I am a high school leveled clarinetist and I am concerned about my tongue position/form. So I have noticed that I kind of curl my tongue when I want to articulate a note. By doing this, you can see my top lip kind of move. I have observed other clarinetists like Michael Lowenstern and others online and all of them do not have their top lip popping or swelling outwards. Now by popping or swelling, I am saying that it moves outward very slightly. I have tried not curling my tongue because doing so does not move my top lip though I cannot get any sound when touching the reed.
I am confused on how you would touch near the tip of the reed without curling the tip of your tongue to that area especially once you put more mouthpiece in your mouth.
Maybe you are supposed to curl your tongue? What could cause my top lip to move? I feel like my tongue is pushing against the top lip causing it to move slightly because I am curling the tip of the tongue. My tone sounds pretty good however and I am pretty sure my embouchure is okay too, but I do not see any other people doing it. I can tongue decently (as in I do not have issues) but I feel like this might be a bad habit that inhibits my playing potential.
It is difficult to imagine how your tongue could move your upper lip when the mouthpiece is in your mouth. However, everyone is different and has to work out a way that works.
Could you explain what part of the tongue is hitting what part of the upper lip?
When starting a sound, is the tongue resting on the bottom of the jaw, then the tip curls up to touch the reed?
It's an x-ray of a clarinetist playing. Notice the tongue curl/curve. This is traditionally what's taught and it's effective.
There's also a wealth of information on double lip embouchure which might be a good exercise for you (learning to play with a double lip embouchure). It'll force your upper lip to learn to be stable and supportive.
For what it's worth, I consider my lips to be similar to an "O-ring" one would buy at a hardware store. Their sole job, to me, is to keep air from escaping and to make sure any air that is exiting is going through the clarinet. For that reason, I keep it taught 'enough'.
As for tonguing near the tip of the reed, this will be an unpopular opinion that I bring up, but it's not necessary. The only thing your tongue needs to do is STOP the reed from vibrating. Sure, it's EASIEST to do this with the LEAST amount of pressure the closer to the tip of the reed you get, but you could tongue pretty darn low on the reed and get it to stop vibrating. And you'll have the same result. THe sound will stop. And when you release the reed, the sound will start again. Don't get so stuck on "tip to tip" articulation. Go for whatever is easiest to control. Maybe your tongue is a little longer than most and it'd be easier for you to control tonguing mid-reed, or lower. One of the best clarinetists I've met tongues VERY low on the reed. He's not AGAINST tip to tip tonguing, but for HIM, it was easier to control by tonguing lower towards the butt of the reed.
You can google my friend Lee Morgan on youtube. He has a brief lesson on there about where your tongue should be and the should you should make. Basically it's eeuuuu. Yo keep the throat open. But google him. One of the better players around the world. Gives lessons too! Went to Interlochen Arts Academy and a Marcellus student.
Think this will help - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wD_ABnsxx8
Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces
Mouths are different and tongues are different. In high school, I had a teacher who was ideological about "tip of the tongue to the tip of the reed." Set my articulation back a couple years. My tongue doesn't do that without some kind of heroic contortion at the back of my throat. At the same time, you need clear, controlled and relatively small movement of the tongue to have clean and agile articulation. If your tongue is making your lower lip move, then that's not what's happening. Bob's comments sound about right, although I tend to think of the German dü sound. The tip of my tongue curves down, but that's me, and my tongue probably isn't like yours. Bob's right; get a teacher, one who is more interested in getting you to articulate well than in pushing an articulation ideology.
From my teaching and playing experience it's much more likely that there is an appropriate variation of what part of the tongue actually makes contact with the reed, than the part of the reed being contacted. An articulation sound of 'thwack' often indicates the tongue hitting too low on the reed and/or too much tongue hitting the reed and not coming back off evenly. The reed is generally more easily and quickly responsive to the tongue closer to the tip of the reed.
I have yet to see tongue hitting the lip (which seems to be what the OP is describing) result in anything great. I'm not saying that any of this makes well controlled, consistent, and quick articulation impossible - just much more unlikely. Personally, I don't tongue with the tip but a centimeter or two back from the tip. It was never 'corrected' in my studies as it never was an issue in my playing.
Just a point of clarification - the reed should not sound when the tongue is touching it for basic articulation, as that is what articulation is about at the simplest mechanical level. I think jam12 probably knows this, but s/he seemed to be describing it as part of the problem. My guess is that jam12 has been articulating on the lip, depressing the tongue against the reed instead of or in addition to simply touching the tongue to the reed.
I do not have much time to get a private teacher as I am very busy with other things.
Anyways, my tongue isn’t really moving my top lip. It’s more of a push outwards by my tongue. Like for example, if you were to take a deflated balloon full of water and were to push the middle of the balloon very slightly, you’ll notice the top part of the balloon swells outward slightly as well. I think it is very slight but noticeable compared to professional clarinetists. I am pretty sure my tongue is arched high (as I do follow the eee uuu method).
Should I record myself and post it on YouTube for you guys to see? Will you guys be that considerate? If yes, thank you so much. Your time is invaluable. This goes to everyone.
Edit: I guess it is technically moving my bottom and top lip but not constantly as in it isn’t swelling out and then back in then out very dramatically. I can achieve “decently fast” articulation (relative to the other students at my school) because I try to keep my tongue movement minimal. However, could this be affecting my overall speed potential?
Ken, my tongue is arched higher in my mouth as I think of the “eee uuu” phrase. My mouthpiece goes in my mouth and my tongue is in that arched position. The tip of my tongue then curls up and then when I go to articulate, the sides of my tongue push my bottom and top lip.
Generally when I've encountered this students at first say 'no' their tongue is not touching the lip but further investigation reveals that this is indeed what is happening. They are so used to the sensation that it is difficult at first for them to detect it for what it is by touch. Air alone is not going to cause the lip to move under normal clarinet conditions, so SOMETHING must be pushing against the lip to create a visible change. The list of possible suspects is extremely short.
If you were to post a video of you tonguing over the range of the instrument, perhaps both with a close up of the area of the lip that is moving and a wider shot of the lower half of your face we might be able to tell more. The sound that you are producing while this happening may also reveal something.
