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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000993.txt from 1999/01

From: "Rob Breen" <>
Subj: [kl] Double lip
Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 16:11:43 -0500

On Sunday, January 17 Terri Herel wrote the following in regard to
someone switching to a double lip embouchure:

> I don't know if I mentioned it, but someone else did: Hold the bell in
> knees for extra support, providing that you can sit and do this

I played double lip for 20 years or more and this comment got me thinking
about a few insights on the subject I have to share with the list.

I was initially inspired to play double lip by a teacher and an idol. The
teacher was a Kal Opperman student named Ken Lagace in Hartford, CT,
and the idol was Harold Wright. I remember that I began the transition
gradually, but reached a point where I decided to simply play double all
time. I reached a point of comfort and stamina long before I reached a
point of control. In other words, it took a couple of years after I made
switch to get to the point where I could really take advantage of the
felxibility that double lip offered. That probably had as much to do with
general musical growth and improvement as it did with double lip strength
and skill.

To my mind and ears, the advantage of playing double lip was that this
embouchure offered me a richer tone (more presence in the sound),
greater control of dynamic shading and it seemed to do wonders for
legato. It has been suggested to me by very reputable players on this
lst that double lip is no more than an illusion because the upper lip
a cushioning layer of insulation between the top of the mouthpiece
and the upper teeth which affects the way the player hears his own sound,
but has little or no impact on what the listener hears. I'm not sure that
agree with this, but it seems a bit difficult to prove or disprove.

In practical experience, I have found a couple of disadvantages to double
There have been times when the real world has interfered with my clarinet
discipline to the extent that I have had to lay the horn aside for several
or even several weeks. The return to the practice studio was often
and if there was a gig on the near horizon it could also be rather anxious.
Another disadvantage was that it was difficult to support the horn. I
played sitting with the horn braced between my knees, and found it almost
impossible to play standing. During my active duty U.S. Army band years,
I switched to single lip for parades and back to double lip for *real*
Over time, I began to suspect that I had fallen into a kind of slouching
that was hindering me technically. It was time to experiment.

I tried plain old single lip - teeth on the top of the mouthpiece - but it
was too uncomfortable. As a compromise, I put one of those thick rubber
pads on top of the mouthpiece. Then I switched to practicing standing up.
I went back to the woodshed with Baermann III and the metronome and
within a few weeks found my technical accuracy and smoothness had
improved noticably. Another thing I've noticed is that if I neglect to pay
some attention to what's happening with the upper lip, the sound seems
to lose focus. I've stayed with this setup for almost two years now
and have found lasting improvement, but I'm once again considering
going to double lip. Especially in light of another recent development.

With the switch to practicing standing up I began to develop tendonitis
in the right forearm. This was aggravated by doubling on tenor saxophone
and doing a lot of mouse-clicking on my day job as a software engineer.
It became so painful that by August, 1998, I had switched to left-handed
mousing and began to use a neckstrap on the clarinet. As of now, the
pain is gone, and I'm wondering if the neck strap will help to overcome
the obstacles to playing double lip standing up.

As mentioned above, the primary reason for bracing the bell of the
horn between my knees was to support the horn. If the neck strap will
serve to steady the horn for me, maybe it's time to back to double lip.

I would never presume to tell anyone that they ought to play double
lip because I happen to like it and think that it sounds *better*. I
would suggest that any serious player should at least experiment
with it to see if it offers any benefit. If nothing else, it will get you
to pay some attention to the role that your upper lip plays in your


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