Lip beat

Date: 17/08/2009

How do I learn to play Lip Beat?

Lip Beat is now used in several modern solo pieces for tuba.
I used it first time in my composition Fnugg that was delevoped around 1985. The first major tuba concerto to contain the technique was Daniel Nelsons Metallephonic. Mr Nelson also came up with the name Lip Beat. I recorded this concerto with the Swedish Wind Orchestra on BIS CD 1625. Later swedish composer Fredrik Högberg wrote a tuba concerto called Rocky Island Boat Bay. In this concerto that I recorded in 2006 he uses Lip Beats very frequently in the last movement.

This is how you do it in my tune Fnugg.

This is the explanation that is written on the sheet music:
Lip Beat is a short rhythmic sound with no specific pitch, like a drum beat. The technique is based upon double tonguing. To produce a single lip beat, play “TuK”. Immediately stopping the air with the tongue. To produce repeated beats, simply continue the double tongue movement with “TuKuTuKuTuKu…”. The lips should not vibrate long enough to create a pitch, merely make a single “smack” each time the tongue stops the air stream. In this piece there is a high and a low lip beat to imitate the sound of a low pitch and a high pitch drum.


  1. If you find it hard to avoid the lips making a pitch you are most likely pressing the lips against the mouthpiece too hard. This is not like ‘normal’ playing. Use almost no pressure.
  2. Use a high pressure on the air stream so that the Tu and Ku gets very percussive.
  3. Relax the lips. Very loose and not forced.
  4. Sometimes it is a cool effect to press one or more valves half way down to make the beats sound more ‘tight’.
  5. Even if you can’t make the sound perfect in the beginning a very steady tempo will help grabbing the audiences attention. Practice with a metronome.
  6. Remember that things take time!

A little exercise:
Put the tuba on the floor, put your fingers gently on the corners of your mouth to support the lips. This should allow your lips to relax even more when attempting the lip-beats.
Now, with the lips gently together tension the abs and say a high pressure “tuck!”.
This should make the lips flop once.
Then do the same thing saying “cut!”
If that is successful, repeat those words trying to make them sound the same.

Eventually, try doing this without holding your fingers on the lips corners. It is important that the lips are able to relax in the middle, while being firm enough in the corners to keep the corners gently into the teeth.

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