The real solution is a lesson or two with a qualified specialist. There's nothing wrong with taking a lesson or very short series of lessons to address a specific problem. Yes, regular lessons will produce far more benefit, but the kind of teacher you need should be able to help you get this sorted rather quickly as long as you are willing to practice what they assign to help you make the change to your habits. Then again, if you don't see/hear an actual problem you might as well wait until there is one.
I am almost certain that my tongue is in some way touching my lip.
I will post a video and share it here today or tomorrow.
How do you suggest I fix this problem? I feel as if my sound is fine as well as my articulation just because I have performed well at school as well as other music camps but I am the last person to judge. My tongue is at the front of my mouth and it is pushing against my lip just to clarify.
Either my embouchure is strange ( even though my chin is straight or pointed, bottom lip is covering bottom teeth but not too much, as well as corner of lips surrounding mouthpiece ) or I am using my tongue weirdly which is affecting my embouchure and I just don't see it.
Lastly, I know it is strongly recommended that I get a teacher and I might consider it soon but as of now, I am a little busy and lessons with a teacher don't go well with my schedule. I hope that with a mirror and recording device, your guys' useful help, as well as YouTube, I can perform well.
Here are the videos. Sorry for the messiness of the recording. I mess up with the chromatic scale in one of the videos too. Anyways, I notice a lot of throat movement and my lips are not surrounding the mouthpiece completely. I kind of wanted to show you my tongue movement more and so I didn’t surround the mouthpiece with my lips completely.
I didn’t even see your first reply nellsonic! Your first response was accurate in terms of what I was describing. I do not hear a sound when I am articulating (I think) but my tongue is pushing my lips. I have been articulating on the lips as well as on the reed.
My sound is too bright and maybe my tongue has to do with that? I also have a lot of throat movement.
In the first and third videos you posted, I can actually see your tongue fill the space between your lips. In the second video your lips look much more like they control the sides of the mouthpiece better (and yes I can see your lips still move there).
1. When you slur do you have excessive air leakage? I'm curious as to how the sides of your tongue seem to have become part of your embouchure and if they prevent the release of air the way the corners of your mouth should.
2. I believe you're mainly using too large a piece of tongue to touch the reed. It seems like you're touching the entire width of it. One exercise I frequently use with students of all abilities is to have them play an open G. While blowing on the G, sllllloooooowwwwwwwlllly (REALLY SLOWLY) move the tongue towards the reed. Notice how much tongue and how much pressure is required to stop the reed. Tiny piece of tongue; not much pressure.
I can see your tongue pushing between your upper and lower lips when you
tongue. This should not happen! Your tongue should be inside your mouth with the lips in contact with the mouthpiece. Where the sides of your lips meet the mouthpiece and each other, the lips should be somewhat against each other to completely seal around the mouthpiece.
I just tried to do what I see you doing on your video, and I can't push my tongue far enough forward to comfortably play that way. In fact, compared to me trying to play that way, you sound pretty good! But I have to say that in my 40+ years of teaching, I have never seen anyone tongue like that, so it is something you need to address.
You could try this. Without the clarinet in your mouth, hiss the word "key" and notice 1. where the middle of the tongue touches the roof of your mouth to form the "k" sound and 2. where the sides of the tongue touch the upper molars. If that position is farther back in the mouth than your normal tonguing position, then try to play the clarinet with the tongue in that position, concentrating on the sides of the tongue touching the upper molars in the same place. I have to reach forward slightly with the tip of my tongue to touch the reed when I do that.
If hissing the word "key" doesn't appreciably change the position of your tongue in relation to the clarinet from what I see in your video, then you may have a longer-than-normal tongue and you will have to find a way to deal with that.
Anchor tonguing is somewhat frowned upon, but it may be the route you have to go. The tip of the tongue touches the lower lip below the reed, and the middle of the tongue touches the reed near its tip when tonguing. The tongue is still inside the mouth, well away from the opening between your lips.
I hope these comments help you. Feel free to respond or email me privately if you have any questions.
I don’t think I have excessive air leakage. I do not hear any air hissing out if that is what you are saying. Also, how should I try and touch the reed? I have tried putting the mouthpiece in my mouth and closing my lips around the mouthpiece then trying to play a note but I was unsuccessful. I just get squeaks and no vibration. I cannot feel the pressure when I just normally touch the reed by bringing it forward and touching it. When I curl my tongue and bring it forward like I am doing now, I can press the reed hard enough to get a sound. I actually get no sound when I just blow the instrument. I have to always have my tongue pressing against the reed and then I can actually get any sound. Is my embouchure not firm enough? Am I supposed to get a sound even when my tongue is not touching the reed? I keep squeaking.
When hissing “key”, I think that my tongue is farther back than my usual tongue position. However when trying to play the clarinet that way, I get no sound and just squeaks. I think my problem is the amount of force I use that is required to produce a sound. The way I do it, I use a lot of my tongue to press against the reed causing the vibration because otherwise I am unable to produce any sound. That’s why my tongue moves forward to produce that force. Is my embouchure too lose? Am I supposed to get a sound by just blowing into the clarinet without having to touch the reed with my tongue or can I get a good sound by blowing fast air into the instrument while lightly touching the reed?
My understanding is that the clarinet produces a sound when the reed is able to vibrate. Is my air supposed to cause the reed to vibrate without the tongue helping it? The only way I was able to produce any sound without my tongue touching the reed was when I put very little mouthpiece into my mouth. I slurred all the way to open G (and A) then I squeaked as I went higher.
I tried anchor tonguing but it looks very similar to my usual tonguing. My tongue keeps pushing against my lips. I feel the middle of my tongue pressing against the reed, causing it to vibrate and produce a sound as the tip of my tongue is touching my bottom lip. However, my lips are still moving as the sides of my tongue are pushing my lips.
It sounds to me based on what you're describing above that you are not supporting the reed with your lower lip and teeth at all. To answer your question, yes, you are supposed to get a sound by just blowing into the clarinet without touching the reed with your tongue. Your bottom lip should be doing the job I believe your tongue is doing.
This would mean COMPLETELY starting to learn embouchure again from the beginning along with learning tonguing again from the beginning. If you're not planning on majoring in clarinet or teaching anyone, then (based on the general decent sound you're getting in the videos) why change?
