Ribattimento is the term used to describe the rearticulation of a note, generally at the same pitch, at varying speeds. It may also be applied to notes of the same pitch in feathered beaming passages – ie when a series of semiquavers is to speed up or slow down through a passage. It can also be highly effective to alter the dynamic at the same time as the speed, and generally easiest to execute a crescendo when speeding up, as the music naturally gains energy.
Tempo changes can be notated, either by using feathered beams or through the use of arrows above the notated pitches, pointing forwards to indicate an increase in speed and backwards to show the notes are to slow down. Arrows can be most effectively used when the specific number of reiterations of a note does not need to be specified. With feathered beaming, the player will assume the number of notated repeats are to be played specifically as notated, unless the composer gives an indication to the contrary, for example, with the use of the term ad lib.
Notation of ribattimento
Soft tonguing is ideal for gentle attacks on pianissimo notes. A note may be started quietly by beginning with the tongue pushed forward between the lips, or even into the embouchure hole of the flute. The player begins to blow and removes the tongue gently, thereby gaining extra control of the speed the air leaves the mouth. The player will usually decide when to use this technique, though it may be specified by the composer by marking the note with the text ‘soft tongue’.
A tongue ram is produced by the player covering the embouchure completely with the mouth and pushing the tongue forwards to stop the air at fast speed, producing a popping sound. The pitch is approximately a seventh below the notated fingering, but the interval of pitch alteration changes according to the note used. Tongue rams work most effectively in the flute's lowest register.
Time should be given to allow the player to move from normal playing position and back again before and after this effect, and the vertical design of the upright bass may require extra time for this than a standard horizontal bass, due to the position of the spike in the floor. Time must also be given between notes to allow the tongue position to be reset.
Notation of tongue rams
There is no standard notation of tongue rams. The following are all acceptable but need to be defined in a glossary to ensure clear communication to the player.
Tongue pizzicato (slap tonguing)
Tongue pizzicato, sometimes also called slap tonguing, is a percussive effect, created as the tongue is pulled away from the lips or palate. The motion is opposite to that of a tongue ram, and is often likened to the action of 'spitting rice'. If the throat is kept closed, a pitched, percussive sound will result, but without a normal tone. If air is allowed to accompany the tongue movement, an airy sound is produced which is rich in upper partials. This technique is most effective in the instrument's lowest register, and time should be given between notes to allow the tongue position to be reset.