standard articulations

Notation of single tonguing

Single tonguing

Notation of double tonguing

Double tonguing

Notation of triple tonguing

Triple tonguing