Well that's unfortunate! I am not planning on majoring in clarinet as I dedicate a lot of my other time into math and science but I might minor. I am only a sophomore in highschool and only in the past 2 years have I started practicing a lot. This year, I went to a very well reputed music camp to try and improve my ability and in the upcoming school year, I plan on being first chair clarinet. In the future, I hope to make ILMEA and eventually if I ever get good enough, I hope to make All State for ILMEA as well. I practice 2 hours daily as of right now.
I just wanted to show my current level of dedication. Would you recommend I start re-learning my embouchure? If I work on my embouchure for 4 hours daily, will I be able to change it relatively quickly?
To talk more about the embouchure specifically, how much support should my bottom lip provide? My clarinet moves in my mouth which should not happen as it further indicates that my embouchure is not firm enough. I feel as if my top teeth is biting decently hard and my bottom teeth has left a minor cut (mark) on my bottom lip causing it to hurt a little bit every time I play the clarinet. Maybe I am biting enough but the firmness of my lips needs to increase?
Any recommendations of exercises that can strengthen my embouchure quicker? I do not want to give up as I have come very far. I kinda now wish I had a private teacher but I guess I have to just learn from this mistake.
I truly appreciate everyone's help. Thank you so much.
I just looked at the first video and I also could not believe what I was seeing. But also the sound was very constricted.
Don't be discouraged !!! Even a global, fundamental issue can be corrected with some dedication.
First off: GET A PRIVATE TEACHER !!!!!!!
Just about any town should have some clarinet player who offers private lessons that are not too expensive (around $20 per half hour in a lot of places. Check local music stores as well as school). With some fundamentals under your belt, you will progress in sound much faster.
Ok, first of all, your teeth only provide a stable platform, or opening for you to place the mouthpiece/reed....... THERE SHOULD BE NO BITING AT ALL !!! Certainly no conscious pressure exerted by your jaw. When you hear about flattening your chin (or pointing your chin) or drawing back on your lips, that is ONLY to make the flesh of your lower lip taught and thin over the lower teeth.
All the "work" of an embouchure is really in the lip musculature. You should close around the mouthpiece by drawing the "corners" of your mouth DOWN and BACK, not up and back as I see in the video. The upper teeth are directly on the mouthpiece for stability, but any effort DOWN upon the mouthpiece comes from the upper lip (and really the idea is just to keep the upper lip FIRM).
The embouchure can be thought of more like a rubber band surrounding the mouthpiece.
NOW, as Larry Combs describes tonguing to his students, you place (and I mean place.... the tongue only dampens the reed, keeping it from vibrating) the tip of the tongue upon the tip of the reed (he would draw a dot on the very middle of a reed right at the very tip... the crest). Getting a sound is merely the RELEASE of the tongue from the reed. Your AIR is what determines the impactfulness of the sound.
SO no biting. That's good because I am not biting hard right now. In fact, I thought I needed to bite harder! What will make the reed vibrate? The pressure of my lips is what I am assuming? The tongue is what will stop the sound and then releasing it will cause the sound.
I'm glad your post has gotten some good attention. I've been unable to check in here for a few days. Unlike my teacher colleagues so far, I actually HAVE seen this at least once before. It's fixable. You don't have to completely start from scratch but you are going to have to rework some fundamental things patiently over some time. Definitely worth doing, and probably won't take as long as you would imagine if done well. It's going to be more about how often you are working on it rather than how long each day. Several short sessions a day as many days as you can over the summer will go a long way. Don't be discouraged or dissuaded!
I am perplexed by your inability to get a sound without the tongue on the reed. Tell us about your set-up. What reeds and mouthpiece are you playing on? Have you tried others? Has your set-up changed significantly from what you started on as a beginner? I'm wondering if there's something unusual there that might be contributing to your issues.
Is your mouthpiece intact? Any chips or dents on the facing (the surfaces that the reed vibrates against)? Post a picture is you aren't sure.
You might want to check out "Clarinet Mentors" on Youtube. Michelle Anderson gives good instruction there. She is great at breaking down the basics in a way that appeals to and helps students of all levels.
Maybe a "squawk test" will better illustrate where you place the mouthpiece/reed
in your mouth and what that does:
Play an open "G," as close to the tip as possible. Continue to play the sustained open "G" while you take more and more mouthpiece into the mouth. At some point you will just get a big "SQUAWK." Now just back off slightly and that is the one ideal spot on THAT mouthpiece, in YOUR mouth.
That "point" is the fulcrum point, or where the mouthpiece and reed come together. Yes, to control the vibration of the reed your lips wrapped around that point (any point closer to tip will "work," but you don't get the full vibrational advantage of that particular facing closer to the tip). But that is just the "control" function of the reed, not the vibrating aspect. The reed WILL vibrate (good tone or squawk) as long as air is passing over it. It is the amount (degree of force) of air that determines how loud you are playing...... and you DO NOT need to start a note with the tongue, you can just blow (smooth, singing, "AH" sort of note).
First of all, I have checked out Michelle Anderson and she has helped me tremendously. I just can't believe that I didn't realize that I was doing something wrong. I am normally conscious of my mistakes but this totally went over my head until recently. I was just watching her today as well as yesterday. It's more embarrassing because she has so many embouchure videos and even videos on backun's channel about tonguing!
I am using Backun Protege. I have an m13 mouthpiece with a V21 3.5 reed. I got this almost a year ago and before that I had a random student clarinet with a mouthpiece that came with the clarinet. I am pretty the mouthpiece isn't damaged. I can remember that when I first tried playing the protege, I wasn't able to get any sound. Maybe there was some resistance compared to my student model causing me to change my embouchure and my tongue position to generate that extra force in order to get a sound. I think that stuck with me.
Now, back to the present. I am able to get a sound out of the clarinet when I have a little bit of mouthpiece in my mouth (no tongue, just by blowing). If my lips were stronger, then maybe more mouthpiece would work but as of now, I struggle with a little bit in my mouth. With my current tongue position and embouchure, I can almost get the entire mouthpiece into my mouth and cause no squeaks but obviously this doesn't matter unless if I were to keep my current embouchure. Then, there would be a fuller tone due to more mouthpiece and I guess, more reed to vibrate.
