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PhiNotPi's avatar

Is the ability to flutter tongue a genetic trait?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12151 points ) January 18th, 2012

Well, we were sight reading new music and the trumpets had to flutter tongue a part of the piece. The trumpets didn’t expect that (I wouldn’t either, but I don’t play trumpet), so then the band director got into a discussion about flutter tonguing and of course showed off his flutter-tonguing-abilities. Then, a lot of people briefly did the flutter-tonguing thing because they thought it sounded cool. However, I don’t have a clue how to flutter tongue. That of course made me think “Why can’t I do that?” So, is the ability to flutter tongue is a genetic trait, like the ability to roll your tongue into a tube shape? I am unable to roll my tongue like that, so does that mean that I will never be able to flutter tongue? Or is it an ability that everyone can do, but some people can do it naturally while others have to take time and practice?

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10 Answers

Pandora's avatar

I’ve always wondered that. I could do it since I was little. I’ve known many people who could not.
So your question made me look it up. link
So it can be genetic depending on the shape, size and if your tongue is closely attatched to the bottom of your mouth.
But some people may have the ability only they don’t know how to make it happen. Its like teaching someone to dance by only moving their hips. They physically can do it but their brain can’t seem to tell them how to move their hips and keep their shoulders still, so they look like they are having a complete body spasm. LOL

wundayatta's avatar

People have a similar problem rolling their Rs in Spanish. A lot of times, this is something people can’t do until they grow old enough. Perhaps flutter tonguing is something similar.

All I can say is keep on practicing. I think you’ll get it. It’s not a skill most trumpeters use that often, I think, so even if you learn it, you may forget it later on. I know I have to practice it again each time I think of using it. I hardly ever use it.

CaptainHarley's avatar

LMAO! I thought when I first read this question that it said, “FLUTHER tongue,” not “flutter tongue!” Oh man! What could be made out of THAT, eh? : D

PhiNotPi's avatar

Do you have any advice on how to practice?

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t know, but possibly. It is genetic if you can fold/roll your tongue like a taco. But, it also has been found that some people can roll their tongue easily the first time they try, while others need to practice and eventually can. So, it is important to not give up, and not assume because it isn’t easy that it cannot be done. Similar to @wundayatta answer about trilling r’s. I don’t think of the trill as an age related thing, but probably there is some truth to it, in the sense that children in general need to learn and perfect sounds in their language. I think of trilling r’s as being easier for those who grew up with the sound having had practiced it since a young age, while people who take Spanish as a second language are more likely to have trouble doing it, because they are not accustomed to making that sound. My inlaws, whose first language is Spanish, have a hard time pronouncing TH in English.

wundayatta's avatar

First practice without the horn. Just try to flutter your tongue between your teeth, which are parted a little. Maybe a quarter of an inch. Then purse your lips like you are pressing against the mouthpiece, and try to flutter your tongue in the space just behind the opening. Then try to buzz your lips as you flutter. Slowly bring the mouthpiece against your lips, fluttering as you do so. Then add the air stream. Then work on turning it on an off.

I think it’s easier to flutter low notes than high notes, so start down low if that is easier for you.

When I flutter, I put my tongue between my teeth (teeth open) and start with a kind of huffing breath, like I’m saying “hrrrrttttttttt.” I think that flattens and widens the back of my tongue, so it is also touching my teeth at the side of my mouth.

I hope that helps. I’m making this up as I go along—just trying to see what I do. I don’t have a trumpet handy right now, so it might change under live fire conditions.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Just to clarify one thing, I am not one of those trumpet players. I did write this as a side-comment in my question, but it seems like people didn’t notice it. So, I am interested in learning how to flutter tongue (because it is possible on my instrument), but it really isn’t that important right now. The main part that I am interested in is if it is genetically-based or not.

ariah's avatar

To answer the question directly, no.

JessK's avatar

http://www.fluther.com/138353/how-would-i-learn-to-be-able-to-roll-my-rs/
I just saw this 5 minutes ago! As for flutter, I was finally able to do it when I was a teenager. My brothers can do it but my sister can’t.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@JessK I asked that question. I felt like the response to the question “is it genetic” was an overall no, so I asked a specific question about how to roll my R’s, because the motion is the same but more people know what the rolled R is.

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