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 Breath support
Author: vitoclarinet 
Date:   2006-08-11 18:42

Hello there!
Well first of all, I would like to thank the BB because it has been a lot of help to me. I do study privately, but I've found that this is a great way for me to improve on my clarinet playing when i'm not working with my clarinet teacher.
Anyways, going back to the topic, I wanted to ask about breath support. It seems like when I play the high notes, I'm not exactly blowing into the instrument and rather I'm just pinching to get a sound. I've tried hard to break this awful habit, but whenever I press the octave key, it seems like I just suddenly stop blowing air and pinch so that I will get a sound. Can anyone help me so that I can get a nice, rich sound on the high notes?

Also, I need serious help with my embouchure. I've done everything my teacher has told me to do but I can't help but feeling that i've got it all wrong. Can anyone help me how to form a correct embouchure? Not just vague comments like "flatten your chin", but i think it would be more helpful if i knew the step by step instructions on forming the correct clarinet embouchure.
Thanks for all your help!

Post Edited (2006-08-11 18:45)

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 Re: Breath support
Author: hans 
Date:   2006-08-11 21:08


There are two methods: the upper teeth can rest on the mouthpiece, or the upper lip can cover the upper teeth. Resting the upper teeth on the mouthpiece will wear a groove in the mouthpiece eventually, unless you use a patch, and causes uncomfortable vibration in some players, but the choice should be left up to the individual player.

Draw the lips back as if forming a slight smile. Point the chin so that the lower teeth press forward against the lower lip. Allow a little of the lower lip to curve in as a cushion over the front teeth. Place the mouthpiece in the mouth, pointing toward the back of the roof of the mouth, with the reed firmly on the lower lip. Close the corners of the mouth in toward the mouthpiece with the sides of the lower lip lifting to seal around it and let the upper front teeth, with or without lips over them, rest on top of the mouthpiece.

After a tone is produced, experiment with the amount of mouthpiece taken into the mouth, the amount of lips over the teeth, the clarinet angle from the body, and the tongue position. Some change in lip pressure is usually needed to go to different ranges and higher notes tend to need more air pressure to play in tune.

I hope this helps you to get started.


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 Re: Breath support
Author: Karenette 
Date:   2006-08-12 02:16

Hans, that was a very good discription and what I am experimenting with at this time. Thanks!

I too have learned alot from this board and am very appreciative!


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 Re: Breath support
Author: Gordon (NZ) 
Date:   2006-08-12 04:18

Much the same, but with slightly different wording:

By far the majority of players rest their upper teeth on the mouthpiece, so that is what I describe:

Smile enough (particularly with the lower lip) to stretch the lower lip thinly across the front of the lower teeth, allowing most of the red part of the centre of the lip to flow thinly over the top of the lower teeth, making a thin 'cushion' over the teeth.

Now place the reed on this thin cushion. While keeping the lower lip still slightly stretched, close the lower jaw sufficiently for the upper teeth to rest on the mouthpiece, applying enough pressure so that when you relax your lips, the part of lip under the reed remains unchanged, i.e. still thin (stretched)

Now close your lips like a rubber band, firmly around the mouthpiece. This should not affect that still slightly stretched cushion of lip under the reed.

Make adjustments as listed by Hans.

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 Re: Breath support
Author: EuGeneSee 
Date:   2006-08-12 04:51

I was told way back as a beginner not to put my teeth on the mouthpiece. So I developed the habit of covering my upper teeth with my lip and plaed that way from my elementary school through HS band days. My band director and teacher both wanted us to cover our upper teeth slightly with our lip . . . "Do not chew your mouthpiece!" was something I often heard in those days.

I understand many clarinetists, even top pros, hold the mouthpiece between their lips with no teeth to mpc contact. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean it is correct . . . but, watch how many clarinetists in major orchestras flail their fingers like jumping jacks, a practice which would draw a stern rebuke from our teachers!


Post Edited (2006-08-12 19:40)

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 Re: Breath support
Author: Gordon (NZ) 
Date:   2006-08-12 12:45

". . . but Gordon, I don't have any upper teeth! One of these days I will have a set made, but I have lived 6 months without them, and just haven't had the spare $$ to pay for same while paying for those other personal indulgences which control my priorities."

..... But EuGeneSee, I was writing to vitoclarinet. Sorry if I was incorrect in making the assumption he/she has upper teeth.

Yes, a very small proportion of players use double embouchure, and a search of the forum will produce a heap of discussion and argument on that one.

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 Re: Breath support
Author: EuGeneSee 
Date:   2006-08-12 15:50

Gordon, I really was a little out of line there, as I got off the subject somewhat when I brought up the teeth to mpc vs double embouchure discussion. I guess I still have too many memories of one band director who would stand behind us when the band was warming up, and anyone he saw doing something he thought to be wrong got whapped over the head with his baton . . I got hit often as most of what I did was wrong.

Anyhoo, I never knew that placing the upper teeth against the mouth piece was proper until I read it here within the past 3 weeks. That means I've been confused since about 1955 on the subject.


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 Re: Breath support
Author: tictactux 2017
Date:   2006-08-12 16:13

EuGeneSee wrote:
> Anyhoo, I never knew that placing the upper teeth against the mouth
> piece was proper until I read it here within the past 3 weeks. That
> means I've been confused since about 1955 on the subject.

I wonder how many careers have been extincted in the early stage just because of some sort of indoctrination, whether this be running the 100m barefoot or placing teeth on mouthpieces or tilting the head while playing flute...etc.
I was taught "...whatever rocks your boat. For many, the following method works best: (explanation follows)"

Eventually, when one becomes successful despite slaps on the head or fingers, critiques will rave about the "unique playing style". Go figure...


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 Re: Breath support
Author: EuGeneSee 
Date:   2006-08-12 16:31

Mea culpa . . . I should be rebuked for not going back and reviewing the prior responses before asking "what about me?". After all, in his earlier response Hans addressed the enbouchure, both with and without upper teeth contact. It would have been a small wonder if I didn't try the patience of Gordon et al. In the future I will review prior posts before jumping in. My apologies to all.


Post Edited (2006-08-12 17:54)

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 Re: Breath support
Author: hans 
Date:   2006-08-12 16:55
Attachment:  ShawMethodEmbouchure.jpg (207k)

Artie Shaw's comments on embouchure (attached, taken from The Artie Shaw Clarinet Method) might also be helpful.

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 Re: Breath support
Author: Gandalfe 
Date:   2006-08-12 17:16

In addition to experimenting with the embouchure, consider experimenting with the volume and tone. Hit the note and slowly crescendo and decrescendo until you are playing as softly as you can. Put a tuner in front of you a check the intonation of every note--it's painful but can be interesting. Check the intonation as you get louder and adjust accordingly.

If you intonation is all over the map with no consistency, consider getting an instructor for a while. If you ask me it's all about the sound, baby. Well, and then there's that counting thang too. :o)

Jim and Suzy

Pacifica Big Band
Seattle, Washington

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 Re: Breath support
Author: clarinet@55 
Date:   2006-08-13 02:20

Thanks to all , for I too,am having trouble with the extreme high notes and this seems to help!

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