Are you suggesting that I work on my embouchure for an hour then have a break then work on my embouchure for another hour then another break then again work on it for an hour again (and it goes on depending how much I want to work on it) for a day for many days over the summer? Or just work on it for an hour a day 7 days a week?
Thank you so much for encouraging me. I was slightly disheartened, not going to lie.
Thanks for clarifying. The problem is I cannot get any sound the further I go because I think my lips are too weak and there is nothing the reed can really vibrate against. My reed is far too strong and my lips, as of now, aren't able to support the reed well without my tongue helping. I already know about the fulcrum point thing as I have tried putting paper between the reed and the mouthpiece until it stops. With my current embouchure, putting more mouthpiece into my mouth does produce a fuller tone and so it would be if I were to have a normal embouchure.
I did want to take one more shot at this since you speak about how you wish to be more competitive in the future.
In the videos you exhibit a bit of a "smile" embouchure. This is counterproductive since you are pulling 'up and back' instead of 'down and back.' It takes away from much of the effort you expend. Your mouth should be formed more like your are saying "ewww" (as if you just smelled something bad). Excuse my fumbling for a printable description!
That said, there really need not be much of any expenditure of energy in the embouchure at all! So having more strength in your lips is NOT an issue.
To get back to the tongue, I am now guessing that you feel the entire reed against your tongue. The tongue should be further back in your mouth so that the only part of the tongue touching the reed (and that would only be the tip of the reed) would be the very "tip" of the tongue (or as much of a point as you can muster).
Listen more carefully to recordings of good clarinetists (ie Ricardo Morales). There is a bell like quality to the sound and a "ping" to articulations. Where you are now is really quite far from that. HOWEVER, as I said before, once you are using techniques that don't get in your way, you will begin to improve much, much more quickly.
..........given in the spirit of being helpful, not judgemental,
Thank you so much for your suggestions Mr. Aviles. I am still confused on the lip strength part. My breath alone shouldn’t make the reed vibrate because then I could produce a sound with the clarinet out of my mouth haha. My lips have to be exerting some force on the reed, right? At least my bottom lip is what I’m thinking...
Well yes, there is a "little" support. I mean that many folks put WAY too much effort into the whole embouchure thing. Here is a story that I pray illuminates without confusion:
Three years ago I was contacted by Bas DeJong of Viotto mouthpieces (he is from Holland and plays German clarinets and the associated method of playing). He was a bit perplexed with most Americans who obsess over embouchure and often work very hard at it. "In Germany (he said), you just put the mouthpiece in your mouth and blow."
And here is the crazy thing about this: German mouthpieces are VERY closed (usually less than 1mm open) and they normally use a 2 1/2 strength reed !!!!
I have spent the time since trying to replicate this technique on Boehm clarinets with Boehm mouthpieces and it is quite rewarding. You can use a relatively soft reed (say a #3 strength) on a fairly closed opening mouthpiece and get some really wonderful sounds (with all the associated dynamics) with very little effort at all. I don't really think about embouchure anymore, where it used to be an obsession all through college and an ongoing grind up until then.
I don't believe you have told us what mouthpiece and facing you use and the strength reed you use with it. Chances are the mouthpiece is too open (resistant) for you, and/or the reeds are far too heavy.
Just remember, the reed vibrates against the mouthpiece when air passes between the reed and mouthpiece. You need only draw your lips around the mouthpiece enough to keep air from flowing out around the mouthpiece, and that should be enough support to allow the reed to vibrate fine with a nice, supported column of air.
The air is really where you WORK at the clarinet. You need to actively push the air out with your abdominal muscles. Everything else is pretty relaxed.
Wow! That clears quite a bit of confusion. I mentioned my setup in a few posts above in response to nellsonic’s reply. I will mention it again however. I use an m13 mouthpiece with a v21 3.5 reed. I can remember that I used to use a strength 3 reed but some notes would “crack” and have this growling sound. The box (of the mouthpiece) recommended a 3.5 strength reed I am pretty sure. I can, however, try again and see if it cracks again as it has been a long while. Should I get a mouthpiece that is more open? Are more closed mouthpieces typically more difficult to play on for beginners?
So after several attempts of not squeaking, I was finally able to get a sound with no tongue support. I had to increase my air speed and eventually, it overcame the squeaking that I got with low air speed and produced a sound. I hope I am doing this right. I tried saying “eww” and I think my chin was straight. Right now, I can get a sound most of the time but squeaking still occurs. I noticed it was easier for me to blow high notes (from c6 to c5) then it was to blow their chalumeau counterparts (so from 2nd octave f to low f). Does that have to do with the tongue position? I think it’s called voicing? I have not attempted tonguing yet because man, it feels so weird. I tried but it is very strange compared to how I used to tongue.
So I found out why I was squeaking. I was biting too much with my bottom lip. I realize that compared to my embouchure before, the normal embouchure requires very little pressure. I am now having more trouble with my tongue position and the firmness of my embouchure. The middle B “squawks” sometimes and I am not too sure why. I am guessing it’s because lack of air speed and my embouchure is too lose. Secondly, my tongue position. Where is my tongue supposed to be now? I’ve always heard “pronounce hee and have the tongue arched higher in your mouth”. I think my tongue is too far back and I am having trouble keeping it forward. Maybe that comes with a little bit more time adjusting to this new embouchure. Also, I tried dropping my tongue to do a glissando effect but it is also quite difficult now. I end up squeaking and accidentally biting whenever I attempt it. Should I be I dropping my tongue or should I be kind of dropping the back of my throat? Is this linked with improper tongue position (does not being able to do the glissando effect indicate that my tongue is positioned weirdly?).
Golly, do NOT concern yourself with glissando right now. This technique will only be used for the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue or occasional jazz nuance.
Your tongue from the video was WAY too far forward. When a note is sounded on the clarinet (in between articulations), the tongue should be BEHIND the tip of the mouthpiece/reed. You mentioned "tongue support." There is no such thing. The tongue does not support anything. Ideally, only stop the sound (articulate) with the smallest point of the tongue, then draw it back (slightly) very quickly to allow the reed to vibrate again.
