Quick tip: Tongue Ram or Tongue Thrust

Here's a quick tip regarding the extended technique known as the Tongue Ram (also known as "Tongue Thrust" or "Tongue Stop"). 

To achieve a Tongue Ram, the flutist vibrates the air inside the flute by quickly plugging the embochure hole with the tongue. It's only possible on the lowest octave of the flute. The flutist completely covers the lip plate with their mouth, then "stops" the tongue into the embouchure hole and plugs it up. Blowing fast air into the flute followed by the stop can yield a louder effect. The result is a percussive thud with a pitch that can sound a major 7th to minor 7th lower than the written note.

At the lowest end of the flute, the sounding pitch is a major 7th below the fingered note. Due to the variation in conical head joint design of different flutes, the sounding pitch will become a minor 7th lower than the fingered note as the notes fingered get higher. In the examples below, you will hear that my particular Bass flute sounds a minor 7th lower than fingered note starting at Ab. My C flute flips to minor 7th at A-natural. 

It can be notated like this:

Tongue Ram notation example

Tongue Ram notation example

It sounds like this (1st time = Bass Flute, 2nd time = C Flute):



  • To play a loud Tongue Stop note, you do need to blow harder right before the Stop. If you find that you are getting a Jet Whistle sound, you can try "rolling in" with the flute and it should help reduce the Whistle. 
  • If you are still getting too much air sound or too much jet whistle action, and not enough percussive "thud" sound, you might be trying too hard. It's tempting to ram forcefully but it's usually counterproductive to use a lot of force for this technique (and for most techniques, actually). Aim for a resonant sound rather than a loud one and you might find that the most resonant sound usually yields the loudest and most effective sound. 


  • This technique will never really be as loud as a normally blown note (unless the flutist is Robert Dick). Always get a live demonstration from a flutist friend instead of relying on recordings such as the one on this blog, since you have no context for dynamics and acoustics in a space.
  • The flutist needs time to prepare before and after a Tongue Ram note. We can only effectively switch from a regularly played note to a tongue ram note (and vice versa) if you give us time to do so. 
  • "Slap Tongue" is a single-reed instrument technique and it is not useful to use this term on any flute part. 
Creative Commons License
This Blog Post (including Image and Sound Recording) by Meerenai Shim is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

For more useful tips for flutists and composers, please check out Helen Bledsoe's excellent website. It's one of my favorite flutists' blogs. And of course, the modern flutists' bible: Robert Dick's The Other Flute.

Media round-up

Also known as shameless self-promotion: Here are some of my latest CD reviews and interviews.

DePaul Magazine , the DePaul University alumni publication, has a little profile on me in the Spring 2016 issue.

DePaul Magazine, the DePaul University alumni publication, has a little profile on me in the Spring 2016 issue.

Bassist and radio host Gahlord Dewald was kind enough to invite me on his show Bleep Boop Beep on WRUV 90.1 (Burlington, VT) to talk about performing with electronics. Read more and listen to it here.

I had a really fun time as a guest on the two-hour long geekbeatradio show on March 7th. We talked about A/B Duo, chiptunes, and other geeky stuff. You can download the podcast here or listen to it from their website.

Pianist Jai Jeffries came to my November recital in Brooklyn and write a very nice review of my show and Pheromone.

“Rarely do I enjoy a concert with a pleasure so rich and so complete as the pleasure I experienced at the Pheromone preview. Put a flute in the hands of Meerenai Shim and she is a sorceress.”

Flutist Tammy Evans Yonce reviewed Pheromone in the December 2015 issue of The Flute View.

“Her first two albums are fantastic but Shim has outdone herself with this latest release. Pheromone takes her playing to a completely new level.”

Daniel Barbiero of Avant Music News reviewed Pheromone.

"a fine collection of new electroacoustic works, all but one of which were commissioned for this recording. The six compositions encompass their composers’ individual approaches to integrating the flute with electronics of various types, and reflect Shim’s own genre-challenging, eclectic engagement with new music.”

Flutist Amanda Cook reviewed Pheromone in I CARE IF YOU LISTEN.

“…Pheromone stands in a class of its own. This album’s dedication to all electro-acoustic compositions definitively breaks from traditional repertoire and instrumentation, unapologetically plays to Shim’s strengths, and highlights her incredible versatility as a contemporary artist.”

I made a video game, last year.

My Video Game. (Click screenshot to go to game page)

My Video Game. (Click screenshot to go to game page)

I made a video game last Fall.

Making a video game is not that big of a deal these days, especially in Silicon Valley where I live. Nor is it particularly impressive if you consider that I did not code it from scratch using all original artwork. I used a couple tools that helped me make video game creation process much quicker and simpler than the "from scratch" method. The unique thing about this video game is that I made it to go with one of A/B Duo's recordings, in lieu of a music video. (Sometimes we play the music while a volunteer plays the game, live and projected above/behind us, while we perform. I think it's the coolest thing ever.)

This was a true labor of love. I did it purely because it would be a cool thing to do.

I am also a bad video game maker. Well, this was my first video game and my last, I am sure. 

This was another example of my "jack of all trades, master of nothing" persona. Another example of "I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm doing it!"

I am writing about it here/now because it seems to be one of those projects that I LOVED SO MUCH and gave so many all-nighters to, but it got very little appreciation. [If I can geek out a bit: There are two versions, a Windows executable AND an HTML5 version. Cool, right?? They both work too! Yeah, it's a little buggy and I made the first level WAY too hard...but that's my first/last time video game making showing through.]

The point of this post is to say, if you didn't know about the video game I made for A/B Duo last year, please check it out: http://abduo.net/echoloquacious-the-game/

Pheromone comes out on Friday the 13th!

My 3rd solo CD, Pheromone, will be released on November 13th.

If you're in the NYC area: I'm playing all the pieces on the album at Scholes Street Studio in Brooklyn on Sunday, November 1st. Link to Facebook event page.

If you're in Wichita, KS: I'm playing 4 of the 6 pieces from the album at the KNOB Festival on Saturday, November 7th. Link to event.

If you're in the San Francisco area: To celebrate, I'll be bringing some baked vegan goodies to the New Music Open Mic at the Center for New Music on SUNDAY, November 15th. I will also be performing one piece from the album at the Open Mic. Link to event.

Everywhere else: You can buy my album! CDs and digital downloads will soon be available everywhere on November 13th. In the meantime, you can pre-order the CD or digital downloads from Bandcamp. iTunes and Amazon both have downloads available for pre-sale too.

Introducing Aerocade Music

The big project I've been working on this summer is the launch of Aerocade Music, my new little independent record label. In addition to my own releases, Aerocade will produce a series of releases by A/B Duo in 2016. I am especially honored to release Post-Haste Reed Duo's debut CD on the Aerocade Music label in January 2016. 

I originally intended to just release my own projects on this label but an opportunity to work with Post-Haste Reed Duo sprang up so now I'm releasing other artists' music too! Aerocade Music and I are legit now! Most of the hard work these last new months were related to starting an actual company. 

Our first release will be my 3rd solo album, Pheromone, coming out on November 13, 2015. You can listen to one of the tracks now on the video I made for track 3 on the album: Pencilled Wings by Emma O'Halloran featuring Jacob Abela on piano.

Video shot on my iPhone 6.