Donald Reinhardt On Tongue Position and Brass Playing

While I’ve blogged earlier on this same topic, I got a request while ago to discuss a bit what Donald Reinhardt taught about tonguing. I find Reinhardt’s pedagogy so interesting because of the level of detail he went to in order to understand how individual student’s anatomy would necessitate different instructions. Keep in mind that I never studied directly from Reinhardt, but was introduced to his books via one of his former students, Doug Elliott.

Reinhardt’s ideas about the level of tongue arch while sustaining pitches are in the majority today. It’s generally accepted that brass players will change the level of tongue arch while playing according to the register being played. Often times syllables are used to describe the tongue position, which can offer a good guide for students to begin experimenting with. To sustain a very low note the tongue position would be lower in the mouth, almost as if saying, “aw.” The higher the pitch, the higher the level of tongue arch inside the mouth. A middle register note might be closer to saying, “oh,” or “ah,” while a very high pitch would be closer to, “ee,” or “eh.” These are obviously approximations, and there are variations of exactly how a player will alter the level of tongue arch, but you can get an idea by watching this video recorded by Joseph Meidt for his research, A Cinefluorographic Investigation of Oral Adjustments for Various Aspects of Brass Instrument Performance.

The reason why this works is a matter of some controversy, but the two leading hypotheses are that raising the tongue arch helps increase air pressure against the lips or it helps the oral cavity’s resonance match the pitch being played. Both have some evidence to back them up, so there is perhaps a bit of both going on.

Much like with brass embouchures, I find it fascinating how many different ways brass players use the tongue to play. Donald Reinhardt came up with eight different tonguing types. Similar to his embouchure types, Reinhardt felt that each individual student’s anatomy would make one type work best for that particular player. I wrote about these tongue types years ago in an article about Reinhardt’s Pivot System. In general, each of these tonguing types would begin the attack with the tongue tip coming back away from the upper teeth or higher as if pronouncing, “tah” (or “tee,” “toh,” depending on the register and level of tongue arch desired).

Tongue-Type One

Brass players who specialize in playing in the upper register often use Tongue-Type One. With this tongue type the tongue spreads and the tongue sides are held in contact against the inside of the upper teeth immediately following the tongue backstroke. The tongue in this position forces the air column to thin down and aids this brass player in producing very fast lip vibrations.

This tongue type is not very common. I’ve heard anecdotally that this tonguing type works best for players with tall roof of their mouth. The player also needs a wide enough tongue to spread out to each side against the teeth.

Considering the very high tongue position, you can see how this tongue type might help some players who specialize in upper register playing (i.e., big band lead trumpet). Reinhardt felt the drawback to  tongue type one was the low register and some players may adopt a different tongue type for the lower range.

Tongue-Type Two

The most common tongue type is Reinhardt’s Tongue-Type Two. This tonguing type, which is also recommended by many other brass texts and method books, is distinguished by the tongue striking the back of the upper teeth or upper gums and then arching and hovering inside the mouth according to the register being played.

As I wrote in the above quote, tongue type two is probably the most common method of tonguing. In the Encyclopedia of the Pivot System Reinhardt mentions that this tongue type sometimes allowed players to recede their jaw too much, in which case he might recommend the player adopt one of the later tongue types where the tongue tip is anchored behind and below the lower teeth.

Tongue-Type Three

Reinhardt’s Tongue-Type Three performers are in the minority. Although Reinhardt admonished his student’s to never permit the tongue to penetrate between the teeth, certain brass players have a lower lip that is long and thick enough coupled with very short lower teeth. For these players immediately after the tongue strikes the back of the upper teeth or upper gums it will snap back and then return to the lower lip. The tip of the tongue will then rest on the lower lip while sustaining and slurring with performers of this tongue type.

Reinhardt’s tongue type three is the close to how some teachers describe as a “tongue controlled embouchure.” I agree with Reinhardt that this is a pretty rare situation, and in most cases players who intentionally put the tongue tip against the lower lip while sustaining pitches would probably do better in the long term adopting a different tongue type.

Tongue-Type Four

This type is identical to Tongue-Type three with the exception that the tongue strikes the lower lip for the attack, instead of the back of the upper teeth or upper gums.

Like tongue type three, Reinhardt felt that players adopting this tongue type needed to have a long enough lower lip and short enough lower teeth that both attacking and resting the tongue tip on the lower lip wouldn’t impede the vibrations.

I’ve never heard that Reinhardt made any tongue type recommendations according to the student’s embouchure type. With the tongue tip against the lower lip, I wonder if Reinhardt’s tongue types two and three are better for downstream players, who want their lower lip to be less active than the upper.