We tongue, to give a clearer, more sudden start to a note (clarity), but you do not need it to play a note.
Ok, your set up sounds fine (reed strength and tip opening; good mouthpiece).
As for tongue "position," I would say for you, the best position is "relaxed," or what it would feel like when your just sitting in front of the tv watching a show. When I say to a student to think "EEEE" position, it is a "middle of the tongue thing." You want air flow to be just as if you were blowing on a hot cocoa to make it cooler. This is opposed to what you do with your tongue when you blow on your hands coming in from the cold to make them warmer (the wrong air flow position for clarinet).
BUT.....for you.....just don't think about it.
When your refer to throat, you are also referring to the tongue (it's much bigger than most of us think) For the back of the tongue, DO NOT think "ahhh." That position of the back of the tongue actually restricts air flow (not a lot, but enough).
I think from your squeaking descriptions that you ARE used to supporting the bottom of the reed with your tongue as witnessed in the videos. So practice LONG tones. By that I mean scales, scale like passages, WITHOUT the tongue. Just have it "float there" BEHIND the tip of the mouthpiece.
As for the embouchure, try this. Get in front of a mirror WITHOUT the clarinet. Now say "CHEESE" as if a photographer wanted to take your picture. Look at the fake smile (similar to video). Now, say "DOUGH." See that your mouth is just round. The correct clarinet embouchure looks closer to "DOUGH" than "CHEESE."
This is MUCH easier to illustrate in the same room......much like a private lesson (that should only cost $20).
Point being, there should be NO POINT to the corners of your mouth as I see in the video. But again, don't strain. The main point to any "work" with the embouchure is to get the lower lip THIN an SMOOTH across the lower teeth so that you don't damp the reed too much.
NOW.......DO NOT GLISSANDO ......for at least six months until you have a clear sound without the tongue touching the tip of the mouthpiece or reed at all (while a note is sounding).
First of all, I mentioned glissando because I tried it just to have fun but then realized I couldn’t do it. It was very easy for me before so I thought I was doing something wrong with my tongue.
You are right. Tongue support isn’t a thing. I have completely removed my tongue from supporting the reed and I think my embouchure is now proper.
I have also stopped the squeaking. It was caused by biting with my bottom teeth. I am confused on why sometimes my middle B “squawks” or “growls”. I have heard it is because my embouchure needs to be more “firm” but I am not sure as to what that means. It could also be because I am not covering the holes of the bottom joint (they are a little bit bigger) properly.
I am slightly confused on what you said with what to do with the corners of my lips. They should surround the mouthpiece like a rubber band as if I were to say “ooo” or “q” right? By “no point”, what exactly do you mean?
Great to hear that you've liberated your mouthpiece from your tongue!!!
The corners thing.
This is Charles Neidich. Currently playing a German made clarinet (don't hold that against him....ha!); he has a classic French/American embouchure.
Maybe better to say, more of a frown. Anyway, look at how effortlessly he applies the embouchure, and yet he gets a wonderfully clear sound that is very flexible.
Oh, the middle "B" thing. If you're squeaking on one note, could be that the B-foot (claw like thingy under the RH paddle keys) has fallen out of adjustment and is causing a leak. That's most likely, but if the 1 and 1 "Bb" is not adjusted properly, this could cause your right index finger to not seal ending in the same result........maybe.
Private lesson only $20....well worth the investment.
It's been a little over 3 days since I've give you guys any update. I am able to produce an okay tone. I can blow through the entire range of the instrument almost as easily as I used to without any squeaks or major inconsistencies in pitch. However, I have a couple issues that are probably caused by my old embouchure.
You said earlier that I have this smiling embouchure. I tend to smile to keep my tongue in that "hee" position. This prevents my tone from sounding unfocused and flat. I also do this because it keeps my chin straight. On the other hand, my lips NEED to come in more and this is probably the hardest thing for me to fix as of right now. Whenever I corner my lips and I blow an open g, my chin isn't as straight anymore (I don't know how major it is, maybe it is supposed to a little bit?). I think my tongue is still in an okay position but I will have to experiment again. I try to do the embouchure without the clarinet and I think it's good. My chin stays straight and the corners of my lips are as if I were to say "eww". As I start to blow into the clarinet, sometimes no note comes out or I just squeak and my lips start to come out like if I were to say "q" very slightly, causing my chin to not become straight. Then I subconsciously revert to my smiling embouchure and notes come out and everything works good.
Without the clarinet, I can form the embouchure, get my tongue in that "hee" position, and blow cold, fast air like I am supposed to. I feel like when the clarinet is in my mouth, my embouchure isn't the same. I just can't really produce a note while retaining the embouchure that I had without the clarinet because maybe my tongue is too high or something.
I will still continue practicing and work on keeping my chin straight and the corners of my lips inwards. If you or anyone has the time, do you or any others want to see a video of my updated embouchure?
So perhaps the next thing to consider in this process, is what dancers refer to as "isolation." One portion of the body moves, or can move, independently of another. This is what makes great dancing possible.
Much like that it is important to realize that the tongue and lips ARE NOT connected, and they can do what they do independent of each other. What has happened through habit is that you are USED to doing one thing when you do another, such as tongue "HEEEE" position and a "smiling" embouchure.
That said, I had referred to a "HEEE" posture of the tongue on this board in years past. That was to be taken as a position opposite to "AHHHH" where the back of your tongue moves back and partly blocks the top of the throat. For you, at this point, I would repeat that you need NOT worry about this. You are used to having your tongue TOO FAR FORWARD (yes, that is the front part of the tongue and it is actually possible to do both improper things at once...just don't).
Just keep the tongue relaxed and BEHIND (not touching!!) the mouthpiece and reed (and consequently your upper and lower lips as well) between articulations.
The embouchure (lips) are completely and utterly separate from the tongue. You can do (should be able to) anything with your lips and not affect the position of the tongue whatsoever.
I almost want to suggest the same sort of disregard for the "flat chin" for you as I do the exact position of the tongue. Here, the important point is the THIN and SMOOTH character of the lower lip over the lower teeth. If you look at the Charles Neidich video again, you will notice is chin is all bumpy and wrinkly. But you can tell his lower lip is acting properly because of the CLEAR, CONTROLLED SOUND (and SOUND is the most important thing here).
