Hey, Did’ll, Did’ll!

Copyright Ron Molk Photography.  All Rights Reserved.  Please do not copy and distribute this picture.

Copyright Ron Molk Photography. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy and distribute this picture.

When I initially began playing around with the recorder as an eighth-grader enthralled with the instrument after hearing Michala Petri playing The Four Seasons, I must admit that how I initially began “teaching myself” the instrument was rather hodge-podge. Wanting to play the instrument as a “real” instrument and not simply a pre-band tool for playing children’s songs, I decided to forego the classroom methods that my mom had bought years ago and teach myself all the notes from a fingering chart that came with my instrument, moving on to untongued arpeggios and scales. Having been around wind players at youth orchestra, I knew there must be some tonguing involved, yet the “ta” or “tee” given in the classroom methods produced an awful, harsh splutter. Hence, like the methods themselves, I chose to forego this type of tonguing.

This all changed a few months later when my mom learned of the Suzuki recorder method via the Shar catalogue. Since Mom was fully aware of my desire to learn the recorder as a “real” instrument and since I had been a Suzuki violin student in the past, Mom immediately ordered Volumes 1 and 2, as well as the companion CD. Upon receiving these materials, I not only was thrilled that the method eventually delved into “real” recorder repertoire, but I also discovered a surprising fact: Recorder tonguing is composed of three distinct syllables — “Tu”, “Du”, and “Ru.” Each syllable varies in gentleness and produces different effects when mixed together and uttered gently into the recorder. Upon listening to the companion recording, I indeed heard a difference between the syllables; hence, I strove with utmost care to make my syllables distinct.

Returning to recorder during my freshman year of college but this time on alto due to my interest in Baroque music, I immediately remembered what I had learned. Furthermore, reading through such pedagogy books as The Recorder Player’s Companion by Hans Martin Linde, I especially recalled my previous recorder experimentation when the authors specifically mentioned “Tu, du, ru” tonguing. In reading Linde and the other pedagogy books I had, I also discovered a wonderful new form of double tonguing: “Did’ll.” According to Quantz, the first to record such an articulation:

“The double tongue is used only for the very quickest passage-work. Although it is easy to explain orally, and simple for the ear to grasp, it is difficult to teach in writing. The word did’ll which is articulated in it should consist of two syllables. In the second, however, no vowel is present; hence it must be pronounced did’ll rather than didel or dili, surpressing the vowel which should appear in the second syllable. But the d’ll must not be articulated with the tip of the tongue like the di.” (Quantz 79)

Knowing that learning such an articulation would be absolutely necessary towards historically-informed performance of high Baroque music (which had initially attracted me to the recorder), I began to teach myself this articulation, following the directions for doing so in my pedagogy books. Over time, saying did’ll, did’ll over and over again brought back to mind that one of my violin teachers had used it whenever singing fast sixteenth notes and had taught me to do the same when singing sixteenth notes. However, he had taught me to say it cleanly and evenly, which was NOT correct, as I would find out at my first recorder lesson.

On that day, working with my teacher in the choir room of a local community college, I played the fourth movement of Handel’s Sonata in A Minor, which was contained in one of my method books. When searching for a teacher, I had figured that anyone would know that piece, since the book had designated the Handel sonatas as highly popular and essential to any player’s repertoire. I had worked on it diligently, and now I was playing it for the purpose I had intended in learning it. To demonstrate to my teacher what articulations I was using, I wrote in some, including a series of “did’ll”‘s below quick sixteenth-note runs. My teacher immediately noticed this when perusing my music after I had finished playing.

(looking at my marked-up music): So, you’re using “did’ll” for those runs?

Me: Yes!

I proceeded to proudly and confidently say a whole chain of very clean, even “did’ll”‘s like my violin teacher used to do. At about the second “did’ll” or so, my teacher’s face immediately cracked up into an amused smile. Chuckling warmly, he quickly changed his demeanor to calm, and he began to speak to me in a low, calm, loose voice.

Teacher: Now, you’re just going to loosen your mouth like this and say, did’ll, did’ll. You’ve had a miserable night — did’ll, did’ll — and you’re muttering in your sleep — did’ll, did’ll … Just say it like this now ….

I began saying did’ll, did’ll with a loose mouth, trying to imitate my teacher’s example and thinking about muttering in my sleep. I realized that this was indeed a “messy” articulation and that being clean and even as I had been trained previously was not an option. Yet I still was not loose enough …..

Teacher: “That’s it. But it’s still too even. (Takes my recorder away.) I want the di to be longer and stronger and the d’ll to be shorter and weaker — did’ll, did’ll. Don’t try; just let it happen. You’ve had a terrible night …. did’ll, did’ll … and you’re drooling. Here, I want you to drool, did’ll, did’ll .. pass the tissues …”

At that moment, I totally loosened up. Previously as a self-taught beginner, I had feared drooling due to other players telling me about “salivation”, but now that my teacher had deliberately told me to drool, I felt good that I could finally not worry about it. I further reasoned since the syllables were supposed to be uneven, messiness again would not matter. So I let my oral muscles totally relax and proceeded to say a chain of “did’ll” as messy as I could get. I could see my teacher’s face begin to beam with approval.

After enough of this, my teacher gave me back my recorder and said, “Now play me that passage from Handel.” I proceeded to do so, keeping my “did’ll” as loose as I had during the time I described above. I was immediately taken aback how clean and smooth it sounded. The notes literally flew by cleanly and evenly without me attempting. When I had finished playing the runs, my teacher enthusiastically waved his hand and promptly rewarded me. Since that little episode, I have had minimal problems with “did’ll”, and every time I feel that I am not executing it correctly, I instantly remember my teacher’s clever trick described above. Every time I do so, my “did’ll”‘s always come out beautifully. Three cheers for my teacher!

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