Амбушюр от Тони

Упражнение для амбушюра от Джэя

Амбушюр от Андрю

О диафрагме и как ей пользоваться от Энтони Пэя

О дыхании и функции горла от Эверетта Аустина

О дыхании от Нейла

От Нейла -амбушюр

Скорость дыхания и как этим пользоваться от Роджера Гаррэта

Базовая постановка артикуляции от не помню кого

Артикуляция от Нейла

Артикуляция от Анни

Комментарии о артикуляции (в том числе о “двойном языке”) от Нейла

Метафоры артикуляции от Антони Пэя

Движения пальцев от Тони

Нервы и что с ними делать

Каждодневная умелая практика от Марка Миллера

Фразировка от Джона Киполлы

Как работать над пассажами от Марка Миллера

Эффективная медленная практика от Стэнли Гейделя

Обучение первогодок от Роджера Гаррэта







Embouchures in general


 There is actually another way that I learned.

Because there are lots of different ways of talking about embouchures,

as well as different approaches (as Tom's post shows), it might be worth

describing what an embouchure actually *does*, as an aid to

characterising differences of embouchure between one good player and



I should emphasise straight away that the intention is descriptive

rather than prescriptive.  So I'm certainly not putting forward any

theory of ideal embouchures here.  (Indeed, as some of you may know, my

'theory' of the ideal embouchure is that it's the one that produces the

desired sound:-)


To begin with, I'm going to take the position that the essence of an

embouchure lies in the contact between the muscles of the lower lip and

the vibrating reed.  Other muscles (such as those of the upper lip) are

also involved; but their influence on the embouchure occurs largely via

their effect on the contact between the lower lip and the reed.


This approach leaves aside the possibility that the upper lip may

directly damp vibrations of the mouthpiece itself (not the reed,

notice); but I'm going to assume, along with most other people, that

that effect is negligible.


Description of the contact between the muscles of the lower lip and the

vibrating reed can be conveniently if crudely divided into three parts;

there's an important refinement that I'll come to afterwards.


The three parts are:


(1) The position on the reed of the area of contact;


(2) The size of the area of contact; and


(3) The pressure exerted on the reed by the contact.


(1), (2) and (3) in combination affect both the equilibrium position of

the reed (the mean position that it vibrates around) and the nature of

the reed vibration.


In general, (1) is located roughly at the point at which the reed leaves

the mouthpiece facing.  In this position, the lower lip does two things:


            (A) it exerts pressure on the reed, moving its equilibrium

            position further towards the mouthpiece, and


            (B) it damps the vibration of the reed, thus changing the sound.


            For (A), the amount of pressure required to put the reed in its

            optimum equilibrium position depends a great deal on the sort

        of reed-mouthpiece setup the player is using.  It can vary from

        very little, in the case of a long, close facing (like a German

        style mouthpiece) to quite a lot (as in the open facings used in

        the last century by some Italian players, for example. Different

        schools of playing therefore require different amounts of

        pressure.  Obviously, the strength of the reed used is also a

            determining factor.


            The damping of the reed-vibration, (B), constitutes the most

            crucial effect of the embouchure on the sound of the instrument,

            and much of the complication of 'embouchure-talk' is an attempt

            to characterise the physical characteristics of the embouchure

            that the speaker considers essential in order to achieve the

            damping required for a 'good' sound.


It is possible, for special effects, for (1) to be nearer the tip or

farther away from the tip, but the former usually 'chokes' the reed, and

the latter has little effect on the vibration.


(2), the size of the area of contact, is crucial, though.  If it's too

large, then too many higher harmonics of the vibrating reed are damped

out.  If it's too small, then a 'bright' reed may be too shrill.  And

the required amount of damping is dependent on what note you're playing,



Essentially, therefore, what's required is real time control of (2), so

that it can vary from moment to moment.  Fortunately, the lower lip

consists of *muscle*, and therefore is capable of fast response around

an initial calibration.  Choosing the degree of flexion of the muscles

of the lower lip initially to suit a particular reed, and then varying

it moment by moment according to what you're playing, is what enables us

to play effectively.