And then this is probably the most important caveat: No one goes home from a concert saying, "Wow that clarinetist was great, he had the flattest chin and the most perfect finger position." The point is to get a wonderful sound and make music.
Hello again. It has been a very long month and I have improved my embouchure quite a bit.
Here's the update:
My chin can stay consistently flat and my lips do not move at all. The corners of my lips are firm and they surround the mouthpiece. I would also say that I do not smile like I used to.
I went all the way back to the basics and even had to use a strength 2.5 reed (coming from a 3.5) as well as a beginner mouthpiece just because it was easier to play. My tonguing was non existent a month ago but now it has improved and I can tongue all registers of the instrument.
My only problem is the sound I get while tonguing as well as how to execute the different tonguing styles cleanly and beautifully. My problem when I tongue as of right now is that it is too hard (I think) and every time I articulate a note, the pitch is a bit flat. By pronouncing "thee" instead of "tah" I have resolved this somewhat but the sound still is a little bit squawky. As for the tonguing-too-hard part: there's a weird sound I get after I articulate and I am not entirely sure what the cause is. My assumption is that I am tonguing too hard. Here's a link of what it sounds like: https://youtu.be/f8naopP2-Vs
Another problem I have is that I squeak a little bit when I tongue. Especially tonguing from long C to high G (with 3 fingers + thumb and register). I am not sure why but these notes are SUPER resistant. Am I not covering holes? Sometimes the notes are clean but other times I get a squawk (if its a long B or long C) and a squeak if its a D to an F. My E's are normally fine for some weird reason. I have tried not biting (which has helped) as well as more air. In addition, I have made sure to cover all holes including the thumb hole. For the most part this works, though sometimes when I am not entirely conscious of these aspects, I get a weird sound. My conclusion is that I have to pay attention to air speed, to not bite, as well as to cover holes. If there is anything else I could do, please let me know.
Lastly, the different tonguing styles. So the youtube link of that weird sound is something I am especially concerned with when I tongue in a staccato fashion. When I tongue normally, I try to tongue lightly and for the most part, that sound goes away. However, I am unsure of what to do when I staccato. How do I staccato without slapping on the reed which is what I am assuming is causing the sound?
Thanks for everyone's help. It has been an amazing month of improvement and without you guys, I would be in an entirely different state completely unaware of some of the fundamental issues that I would've never fixed.
Now to address tonguing. The only thing, THE ONLY thing thing the tongue does is to stop the reed from vibrating. This is an important point to internalize because it will help clear up some misconceptions.
Place the tip of the tongue on the tip of the reed to stop the sound. To initiate sound, you REMOVE the tip of the tongue from the tip of the reed. It helps to think of tonguing as moving the tongue BACK rather than forward. That means there is NO hitting or slapping of the reed, only MOVING AWAY. Yes, as speed increases it can be a bit confusing because you move the tongue faster in both directions and it can give you a sense of striking the reed, but always think more about the BACKWARD movement.
This brings up the idea of staccato. A staccato note is a brief moment of reed vibration in between silence. So what happens is that the tongue spends more time ON the reed with brief moments of release. In slow motion you can think of staccato like this: "TUT"...silence....."TUT"......silence.....etc. Furthermore staccato should be practiced this way; slowly, deliberately, cleanly. Practicing this way may sound and feel odd because one would never stop a long note with a "T" sound, but this is the only sure fire way to practice good staccato.
Lastly, it is important to note that what provides force (accent, louder sound) is the AIR........NOT the tongue. I love David Shifrin's analogy to the piano. The tongue is the DAMPER and your air is the HAMMER.
The last audio post sounds to me as if you are 'damping' too far down on the reed. The point at which the sound stops sounds delayed to me almost like a jazz saxophonist just damping one side of the reed (see Billy Joel's "I Love You Just the Way You Are"). If placing the tip of your tongue on the crest of the reed feels buzzy and uncomfortable, you have to trust that a week or two of dedicated practice of tip to tip will get that sensation to disappear.
Thank you so much for responding Mr.Aviles I was afraid this thread was long gone!
Okay so from what I understand, my tongue should just be light. Also, to accent a note, my tongue doesn’t attack harder? I get that accent when I just attack the reed harder but from what you said, it should just be my air right?
I have some confusion about staccato. For me it is very hard to staccato without completely pressing down on the reed. This is what is causing that weird wispy hissing sound you heard before the notes in the recording. My tongue should also be light in this case but when performing quick staccato notes, how do I prevent myself from just slapping down onto the reed like a rubber band? I will experiment with being light and “staccatoing” quick because right now I am confused.
Here’s some videos where I learned tonguing from and it is partly a reason why I am tonguing hard.
In this video, she mentions the “whisper technique”. You can hear her articulate clearly. When I try lightly touching the reed, I do not hear anything. However, when I slap my tongue onto the reed or press hardly, I get the sound just like in the video.
In this video, she teaches staccatoing quick using this rubber band like motion where it seems as if your tongue snaps back. Her demonstration leads me to believe that my tongue should just snap back. However when I do this, I get the strange sound you heard in the video.
Alright, I guess that’s it for now. You have no idea how much of a help you have been to me. Thank you so much.
First I want to say that I respect anyone who puts the effort to educate the clarinet community in this manner. Michelle. Anderson does address very important concepts and generally gets at it in a good way.
The first video is really addressing students who do not use the tongue to start a note. Ms. Anderson refers to this as "huffing." She speaks to this directly by getting the viewers to place the tongue on the reed rather than not at all. She also makes her second big point about using a continuous stream of air in between articulation.
Unfortunately she does two things that are confusing. Ms. Anderson refers many times to "hitting" the reed. She then demonstrates this with her finger starting far away from the reed and coming in rapidly upon the reed. I try to illustrate in similar fashion using my finger, but I show the finger right next to the reed (the tongue remains as close as possible to the tip of the reed without interfering with the sound) and when I sing a note ("tah") I show the finger withdrawing rapidly away. So you have to think of the movement AWAY from the reed.