Tongue-Type Five

Tongue-Type Five is another one of the more common tonguing types. After the tongue strikes the back of the upper teeth or upper gums the tip of the tongue lunges down and makes contact with the gully where the lower gum meets the floor of the mouth. This tongue type also provides support for the jaw as the tongue presses forward to create a higher tongue arch level while ascending. Individuals who adopt this tongue type must have a sufficiently long enough tongue to accommodate this forward tongue pressure without loosing contact.

Because the tongue tip is pressed against the jaw, some players will find that adopting this tongue type helps them keep a more forward position of the jaw (assuming that this is desired for the player). As I mentioned above about tongue type two, players who find their jaw recedes undesirably might benefit from switching to tongue type five.

Tongue-Type Six

Tongue-Type Six is virtually identical to Tongue-Type Five, excepting that these individual’s do not possess tongues as long as those who belong to Tongue-Type Five. This tongue type will attack with the tip of the tongue striking the back of the upper teeth or gums, following which it will drop down to the gully where the lower gums and floor of the mouth meet. Unlike Tongue-Type Five, the higher tongue arch level for ascending is created by pulling the tip of the tongue back in the mouth, while keeping the tip touching the floor of the mouth. To descend the Tongue-Type Six player pushes the tongue tip forward towards the gully and flatten the tongue.

Because players belonging to this tongue type alter the level of tongue arch differently from tongue type five, this tonguing type doesn’t provide the same feeling of jaw support.

Tongue-Type Seven

Players belonging to this tongue type slur and sustain pitches identically to Tongue-Type Five. The difference in this tonguing type is that pitches are attacked through the tip of the tongue striking the back of the lower teeth or lower gums. This tongue type is sometimes used by players who play with the jaw in a very protruded position.

This tongue type seems to be very rare. Even simply trying to imitate this tongue position without playing I can’t make this work for me. Something about the very protruded jaw position must make this effective for some players. However, except for the position of the tongue during the attack, this tongue type is the same as Reinhardt’s tongue type five.

Tongue-Type Eight

In Tongue-Type Eight the tongue strikes the back of the lower teeth or lower gums for the attack and moves to the gully or floor of the mouth. When ascending the tongue arch level is raised by pulling the tongue back without allowing the tip of the tongue to lose contact with the floor of the mouth. When descending the Tongue-Type Eight player lowers the tongue arch level by pushing the tongue forward towards the gully and keeping the tip in contact with the floor of the mouth.

This tongue type is a combination of tongue types six and seven. Tongue type eight attacks the pitch against the lower teeth or gums, like tongue type seven, and alters the level of tongue arch like tongue type six. It also appears to be pretty rare.

One thing Reinhardt didn’t write much about in the Encyclopedia of the Pivot System are the variations on these basic tongue types. For example, a tongue type five player would slur and sustain pitches by pushing the tongue against the jaw with the tip in the gully behind and below the lower teeth. One variation would have a student attack pitches by keeping the tongue tip in the gully and have the middle part of the tongue come forward and strike behind the upper teeth or roof of the mouth. Although not a term Reinhardt used, as far as I know, some folks call this “anchored tonguing” or “K tongue modified.”

In general, I prefer to try to play in as consistent a manner as possible and typically suggest that a player try to use only one tongue type and not change according to the register. That said, using multiple tongue types doesn’t seem to be as detrimental to technique as adopting multiple embouchure types tends to.

While I find all the details fascinating and think that for teaching purposes it’s good to understand the above, I wonder if there may be a better way to communicate correct tonguing than using Reinhardt’s particular designations. There may be a way to simplify Reinhardt’s designations, similar to Doug Elliott’s simplification of Reinhardt’s embouchure types. At this time my thoughts are to break down the tonguing based on two factors, where the tip of the tongue is during the attack and where the tip of the tongue is while slurring or sustaining. This leaves out the factor of how the tongue arch is produced, but I’m not certain how useful it would be to include this information.

What are your thoughts? Is there a better way to describe tonguing? Which tongue type do you personally use? Have you ever experimented with more than one?

Elgin Green

Dave
Just a couple of observations. It’s been a long time since I last viewed these clips. I’ve always gone along with the conclusion of the “experts” that these cinefluorographs showed a direct relationship between rising tongue arch and rising pitch. However, after watching it several times, it seems to me that the tongue-arch/pitch relationship is not very consistent in either example. For the French horn, the teeth opening is very consistent: closing more for the upper register, opening more for the lower register. The tongue height seems to be reversed; the tongue rises for the lower register, and lowers for the upper register. In the trumpet example also, the tongue is usually lowest in the mouth on the highest notes. Most consistent here is the instrument angle to the embouchure. The trumpet player consistently raises the chin as he ascends. If I were an uninitiated observer, I would conclude that the tongue position does not correlate well with range. However, I would definitely conclude that for the F. horn, jaw position correlates with range, and for the trumpeter, instrument angle correlates with range. Of course, we aren’t considering lip action because they aren’t observable in the X-ray, and they were not the subject of the study.