This point of view explains why a given reed may be 'too much trouble'

for a good player, even though the results obtained are satisfactory to

the listener. 


The 'refinement' I mentioned above comes in here.  The refinement is

that when we play, the lower lip also vibrates, and therefore the

optimal state of the bit of it in contact with the reed can't even be

captured by specifying the size and shape of the area of contact.  The

vibrational qualities of things are always much more tricky to

characterise and reproduce than their mere geometries and masses.

That's why violins are difficult to copy -- and bows too, because they

vibrate when they're used.  Even *how you hold a bow* makes a



The upshot is that the precise nature of your lower lip when you play is

crucial.  Where you put it on the reed, how flexed it is, how much it

overlaps the part of the reed that's vibrating away from the mouthpiece,

all affect your sound from moment to moment, and therefore must be

capable of subtle change from moment to moment.


Now, obviously we haven't a hope in hell of controlling all of that

consciously.  But we can learn how to have it under our (unconscious)

control by practising in the understanding that both flexibility and

feedback are required.


How did we learn our 'other' sort of speaking, which is much more

miraculous, I'd say?  Answer, by both babbling and listening.


And -- you know why 'biting' is wrong?  It's *not* because it involves

the exertion of pressure, or because it involves forces between lips

and teeth.  Controlled and precisely modulated pressure is the name of

the game!  Dogmas about 'zero pressure' can be as counterproductive for

some players as excessively hard reeds can be for others.


No, it's because 'biting', at its extreme, reduces the subtle

musculature of the lower lip to the status of a dead piece of meat

covering the teeth.  Such a move puts beyond our grasp the flexibility

required to learn how to play the clarinet. 








Contrary to what many clarinetists and teachers of the clarinet believe,

the embouchure and oral cavity change according to the register and

intonation requirements.  (Through the practice of specific exercises you

can develop the flexibility to handle almost any situation with which you

are faced.)


Brass players have been using the mouthpiece alone for practicing

flexiblitly for years. Many modern professional brass players use this

technique daily.  As we know, the brass player changes his embouchure and

oral cavity in order to select the part of the overtone series they desire.


if you ask an advanced clarinetist to take his mouthpiece off and play a

well supported and focused sound on the mouthpiece alone, the resulting

pitch will usually be the concert C or C# above the treble staff.  After

producing this initial pitch you should attempt to play a descending

glissando to see how low a pitch can be sounded.  I have tried this with

many players over the past 20 years.  The results are quite interesting.

Some clarinetists can play only an octave.  I have found that saxophone

doublers and jazz clarinetists tend to do much better at this than the

exclusively "ligit" clarinet player.


The next step is to try to extend whatever range you have on the

mouthpiece to an octave.  This can be accomplished by experimenting with

embouchure pressure and oral cavity settings-- the more embouchure

pressure the higher the resulting pitch.  As pressure is decreased, the

pitch is lowered.  When the oral cavity is set in a position for

pronoucing "eee", higher pitches are produced and progressively lower

pitches are produced as you move from "eee" to "ahh" and "ohh".  While I

am willing to grant that many clarinet performance requirements can be

met with the settings needed to produce a major third or perfect fourth

on the mouthpiece, frequently larger embouchure and oral cavity

adjustments are necessary to play in tune, to affect large downslurs, to

play bends, gilissandi, and many extended techniques such as some

multiphonics.  The combined control of embouchure pressure and oral

cavity settings gained through this practice cannot be overestimated.


Once you have good control of the glissando from concert C above the

staff to the C an octave below, you can begin to attempt holding specific

pitches within that range.  Playing simple tunes and arpeggios is also

good exercise.  Another step in refinig embouchure/oral cavity settings

is to match pitches at the piano.  Play a melody or scale with the left

hand and try to play the same pitch simultaneously with the mouthpiece

held in the right hand.   These exercises should develop 12 discreet

settings, one for each chromatic pitches in the octave.