That brings me to the second video. I teach the "stop tongue" as well. This is standard technique taught since at least Daniel Bonade. Watch closely starting at 3:45 seconds. Michelle sings the note as her fingers spring APART. This is absolutely correct. It also is a better example of tonguing in general. When she gets to the rubber band idea her emphasis is on the end result which is a short burst of sound......then a long pause......then another quick burst of sound. Another way to think of this is what you get when you push the pin in the center of a bicycle tire (or car tire) valve. When you push you get a rush of pressurized air. When you release it stops suddenly and completely. This is what she is getting at. I disagree with any notion that the tongue snaps back onto, or slaps the reed. She just means RETURN FAST.
The other important thing to note is that when Ms. Anderson plays, it sounds great. She is playing correctly. That is the most important part. You must rely on a positive feedback loop as your most important tool as you play. If it sounds better.....do that. If it doesn't improve, or it sounds worse.....do something else.
It is easier to start by understanding what happens musically with an accent. There are only TWO things one can do to make a note accented. ONE: make it louder. TWO: provide more space (silence) BEFORE the note.
Given what we've talked about, how do yo do those things on clarinet?
ONE: more air (a quick, push) It's a little confusing that we just had the Anderson video where she speaks negatively about "huffing." Of course she is talking to those who have just begun playing clarinet and don't even know how to start a note. "Huffing" is what I do to make a note immediately LOUDER.
TWO: leave the tongue upon the reed longer, or absence of air. Here we have the very essence of the great use of "huffing." If you have (for example) a marcato note every other quarter, you start the note with a tongue release "huff," and stop the note with your abdominal muscles in opposition with your diaphragm. The bigger the PUSH, the louder and more sudden the note will sound.
As oppose to stopping the sound with our tongue, we stop the sound with our abdominal muscles? I will have to try it out!
By bigger push, are you talking about a bigger huff?
This is a video by Ms. Anderson that I watched a while back and the stuff you talked about reminded me of it. A lot of the stuff you said is very similar to this video. She accents notes with both a burst of air as well as tonguing the reed harder (maybe not a hit or a strike but harder than usual is what I am assuming). For marcato, she seems to stop the sound with her tongue like staccato however. Can you tell me the difference between stopping the sound with your abdominal muscles versus the usual stopping with your tongue?
Anyways, now I know the basics. I have always been using my tongue to accent but I forgot that air is also a huge part.
I would hope that a note of any sort of length is allowed to have some natural taper to the sound. If you stop a lyrical note with the tongue, all you get is "TUT."
That's not very natural sounding, nor is it musical.
If you want to call more air a bigger "huff" that's fine. I was trying to relate what we were talking about in the language used by Ms. Anderson.
The video at 12:40 - 12:58, I respectfully submit, says exactly the wrong thing. You get a louder sound when you hit a percussion instrument because the vibrating element of a percussion instrument vibrates more air when it is hit harder. When you "hit" a reed all you do is put more wasted energy into damping the reed. That's like saying you get more sound by pressing harder on the keys.
To address your desire to play a glissando, someone might mention that that effect is usually easier to produce on a rather open faced mouthpiece than a close faced one like your M13 Vandoren. You get the ascending glissando to come out partly by gradually sliding the fingers off the keys but more by varying the tongue position to "squeeze" the air inside your oral cavity and make the pitch rise. Close faced mouthpieces like the M13 tend to stabilize the pitch rather than vary it in the way jazz performers often prefer. If you can borrow or otherwise find a somewhat more open faced mouthpiece (Vandoren M30 or M40 for example or Reserve X10) and experiment with that for the glissando, you might see (or feel) that that special effect is easier on a more open mouthpiece. Some players, of course, can gliss well on an M13, but even they will usually find the gliss easier to do on a more open tipped model.
Woah! Hello “seabreeze”! The talk about glissando goes way back and isn’t something I am worried about now. Also, Mr. Aviles suggested not to waste time on it as of right now which I wholeheartedly agree. I have seen the video and I know how to do it but I think I was just talking about my inability to not do it all of a sudden after the embouchure change that I feared that I was not doing something right. Thank you for your time, I appreciate it.
In response to you, Mr. Aviles,
It totally makes sense that it is not very musical to end a note in such a mechanic fashion. But in fast staccato passages, what do you suggest I do? Isn’t stop tonguing technically saying “TUT” very fast? I can’t blow air then stop then blow air again that fast. Or are you saying to end the note in another fashion other than using your tongue? Can you explain to me your bike tire analogy? Maybe I interpreted wrong.
I should’ve said this earlier but I hope I am not wasting your time. The last thing I want is you to spend time here when you have other things to do that are far more important. You have spent so much time here and I kind of feel guilty!
I would start with what Michelle Anderson spoke about air. She said on several of those videos to "blow through," and made a gesture with her hand moving forward. That is key to a good sound.
Another way to say that is to say that when you take a breath of air you are like an inflated balloon, or bike tire, or car tire. In addition to the natural air pressure you have with full lungs of air, you back that up with support from abdominal muscles to actively push the air out. That is important so that long notes, long phrases have that constant flow of air. This is how we get a clear, resonant sound.
Now let's take Mozart's Concerto for example. The eighth written note (fourth space "E;" last note of second full measure of solo) is a quarter note. You would NOT end that note with the tongue. You just "stop blowing."
Michelle Anderson made a good point about how to practice staccato. You SLOW it down and practice what is actually happening from note to note which is: "TUT"......."TUT..... "TUT"...... etc. BUT, (and I forgot to mention) the last note of a staccato run DOES NOT END WITH THE TONGUE!
Now when you asked about marccato, my brain went to the sort of scenario you see in fast, loud band pieces where you have these hammer like sounds punctuating the texture (one or two per measure). In that case, each note would be executed as if each were a watermelon seed you were trying to spit across the room. The seed would go nowhere if you were hitting it with your tongue. In fact I highly recommend you trying spitting something out of your mouth. Feel what is happening there. The air pressure must be more substantial the further you want that thing to go (or in our musical case, the louder and more impactful you want the sound to be). Additionally, your tongue is clearly moving backward to release the explosion of air. THAT'S THE ESSENCE OF TONGUING
Now the idea is to watch and listen to how they play not necessarily what's said (Rusinek is teaching advanced tonguing and Yeh is, well, advertising for Vandoren). Watch how they use their air and the bold, steady sounds they produce.
