Characteristic Studies

Characteristic Studies  (1915) 
by Herbert L. Clarke


Ever since J. B. Arban demonstrated the musical and artistic possibilities of the Cornet, while concertizing in France, Germany and England, as long as 1848, this instrument has remained one of the most popular throughout the world for solo playing. Others of equal renown, with whom he vied, were the great French Cornetist and Author, Saint Jacome, Levy and Arbuckle from England, and later on, Liberati, Emerson and a host of celebrated American soloists of the past and present.

In view of the progressive demands of modern Cornet playing, I made a thorough study of violin methods and exercises, and adapting much of the material I found therein, for the needs of cornet players. As a practical result the Twenty- four Characteristic Studies contained in this book, while of difficult grade, have been adapted from existing violin studies, in carefully arranged form to suit the requirements of the Cornet. They have been provided with metronomic tempo indications, proper breathing marks and will aid the student to gain absolute control of technique, articulation, slurring and endurance.

Cornet students should not exert or torture themselves, by trying to master all these studies before careful preparation. With well-developed and proper embouchure, they will offer no undue difficulties. My Technical Studies, Series Two, if practiced carefully as per instructions, will help the student to play with comfort and ease.

Cornet players should strive to become creative and not imitative by persistently copying some great soloist. To the contrary, they should endeavor to produce original ideas which no other players have ever thought of, and try to demonstrate their own musical and artistic individuality. The following studies and solos should assist in arousing ambition and perseverance amongst all serious minded students, and as everyone has an equal chance in gaining fame, I sincerely hope that this work will prove both helpful and beneficial.

Herbert L. Clarke

Remarks on TongueingEdit

This is a subject who has caused more controversy than any other pertaining to the Cornet, and is one of the most important factors of correct cornet playing.

Perhaps very few players have ever considered that different languages have an effect on the tongue.

Being personally acquainted with many celebrated artists throughout the World and conversing with them on the different points of cornet playing, I have noticed that nearly all tongue in a different way. Some tongue heavily, others lightly; but those of the Latin Race as a whole, seem to have the best control over proper attack, whether for Single, Double, or Triple Tongueing. Perhaps they give more study to this particular point; then again their language may help them to be mo re decisive, besides guiding them with greater certainty as to the attack for the different varieties of Tongueing, which should be taken up as soon as a pure tone is acquired.

Many players advocate certain syllables to be used in proper Tongueing, such as "Te", "Ta", "Tu", "Tit", etc. This places the ambitious student in doubt, wondering which syllable he should adopt.

The attack should be started as distinctly as possible and must be positive. But there is a difference in using the tongue when playing loud or soft, also when playing either high or low registers. When playing loud, more of the tongue is used and less when playing softly.

The tongue should work perfectly with the muscles of the lips, contracting it slightly for the higher notes, and relaxing it for the lower notes.

My own method of Tongueing is rather unique. But the results I have accomplished by diligent study and practice have proven to me to be not only the easiest, but the most practical in many ways, both for solo and other work.

First, always practice softly; try to produce a light positive attack in the middle register. My tongue is never rigid when playing, and rests at the bottom of my mouth, the end pressed slightly against the lower teeth. I then produce the staccato, by the centre of the tongue striking against the roof of the mouth. This I have practiced so as to acquire rapid single Tongueing without fatigue, nor causing a clumsy tone, and when under full control, Double and Triple Tongueing becomes a simple matter by diligent practice, keeping the mind upon each articulation.

To produce a sforzando attack, such as in Trumpet playing, the point of the tongue is used decisively. In my Elementary Studies, First Series, I state that there is no set rule for cornet playing, except by playing naturally; consequently there is no set rule for Tongueing. Each player must discover the most natural and easiest way for himself. There is any amount of experimenting necessary, before one really feels the proper way. Use of the syllable "Tu", not "Thu" in the middle register, seems to be the most natural way to express the attack.

As a matter of argument, when the muscles of the lips are contracted for high tones, one would necessarily pronounce "Te", and when relaxed for low tones, "Tu"; consequently it would be unnatural, and almost impossible to use the same syllable for tones in all registers on the cornet.

Single TongueingEdit

This is the first important essential to acquire before trying the other varieties of Tongueing. Thorough control of the tongue must be gained by practicing a series of notes regularly and evenly, using the open tone "G" and playing softly.


Staccato and detached. Repeat four times.

This cannot be accomplished correctly without patience and application, and sometimes requires many months practice and even years, according to the aptness of the student.

When full control of the tongue is acquired, practice all scale exercises with the Metronome, which ticks regularly, and keeps perfect time. Be sure each articulation is even and equal, in tonal quality, also positive in attack.

There are as many different articulations on the cornet, as bowings on the violin, and every cornetist should acquaint himself thoroughly with all of these to be a good player, as they are used frequently in all kinds of cornet playing.

Practice each of these different forms of articulation many times.


Double TongueingEdit

This form of Tongueing is produced by articulating or pronouncing the syllables "Te Ke" for the upper register, "Ta Ka" for the middle register, and "Tu Ku" for the lower register.

The player must have acquired proficiency in Single Tongueing before attempting to double tongue, and as each syllable, to be accurate, must be pronounced distinctly, it is absolutely necessary to produce as equal a staccato effect with the use of "Ke", "Ka", and "Ku", as with "Te", "Ta" and "Tu". Therefore it is advisable to control the "Ke': "Ka': "Ku" attack. This form of articulation is usually overlooked by a majority of cornet players, whose double Tongueing, as a result, is never correct. In using this form, practice the exercises therefore, slowly and distinctly, in order that the result will be exactly as with the single tongue attack.


This must have the effect of


When this attack is thoroughly mastered, practice notes in different registers, using the syllables required when the lips are relaxed and contracted.


Increase the speed as you progress with this articulation.

Do not become discouraged if this method is difficult at first, as it requires time and patience to gain proficiency.

Think of each syllable separately. After this is thoroughly mastered, try using both syllables, "Ta"-"Ka."

Then practice Scale Exercises using the Double Tongueing distinctly.

Many players neglect to practice Tongueing in the lower register, with consequent unsatisfactory results. By using the lower tones, neither the lips nor the tongue will tire so readily on account of being relaxed.

When this is accomplished, use higher tones, but do not strain nor fatigue the lips by practicing too steadily. Rest often, to relieve the constant strain on the muscles of both lips and tongue.

Refer to CLARKE'S TECHNICAL STUDIES, Second Series, and practice the Exercises from page 5 to 34 inclusive, using Double Tongue, very staccato.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1945, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 77 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.