Concurrently with the mouthpiece exercises you can be working on

welecting registers exclusively with embouchure/oral cavity settings.  Do

this exercise using NO regester key.


          C above staff slur down to first space F


do this slowly then gradually speed up until the C is just a grace note

to the F.


          B above the staff - slur to first line E


Etc... until you are down to B/E


Once the clarinet is producing the first tone (if you have trouble

producing the upper 12th you may "flick" the register key) it will resist

producing the lower note in the chalumeau register.  In order to produce

the chalumeau note without a break, you must make a dramatic

embouchure/oral cavity adjustment, actually going considerably below the

normal setting for the chalumeau note.  Then, as soon as it is sounding,

assume the correct setting so that the resulting note is not flat in

pitch.  If prcticed diligently you can procuce the chalumeau note on time

and execute the setting adjustments so quickly that you are scarcely

aware of them.


This exercise can be extended.  Note NO regester key is used.


        F 1rst space -  C above staff - F above staff - slur back to C -

        F above staff - slur to C - then slur back down to the F.


Continue down chormaticly until you are E/B/G/B/G/B/E


You'll find that you lower you get the harder this is to do.



Well what do you all think?  I admidt that these exercises and ones like

it have helped me over the years.  I would really like to hear comments

or questions.







Embouchure problems with a student



Perhaps you could convince him  to constantly think about his lips

forming the syllable "o".  This is the basis for a good embouchure anyway.  It

sounds like he feels that anything other than a "wood clamp" embouchure doesn't

allow himself enough control  (I certainly used to!).  While he changes his

mouth shape, he can be pushing the mp a bit harder against his top lip to

remove pressure on the bottom.  By the way, the fact that his jaw moves invites

the question - did he ever play brass instruments?  The constant "o" shape

will prevent him from moving his jaw, I think.  First, however, he has to

want to improve and can see the benefits - can you demonstrate for him what he

sounds like when he does this and then show him how an improved embouchure

would benefit him?  I am currently changing my embouchure to an "o" shape and

I did find it very difficult for a few weeks to maintain that without feeling

as if my bottom lip had no place to go and nothing to do (obviously it had had

too much to do before!) and that I couldn't control the sound.  The feeling

of "o" was so unusual that whenever I took the mp out of my mouth and then

wanted to play again, I had to re-form the shape, then slip the mp into my mouth.

Also, have him think about his embouchure as a bed of roses.  The person who

mentioned this to me last week didn't really explain it, but I imagine

it means that the bottom lip should feel as if it's resting on a bed of roses.

The fact that his jaw and fingers move together can be helped by putting him in

front of a mirror to see what's happening.  Also, if you turn his instrument

around and play a song while he blows steadily, he'll see/hear that jaw-finger

movement is unnecessary.  Forgive me if you've tried all of this already.  I relate

all this as a student, but as one who sees/hears the benefits of more

beautiful sound and greatly increased endurance with an "o" shaped embouchure.  I

hope this helps a bit.  Maybe the  pros on the list could comment further.


All the best













Books about how to play wind instruments often talk rather vaguely about

the diaphragm, and teachers of wind instruments seem to be agreed about

its importance in playing.  However, in my view it is not so often

related to a player's actual experience, nor indeed

explained to a

student's satisfaction.  This essay suggests

 a reason why this is so,

and makes a connection between the action of the muscle and our

experience of playing, via the ideas of 'opposition' and 'support'.


If we fully understand the paradox that the action of the diaphragm is

in a sense outside our experience, yet

 nevertheless under our control,

our playing becomes simpler, and we are better able to trust ourselves.




