A number of different articulations, how they are written and how they are played, all explained below.
As with all reed instruments, oboe articulation is controlled by the contact between the tongue and the reed. As the air is blown the reeds vibrate, if the player then moves the fingers this will produce a legato effect. The tongue is used to interrupt the vibration of the reed, which in turn breaks up the sound, creating shorter notes. This is the basis of the many subtle differences between the types of articulation that players use.
Notes played without tonguing. Legato means 'smoothly'. A curved line above or below the notes. The line is called a 'slur' and indicates that the notes should be played legato, which is often called slurred. The first note in a legato group is always tongued.
Short and separated notes (all tongued). Notated by dots above or below the notes. Staccato notes can be created by returning the tongue to the reed very soon after the note has begun, so cutting off the vibration of the reed. In playing the example shown (left) the movement of the tongue would be similar to saying, 'tut, tut, tut' whilst blowing, the difference is that the tongue touches the reed rather than the roof of the mouth.
Legato Tongued Notes
Legato tonguing is very gentle tonguing - a very slight separation between the notes - almost legato. Notated by this notation example shows the two different types of notation for legato tonguing. The staccato and slur combination implies a lighter touch like staccato notes that almost join together, whereas the tenuto and slur combination suggests longer sounds with only the very gentlest use of the tongue to separate them. Players interpret these symbols in different ways. Watch the video clips for a brief explanation.
Nonlegato or 'Tongued'
Each individual note tongued and separated. The technique is used by oboe players for separating the notes is called 'tonguing'. As the player blows, the tip of the tongue gently touches the underside of the reed near the tip. This is done by a very quick movement and the brief disruption to the vibration of the reed creates a slight separation between the notes.
Literally, 'held' - notes are tongued, held for the full length and sometimes given a gentle stress. Notated by short lines above or below the note. The combination of the tenuto line with the staccato dot (below left) suggests either slightly shorter notes or that less stress should be given to each one, a lighter tenuto. Whether tenuto means a stress or a full sustain, depends on the context.
Double & Triple Tonguing
Compound tonguing in groups of two or three - often used to play very fast passages of tongued notes. Players will often use the technique to play passages of notes that may be written as ordinary tongued or staccato notes. Double tonguing requires the player to form syllables with their tongue whilst blowing such as 'ta-ka, ta-ka, ta-ka' (or possibly 'da-ka') in order to create very rapid articulation.Triple tonguing would involve repeating a pattern such as 'ta-ka-ta' to group notes in threes. Christopher Cowie explains and demonstrates double tonguing on the oboe. Huw Clement-Evans explains and demonstrates double tonguing on the cor anglais.