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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000753.txt from 1997/12

From: Neil Leupold <>
Subj: Re: patches
Date: Mon, 15 Dec 1997 09:40:14 -0500

On Sun, 14 Dec 1997, J. Shouryu Nohe wrote:

> Um...Do mouthpiece patches really alter tone? I never noticed a
> difference after attaching mine...then again, I don't even know what I'm
> doing 'right' half the time...But seriously, can patches affect your
> sound negatively? Are there any particular brand I should steer clear of?

One of the great mysteries of clarinet playing is how to attain a
fully relaxed and integrated approach to producing tone. The old
adage "less is more" comes strongly to mind in this case, for most
players don't recognize that their strangle-hold on "control" is
precisely what inhibits them from achieveing their true potential
as clarinetists. While we all pay lip service (pun fully intended)
to the notion that the air should do all of the work when playing,
only the players who are at the top of the field are putting this
concept fully into application. The rest of us are at various de-
grees of advancement in the process, some merely at the formative
stages, others on the cusp of a breakthrough which could take them
to the next level -- but without realizing it. And the rest of us
land somewhere in between these two poles.

Sometimes knowing the truth and facts isn't good enough, because
the brain and the personality aren't ready to act on the knowledge.
With "less is more" in mind, the embouchure is a prime target for
examination, because it is one of the areas where we feel the greatest
need to have a tangible grasp on stability. So we say "teew" or "doo"
or whatever, and hope that the rest falls into place. What is necess-
ary, though, is to literally open up and let the air do the work. Jaw
pressure confounds all hope for a leap forward and, for some players,
the first-time experience of using a mouthpiece patch is nothing short
of revelatory. If the patch is thick enough, it will occasion a wide-
ning of the aperture and an openness of the oral cavity which, if per-
ceptible by the player, is the first step toward freeing the reed to
respond to the air stream. Some people experience this sensation as
a result of alternating between soprano and bass clarinets, but then
they promptly adapt to the difference and erect a dividing line be-
tween the two instruments which prevents them from cross-pollinating
concepts between the two.

The idea is to recognize the oddity of having your mouth feel more open
than "normal", and keep that sensation intact. Then adapt the rest of
your approach to this new constant. It requires a strengthening of the
lips, and development of greater capacity to focus the air stream. A
mouthpiece patch is an external device which can help to get things
moving in the right direction for a player who has never used one before.
Thus begins the process of raising the tongue. What also begins is a
mental journey where we draw a direct link between the diaphragm and the
reed, actuated by the upper lip (of all things!). The jaw and lower lip
become nearly superfluous as we begin to apply the idea that the upper
lip and sides are primarily responsible for regulating pressure on the
reed, and the lower lip is simply along for the ride.

Just some random thoughts on my part.


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