Sorry for responding after a while. I really like the spitting the seed analogy. It effectively shows how more air pressure creates a louder sound just as if you were to spit a seed, it would cause the seed to go further.
I’ve been experimenting lately and I have noticed something about my embouchure again. So this time, I have realized that my lips move a little due to me blowing. I have tried reducing this lip movement to almost nothing by putting a little bit more clarinet in my mouth and trying to keep my embouchure more steady and fixed. After a while of blowing, it seems as if my embouchure starts to fall apart and then I notice I see more lip movement.
I have a couple of questions. How far into my mouth should the mouthpiece be in? Where should my top teeth touch the mouthpiece? I have a couple of videos I recorded of myself with my embouchure. My breath support and air pressure in these videos is very weak I think but feel free to comment on it. This was mainly to show my embouchure currently.
I try keeping my lips smooth over the top of my teeth by smiling once in a while to straighten my chin and then pronouncing “EWW” after to remove the smiling embouchure. Am I doing the right thing? Does my embouchure look okay?
Here Anthony McGill shows a basic basic beginning for embouchure, but he encapsulates the very essence of it as well. It may help to consider his verbiage when he states "roll the lip over the lower teeth."
Of course flute embouchure functions a bit differently but I could not agree more with James Galway. We control so much of our sound with the subtle (mostly subconscious) movements of the embouchure. The "smile" pulls UP which takes most of the other lip muscles out of the equation. Don't use, or even think, "smile" at all for anything anytime........EVER.
That said, your sound really has gotten clearer!
Back to McGill. He points to a spot on the top of his mouthpiece and says you put your top teeth here. I think he is just going for a basic generalization there. Mr. Tom Puwalski posted a method for discovering very quickly where to place the mouthpiece in your mouth. The "ideal" spot to place your embouchure is just slightly back (that is, slightly closer to the tip of the mouthpiece) from the point where the reed and mouthpiece come together. That allows for the maximum vibration possible out of the reed for the length of that mouthpiece's facing. I believe Mr. Puwalski called this method a "squawk test."
You play an open "G" starting close to the tip of your mouthpiece. Then, as you continually play the open "G," you slide more and more mouthpiece into your mouth until you get a great big "SQUAWK." You just back off slightly from there, and that is the "ideal" spot for YOUR mouth on THAT mouthpiece. The only reason I put quotes on that is because you CAN get reasonable results playing further back from ideal [certainly not FORWARD of that spot.....too noisy :-) ] but it's less advantageous.
Your top teeth pretty much land where they land with the above protocol. It depends on the angle at which you hold your clarinet.....and that looks fine from what I can tell.
My guess about your fatigue is that you are putting way to much thought and stress into the musculature around the mouthpiece. All the stuff we talk about is mainly just to get the mouth around the mouthpiece so you can blow and air doesn't leak out.
And that brings me to air. Your basic sound has gotten SOOO much clearer! However, now you need to support the sound more. You do that with steady, focused air. What I do is firm up way down on my abdomen (if you ever said to your younger brother, "hey....punch me in the stomach," you'd firm up first. You wouldn't just let him go for flab. So, much like getting a steady stream of caulk out of a tube, or (back to the tire again) that sudden rush of air out of a tire valve when opened, you want that sort of effect for the air you produce to hit the reed. You do that by actively pressing it out. It may also be helpful to keep in mind that the air that vibrates in the clarinet is already there! Tuba players (and clarinet players) expend about the same amount of effort as piccolo players. All we do is actuate or excite the existing air column in the clarinet with the reed.......and our breath.
Sorry for the late reply! I didn’t get emailed of your response...
I am very glad to know that my sound is now different for the better. I do really need to improve on my breath support. As of right now, I am truly making sure my embouchure is not flawed so I am sticking to a strength 3 reed and am not blowing aimlessly without staying conscious of what my mouth and tongue are doing.
The smiling is very ill advised as I have come to notice. I find that it is one of the only ways I can get my chin to be straight. Now again you said that my chin CAN be bumpy like Charles Niedich (the one video you sent me a while ago) but my lips have to be smooth over my top teeth, is that correct? How do I do this? From the videos, am I doing this? I feel as if the smiling right before I say “EWW” helps me with this.
To talk about proper breath support. My first question is, how do I breath in air efficiently and sufficiently? I have been told to breath “into my lower back” and fill up my stomach until my chest naturally rises. I was told NOT to breath shallow and let my chest rise. Also, I do do this abdomen clenching thing. I think Mr. Lowenstern said in one of his videos that I should feel the same thing as if I were to do a sit-up and pause halfway. But the punching thing is much easier to imagine and execute. By the way, I have a younger sister but she punches me as well I guess.
I still notice some lip movement from blowing. I have reduced this A LOT by opening my throat and by bringing the corners of my lips in. I still feel as if they move just a tiny bit whereas other clarinetists I have seen online don’t seem to have their lips move when blowing. It is very minimal now but I want your insight on it. Again, you said if something seems wrong do what I should do to remove it. By opening my throat and bringing the corners of my lips in, my sound is more focused and less nasally.
I realize that when blowing into the instrument my neck kind of puffs up. My lips tend to move from blowing with or without the clarinet. Am I even blowing right?? I feel like blowing without the clarinet should almost be like blowing into the clarinet: tongue arched high near the back of mouth so that air stream is as fast possible. My neck should be open so that if I were to say “Hello” I sound normal and not like spongebob. When blowing into the clarinet keeping in mind of these ideas, I find it a lot easier to produce a sound. Regardless of all of this, I still find a little bit of lip movement.
The videos I shared in the previous posts kind of show that. Besides this, sometimes I have issues with long B and long C staccato. I find that the notes are really resistant and staccatoing from the start (as in start of producing the note then tongue returning immediately after) is incredibly difficult. This has become easier by blowing into the clarinet naturally (as if I were to blow air without the clarinet) but the notes are a little bit resistant.
Also, I have some nice news. I will be getting a private teacher soon! Apparently she studied under John Bruce Yeh of CSO. Incredibly excited!