How to Flutter Tongue on Brass

To be honest, I’m not sure how effective this will be for teaching brass players how to flutter tongue. If you came here looking for help learning to flutter tongue please leave a comment after trying this out and let us know if it helped.

Flutter tonguing is an effect that brass players are sometimes asked to play that provides a raspy or growling effect. I use it quite frequently when I’m playing plunger trombone solos. But many brass musicians have trouble with it and simply can’t do it.

The technique itself is, I feel, almost identical to rolling your “R’s,” something that is common with some languages like Spanish. I never had any trouble with this, so when it comes to teaching it I have been at a loss. But recently I happened to come across this YouTube video from the Breakthrough Spanish channel, teaching how to roll your “R’s.”

One of the takeaways I got from this video is how rolling your “R’s” is more difficult with a harder consonant before it. When we articulate notes on brass most of us will employ a “T” or “D” consonant to start the pitch, but if we’re articulating too hard on the beginning of that note it doesn’t allow the tongue the flexibility it needs to flutter. One key to learning how to flutter might be lightening up on the initial attack or trying it out with a breath attack.

I suspect that the “ara” trick explained in this video might also be very helpful for developing a good flutter tongue. Quite often I find that tweaking a playing technique away from the instrument and then transferring that skill to playing is a very effective practice approach.

If you can’t already flutter tongue and try this out, please come back and let us know in the comments how it worked for you.