Second observation. While I studied with Dr. Reinhardt and have his literature, I never questioned his conclusions at the time. However, if the back of the tongue is connected to the lower jaw, how can pressing the tongue forward against the lower teeth help keep the jaw forward in tongue type five? It would be the equivalent of pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps.

I’ve recently been looking at Greg Spence’s “Mystery to Mastery” material. Related to tongue arch, he brings up the idea of oral (actually the whole air column) resonance being a key factor in tone production/reinforcement. “Sing, Hum, Play.” It does have an effect for me. What are your thoughts on this concept?

Dave

Hi, Elgin.

However, after watching it several times, it seems to me that the tongue-arch/pitch relationship is not very consistent in either example.

Yes, I agree. I think that Meidt’s research was looking for at how the tongue works in the attacks, rather than the tongue arch. I included it mainly just to give readers an image/video to go with the article, since it really doesn’t offer great demonstrations of Reinhardt’s tonguing types.

However, if the back of the tongue is connected to the lower jaw, how can pressing the tongue forward against the lower teeth help keep the jaw forward in tongue type five? It would be the equivalent of pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps.

I had the same question when I first read about it. As someone who plays with tongue type five (tongue tip down in the gully behind and below the lower teeth) I really think it’s more of a mental analogy. I happen to have a receded jaw position, so my own playing sensations in this case may be different, but I think it provides some feedback and reminder about the position of your jaw.

Related to tongue arch, he brings up the idea of oral (actually the whole air column) resonance being a key factor in tone production/reinforcement.

It’s a common playing analogy. I’m not certain how accurate it is. I’ve read some things about this and someday hope to discuss it in more detail. I need to do more research first and get my facts straight.

Dave

Chris Royal

Hello Dave,
Curiously, or maybe by my lack of understanding Dr. Reinhardt’s materials, none of the type descriptions accurately describe anchor or dorsal tonguing, which I use. The tip of the tongue does not strike anything but tends to sit behind the lower teeth or float upwards a little. The “striking” motion for articulation is done solely with the middle of the tongue and touches the roof of the mouth and not the teeth. When ascending, the touching moves further forward and changes to a “hiss” position. Tongue is wide but creates a small channel in the middle when ascending, especially in the hiss position.
This is not K tongue modified as the tongue is not as forward as in KTM. Herbert L. Clarke did not use KTM. His was closer to tonguing in the same position as saying “key” or “cue.” KTM is a much longer stroke for multiple tonguing. People using KTM spend umpteen hours practicing K tonguing because of the difference in placement; but true anchor tonguing uses the tongue in that position already.
True anchor tonguing is very efficient for everything except flutter tonguing, which requires the tip of the tongue to vibrate.

Dave

Hi, Chris.

While Reinhardt didn’t write of the “anchor” tongue in the Encyclopedia as a separate type, he did have variations of those types that included keeping the tip of the tongue anchored around the gums behind and below the lower teeth. The articulation was done with the middle part of the tongue while the tip is “anchored” there. I’ll have to brush the dust of my copy of the Encyclopedia and look again for information he wrote there about this. I’m pretty sure this info is in some of the handouts he gave folks, but he usually gave out detailed descriptions and exercises that were specific to the individual student. I’d have to find someone who happens to fit this tongue type and studied with Reinhardt who kept his or her handouts.

Dave

Elgin

Chris
I’m sure Dave will respond, but as a former Reinhardt student I can shed a little light. Doc recommended that I adopt the Type Five tongue but with the tip of the tongue anchored to the bottom teeth or lower. The actual tonguing is accomplished with the top of the tongue just like what you described. He called the handout for this “The Complete Usage of the Type Five Tongue” (For long tongue types only). It begins

“The tip of the type five tongue MUST NEVER BE RELEASED FROM ITS “GULLY CONTACT” (where the tip of the tongue retains physical contact below the lower gums in the floor of the mouth), other than to provide freedom for the mouthcorner, NEVER THE MOUTHCENTER, inhalation. A slight recession of the tongue tip from its gully contact is a MUST for a normal playing inhalation because it permits the air being inhaled to pass freely all around the tongue.”…

“…To execute the normal attack, the TOP of the tongue (from a half to a full inch away from the top of the tongue) strikes forward against the RUGAE (the “bump” above the upper gums) and slightly lower at times, depending upon the particular register of the instrument being played.”… “THE TYPE FIVE TONGUE IS INTENDED STRICTLY FOR PERFORMERS WITH LONGER THAN AVERAGE TONGUES – ALL OTHERS WILL FAIL!”

So, those are the main points that differentiate it from the standard Type Five Tongue.

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