By placing the tongue against the top of the hard palate and forcing air through the opening, a rattling sound is added to the pitch being buzzed. This is one of the most common and widely used contemporary performance techniques, having been in use for much of the twentieth century. Like vocal multiphonics, this technique can be found in a wide swatch of the solo tuba and euphonium repertoire, due to its relatively flexible nature and ability to be layered with many other techniques.
Just as in the act of rolling one’s R’s, not everyone is physically capable of producing a fluttertongue effect. For those that cannot produce this effect, a common alternative is to growl with the back of the throat, which produces a similar effect. That being said, the growl is somewhat more physically taxing, and some people are incapable of doing that as well. This is to be considered when writing sections involving the fluttertongue in any work.
With practice, those that are about to fluttertongue can develop the ability to vary the volume of the fluttertongue effect, by adjusting the ratio between the “pure” buzzed tone and the amount of rattle produced by the fluttertongue.
At lower volumes, this technique may be more difficult to produce, as the prerequisite for the production of the fluttertongue is a constant and active stream of air. Additionally, the rattling sound of the fluttertongue itself is difficult to adjust in speed, due to the necessity of keeping the tongue firm against the palate.
At higher dynamics, the fluttertongue can cause quite a lot of disturbance to the buzzing lips. This may make it difficult, were the composer to call for both a loud fluttertongue effect and distinct, clear pitches within the buzzing lips.
Although possible across nearly the entire range of the tuba and euphonium, it is least effective in the extremely low and high ranges of the instruments.
There are many standardized ways to indicate fluttertongue, such as the use of what is normally considered the “tremolo” beam with a written direction for fluttertongue (often abbreviated to “Flz.”, which stands for the German version of the word, Flatterzunge). Unless there are good reasons for abandoning these standard forms of notation, it is the author’s suggestion that the composer stick with those established guidelines. When varying the speed or intensity of the fluttertongue, any text indications or simple declared notation symbols will suffice to get the message across to the performer.
Intermediate to Professional
Works to consider (bolded titles are particularly representative examples of this technique)
Ach, es… – Annette Schlünz
Four Dialogues for Euphonium and Marimba – Samuel Adler