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Embouchure

The following is a list of checkpoints for the clarinet embouchure:
  • The teeth should be even, upper teeth directly above lower teeth
  • Top teeth go on the mouthpiece
  • Lower lip forms cushion between teeth and reed
  • The lips hold the mouthpiece with only enough pressure to keep air from escaping
  • The lip position is like sucking on a milkshake, or sucking your thumb
  • Position the mouthpiece in the mouth so the teeth are over the point where the reed first contacts the mouthpiece
       You can find this position by slipping a piece of paper between the reed and the mouthpiece tip.
       Move the paper up the opening until it stops.
       Place your thumbnail on the reed at this point.
       Put the mouthpiece in your mouth to where your lip is against your thumb.
  • The mouthpiece should be positioned so the bell is pointing at your knees (when sitting) while the head remains level
  • The chin should remain flat. Think of pointing it at the floor.
  • The back of the tongue should be raised, as though you are saying the syllable "key". The throat still stays relaxed.

Embouchure Exercises

These exercises will strengthen the embouchure muscles and enable the embouchure to remain stable while playing the clarinet.
  • Assemble the mouthpiece and reed. Using the mouthpiece only, position the mouthpiece in the mouth using the checkpoints above.
    Blow through the mouthpiece. With correct pressure, the concert pitch that should sound is the second B above middle C.
    Do this exercise a few minutes at the beginning of practice sessions until you are able to maintain a full sound and a steady pitch.
  • With the mouth closed, bring the teeth to their even position (described above). Keeping the lips sealed, separate the teeth until you feel the lip muscles working. Hold for 10 seconds; rest; repeat the exercise.
  • With the mouth closed and the teeth in their even position, compress the lips, pressing them together while keeping the teeth in position. Hold for 10 seconds; rest; repeat the exercise.
  • With the mouth closed and the teeth slightly apart, contract the muscles around the lips evenly. The effect is like drawing a string at the top of a cloth sack. Perform the movement 10 times, then hold for 10 seconds. Rest; repeat the exercise.

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©2014 Brad Johnson
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