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Tonguing idea for learning the Mendelsohn Scherzo

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Topic starter

The Mendelsohn Scherzo is a required excerpt for our local honors orchestras.  Often, I have students auditioning who are young and struggle with having an even double tongue.  One of the difficulties is making it sound short while still having excellent tone.  I’d love to hear everyone’s suggestions.  Thoughts on developing excellent tonguing would also be great.

4 Answers
Topic starter

Emily Beynon has an excellent video on learning the Mendelsohn Scherzo.  The part on tonguing begins around 6:15.  


This post was modified 1 year ago by Yulia Berry
Topic starter

Here is one of my young students trying to get ready for the youth orchestra audition.  Now I have a student who is even younger wanting to audition...I'll keep you posted.




It's a great topic! I usually recommend different ways to work on staccato to my students. 

1. Play without tongue (ha-ha), making the sound by pushing the air from the diaphragm. Keep the notes short and loud, do not take small breaths between the notes - play it on one breath. Keep the embouchure loose.

2. Play on ka-ta - reverse tongue. Use metronome on eight notes.

3. Play ka-ka. Use metronome on eight notes.

4. Play kyu-kyu with a very strong sound and keeping it very short, also with a strong push from the diaphragm on each note. Keep the embouchure very loose.

5. Play it on long slur, from breath to breath. 

6. Play different articulations.


Yulia Berry, Founder and Director of The Babel Flute


Clear articulation!  We all want it.  Most of us work hard to achieve it.  I think we try so hard that we start to mess ourselves up.

May I challenge you to change up your approach?

I fundamentally believe that we get ourselves in a twist because we make the mistake of fixating on our tongue.  It makes sense, doesn't it?  We want clear tonguing and so we should worry about our tongue, right?  I'm not so sure.

What we really want is for the air to make its way cleanly past our lips.

The tongue plays a part, of course.  But if we are working really intently to get the very tip of our tongue to make clean contact with the back of our top teeth, too often we catch the air stream and jerk it backwards into our mouths rather than releasing it forward through the lips.

Try this!  If it doesn't work for you, you can always go back to your normal or try something different.

1)  Blow a steady airstream through an embouchure and memorize the feeling of the air as it passes your lips - for me, it's a pleasant friction the gently carries my lips forward.

With the next step, be super observant and super honest with yourself.

2)  Tongue a series of "eighth notes" into the airstream with the aim of retaining the feeling of the simply-blown airstream.  If the airstream starts and stops, reshape your tongue (try moving it forward or arching it up near your molars) and tap with a different spot (try a centimeter back from the tip) until it the airstream comes virtually as smoothly past your lips while tonguing as while simply blowing.  I know I have it when that lovely friction unhesitatingly carries my lips forward.

So ... keep your attention on how the air is passing your lips.  Practice it without your flute while you are doing your math homework.  When you are happy that your air is leaving your lips just the way you want it, pick up your flute and check out the result.

Keep us posted how it goes.