Trombone lesson: Doodle Tonguing – Part 1


If you are a trombone player with some interest in jazz, chances are great that you heard about doodle tonguing. It is a technique that enables you to play fast lines much smoother than with double tongue (this is NOT double tongue for brass players!).

Playing fast lines on the trombone is actually more a question about articulation than being able to move slide fast enough. Since trombones don´t have keys or valves, we have to articulate different than other wind players, tonguing all the notes, possibly combined with natural legato where possible.

Where double tongue is well suited for fast marcato and staccato playing, doodle tongue is perfect for fast legato playing. If you are a jazz player, you probably know that double tongue just doesn´t sound right when you play a fast line of swing eight´s. It is hard to get the swing phrasing right, and the notes get too short. With doodle tonguing, there is kind of a built in swing phrasing that makes it perfect for jazz!

Some players have a really fast single tongue, and hardly ever uses double or doodle tongue, but if you (like me) are not one of them, you will probably find doodle tonguing very helpful. I use doodle tonguing a lot, combined with natural legato, and I would not be able to play much of what I do without this technique. It was a real life changing (ok, trombone changing…) experience when I first learned it, and it opened up a whole new world of possibilities on the horn!

So what is it?

The difference between the three main tonguing techniques; single tongue, double tongue and doodle tongue, is in practice this:

Single tongue
tu-tu-tu-tu or du-du-du-du

Double tongue
tu-ku-tu-ku or du-gu-du-gu

Doodle tongue
doo-dle doo-dle doo-dle doo-dle (or do-ul do-ul)

If you are just starting to learn doodle tonguing, I strongly suggest that you take a few lessons in person with a good teacher who is familiar with the technique to make sure that you get it right from start.

To get started right away, here are some basic exercises you can use to get a irst feel of doodle tongue.

1. Say it out loud in different tempos “doodle doodle doodle doodle doodle doodle…”

2. Now do it with only air (without the instrument) as if you where blowing in the horn. Start real slow and make sure that the air flow is pretty much the same both on the doo and the dle attack. Try holding your hand in front of your mouth and feel the air flow. Compare the feel of the air on your hand with a normal tu-tu tongue and doodle tongue. If there is a big difference, try to make the doodle-air stream feel as smooth as the single tongue air stream.

3. Try it on the horn! Just pick a mid range note and try it real slow. In the beginning, you will probably experience that the second half of the (the -dle part) tends to disappear or be more slurry than the first part. Just keep the tempo very slow until you get a decent attack an both sounds.

4. Wait for my Doodle Tonguing – Part 2!

5. Find a teacher to help you hands on. Send me an e-mail if you are interested in lessons in the Copenhagen area or the south of Sweden!


Frank Rosolino – the doodle master

Bill Watrous in action

Carl Fontana – check out the part where he play on his own, it´s so smooth and elegant!

Conrad Herwig and Peter Dahlgren, two doodle masters (trombone solos start at 3:55)

Elliot Mason in What Is This Thing Called Love

As I mentioned, I use this technique a lot as well, you can hear samples of me using doodle tonguing here and here.

    13 thoughts on “Trombone lesson: Doodle Tonguing – Part 1

    1. Hello!

      I miss at least one important name here: Bob McChesney, who has written a study for doodle tonguing called “Doodle studies and etudes” which in very small steps teach doodle tonguing.
      Check it out at his website.
      As an old hobby player I came across this just a couple of years ago and I have come halfway. It has helped me a lot.
      I actually think You should learn doodle tonguing from the very beginning as it helps a lot when playing melody lines and keep up a steady airflow on the trombone and of course also to play more relaxed (and faster)

    2. Ingemar, I totally agree that doodle should be something you learn at an early stage, it is a very useful technique in many occasions!

    3. Ingemar, I am one of those trombone players who began at 12 y/o with instruction from a violinist… I developed bad techniques, breathing, embouchure and all. It was worsened during college marching band days.

      At 55, I joined my church orchestra and began to work on some problems. I am now 69 and just got my breathing going properly and have just learned legato tonguing with a dah method. I am working on it and am beginning to hear and see a difference in my legato technique.

      I am wanting to try to expand it a little more to doodle tonguing. I know I will never reach the level the way you show it on your site, but, man, what great demonstrations of what can be accomplished. Thanks for the site and the lessons on doodle tonguing. I printed off the basic exercises and can’t wait to really begin daily putting them to good use. Again, thanks for your help. Maybe this old dog can learn a few new tricks!!

    4. Hi Frank!

      Go for it with the doodle tounge! Just make sure to start really slow so you get a nice, smooth and equal attack on all tones. Let me know how it works out for you!


    5. The “dle” seems to have two tongue plaements. The “d” is on the roof of the mouth, and the “le” stops behind the upper front teeth. Does the “dle” actually stop behind the teeth, in a sense blocking some of the airflow until released for the next “doo”?

    6. Hi Rick,

      Yes, during the “del” sound, the tongue will be a bit in the way for the airflow, so it is vital to practice doodle slowly in order to minimize the difference in sound of “do” and “dle”. But it is possible to get both sounds smooth and quite equal, I would never play a long note with the “dle”-sond though!

      Good luck!

    7. It’s all very well to take Doodle tonguing as being literal but try playing a long jazz line such as Cannon Balls solo on Milestones in the original tempo. Then doodle tonging does not work. It’s that half way point when single tonging is too slow and doodle tonging won’t work. What works for me is more throat as in duga-duga etc:

    8. Dear Grahame,
      Thanks for your input. You do what make it work for you! I prefer doodle also in medium up tempi, others use single tonguing. I would say though, that being able to play doodle slow with good sound and precision, is avery handy skill. So I don´t quite agree that doodle won’t work in certain tempi, it is just more suited for playing fast.

      All the best,

    9. Hello,
      As far as I know Elliot does NOT use doodle.. He doesn’t double tongue neither. Here’s what he said:
      – Double tonguing, or Doodle?
      – Neither, out of the two it’s closer to doodle as the tongue is moving up and down rather than back and forward, but even compared to the doodle the position of the tongue is slightly different. Try using syllable ‘dar-dle’ and experiment moving the tip of your tongue from the bottom of your front teeth to the roof of your mouth to see what’s comfortable for you. I actually use a fast single for most of the time and combine it with the above.

      All the best!

    10. Buenas noches quiero empezar con DOODLE como lo hago
      En español . Que sílabas tengo que usar

    11. Buenas noches
      Una pregunta que
      Letras puedo usar . Para empezar a estudiar el DOODLE

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