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 French Horn: Am I really messing with my clarinet embouchure?
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2021-06-26 15:40

A month ago, I started learning the french horn and so so far, it has been quite the experience!
Now some people seem to suggest that playing a brass instrument can ruin your (clarinet) embouchure, or your sound etc. While on the bass clarinet, my sound has rather gotten bigger thanks to this rather different instrument, I'm not so sure with the soprano clarinet. Not that anyone so far told me my sound got worse.

Still, I'm a little worried. Should I stop playing horn when there's an important project coming up, or is it enriching? So far, I'd say I've discovered aspects of my musicality that I hadn't thought about before. Generally, I'm not inclined to beliebe that you must not "mix" woodwinds with brasswinds - but then, how would I know?
Very interested in hearing your opinions.

Best regard

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 Re: French Horn: Am I really messing with my clarinet embouchure?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-06-27 00:33

This question has always perplexed me. As a much younger teacher, my answer was unequivocally, yes, you'll mess up your clarinet embouchure. And I had a couple of clarinet students to use as examples - high school students who tried to play trumpet and clarinet and whose clarinet sound and articulation were definitely sub-par.

I wasn't perceptive enough then to think that I hadn't been teaching them at the beginning, either when they first started to play clarinet or when they later began to play trumpet. So I really had no idea how good they were at clarinet pre-trumpet.

Later, on the strength of those two experiences, I made the mistake of telling two very promising junior high clarinet students at different times that I wouldn't teach them if they kept trying to learn brass instruments - one was a trombone and the other was, I think baritone horn (it was a long time ago). I immediately lost those two students.

In hindsight, I think I was the one who was being unreasonably stubborn and out of my place. The muscles of the mouth and lips are certainly used differently for brass and reed instruments. But I've seen enough players successfully play both to have re-thought my opinion. These days (retired in my 70s) I don't really care what else they play. I deal with their clarinet problems and don't ask what else they're doing musically.

I don't think it's likely that a player will be a really first-rate player on both a brass and a woodwind, but so many students just want to dabble in other areas for a change of feel. I suspect, if they're interested in a professional career track, at some point early on they need to decide which to concentrate on and which is the fun lark. Even a flute embouchure is quite different from a clarinet embouchure. Yet any competent woodwind pit doubler needs to have flute in their skill set, whether their primary instrument is flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet or sax.

So, bottom line, my opinion at this point is that if you want to be a clarinetist, you can play other wind instruments without necessarily compromising your clarinet chops, but you have to be very aware of the differences and to keep your approach to the clarinet consistent.


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 Re: French Horn: Am I really messing with my clarinet embouchure?
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2021-06-27 15:34

Thanks Karl for sharing your thoughts on this.

Indeed a professional might have to focus on that one instrument, which could be explained by the never ending stive for perfection in classical music. Yet there are a few exceptions. Who would've thought that Nicholas Baldeyrou also plays the french horn? https://youtu.be/BInZvI_wbjs
I couldn't help but to sense a certain clarinet-ish sound - not that I'd mind! In contrast, would anyone have been able to tell that he also plays a brass instrument only knowing his (fabulous) bass clarinet performances?

Maybe a musical education should be aimed at teaching the student the means of expressing themselves (and the music they play) through *a* instrument, rather than tieing them to *this one* instrument. Then again, this would probably make music a very central part of one's life.

From my experience (being an amateur) many people told me "this or that won't work" - maybe just out of spite I tried even harder because of that. So I really appreciate what you have to say after decades of experience. I might actually buy a clarinet method to remind myself of the basics. Though so far I can say that breathing, articulation and tongueing are much more similar then I'd have expected.

Post Edited (2021-06-27 15:55)

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