Tips for Playing the Clarinet

If you are taking on the act of playing clarinet, technique, practice and patience will be your best friends.

Correct Hold
Most musical instruments must be held and positioned a certain way to maximize the interaction between the human body and the instrument. Clarinetists should sit up straight with the clarinet held in front of them. The shoulders should be loose on the elbows and should not stick out from the body. The clarinetist's hands should curve slightly, with the pads of the fingers on the tone holes, not the bony fingertips. The thumbs should hold most of the clarinet's weight when it is being played.

Correct Breathing
A clarinet makes a musical sound when air passes through the instrument. Since human breath provides that air, correct breathing is imperative to get the best and most continuous sound. The clarinetist should breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Rather than allowing the shoulders to rise up and down with each breath, the abdomen should expand and contract. This allows for more controlled breath and a deeper inhalation.

Correct Mouth Position
Playing the clarinet requires lips, teeth and tongue working together to send air to the mouthpiece. A clarinetist will never allow the clarinet mouthpiece to touch the bottom teeth. Instead, the bottom lip should cover the teeth, with the top teeth resting gently on the mouthpiece. The lips will be tightened and loosened while playing the clarinet, and different tensions will produce different sounds. The cheeks should never puff out when playing the clarinet.

Correct Practice Habits
The key to mastering any musical instrument is practice; the clarinet is no different. A clarinetist should be able to produce continuous air while smoothly moving the fingers from key to key, producing a clear and sustained tone. There are several things that clarinetists can do to play the clarinet better.

  • Play the clarinet for an hour a day at least, preferably more.
  • Record your clarinet practice, then listen to it later to analyze areas that need more work.
  • Practice good clarinet embouchure (mouth position) in the mirror to check for any bad habits.
  • Always do some warm-ups before a rehearsal to get the lips, lungs and fingers limbered up.
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