It seems that we don't have a direct

 experience of our diaphragm, the

muscle that we use whenever we take a breath.  Anatomists tell us this

is because the diaphragm contains no efferent nerves.  That is, no

sensory nerves run from the diaphragm itself to the brain, so we don't

know when we're using it except by noticing the things it does; and the

muscle can't feel tired to us, for example.


But we can get a bit closer to it if we

 flex our abdominal muscles and

try taking a breath whilst keeping them flexed.  (By the expression

'flex the abdominal muscles' I mean the act of making the lower front of

the body hard, as if to protect ourselves against a gentle punch in the

middle -- but without pulling our bellies in.)


Normally, when we flex our abdominal muscles, we prevent the air in our

lungs from escaping outwards by a blocking action somewhere in the

throat.  In order to breathe in with our abdominal muscles flexed, we

have first to lift this block.  When we do so, we may find (as my friend

and colleague Phillip Eastop recently pointed out to me) that the

experience of breathing in is very close to the experience of yawning.

We are breathing in against the resistance of our abdominal muscles, so

the diaphragm has to work a bit harder than usual in order to overcome

the resistance.  It still isn't quite true to say that we can *feel* the

diaphragm working -- we can feel *working*, and a bit of discomfort

perhaps, but this is mostly the sensation of the flexed abdominal

muscles and the solar plexus being pushed downwards and outwards; the

diaphragm, which is what is doing the pushing, is still not directly

accessible to our experience.  Anyway, the anatomists tell us it can't



Most of the important actions of our bodies -- important for survival

that is -- occurИ by themselves

 without our conscious control, so perhaps

it shouldn't be surprising that our diaphragm can't be felt directly. We

can't feel the working of our heart directly either, and rather

fortunately it beats without requiring us to remind it to.  Choosing an

even more extreme example, we would obviously have absolutely no chance

at all of carrying out the incredibly intricate processes of our

biochemistry with our conscious intellects, even if we understood these

processes and could by some magic interfere directly.  There's no

advantage for us to be able to feel ourselves consciously doing all the

things that get done in our bodies, so evolution just hasn't set it up

that way.




Of course it is still an open question how much we can, by various sorts

of self-training, come to be able to influence these actions. Experiment

shows that, surprisingly, we can learn to control the speed of our

heartbeat, and even the surface temperature and electrical conductivity

of our skin; some would say that even our biochemistry is not as

inaccessible as it would appear.


This sort of learning, however, doesn't conform to our normal model of

what it's like to learn to do things.  Mostly, when we learn a

technique, we have a direct experience of doing something.  But there is

no direct experience associated with a change in the electrical

conductivity of our skin, for example.  To be aware of such changes we

have to connect ourselves to a meter, and then we can learn to control

them and see the effect of our learning -- the needle on the dial moves.

But we can't feel any change in our body.


I think most people feel, or would feel, uncomfortable learning in this

way.  Somehow it seems strange, almost creepy.  But it is important for

us to have a frame of mind which will accept this sort of strangeness.

An insistence on knowing exactly how we are doing something can

interfere with our learning to do it better.  Quite independently of

whether we have an actual experience of performing a task, it is often

best to proceed as though our conscious minds were independent observers

of our actions, and to let those actions occur according to their own

logic.  This is especially true if the task is a complex one.  As

musical performers, we are frequently concerned with preventing our

minds from interfering with our abilities.


Breath control doesn't quite come into this category, you might think.

We simply have to learn how to blow the instrument effectively. Although

we use our diaphragm to breathe in, we don't need to experience it, and

anyway we only know about it in the first place because we've been told

about it, so -- why not just forget it?  Indeed many excellent teachers

and performers you speak to would say just that.  And so would I have

done, until recently.


However, I then discovered a more useful metaphor to apply to breathing

and blowing the instrument; which metaphor is what I want to explain





In this essay, I shall say that we are 'using a metaphor' whenever we

give a picture or description of what we do on the instrument that is

not technically specific -- in other words, a description that does not

tell us in detail what we should do.  A metaphor says, rather: while

playing the instrument at this point, think of the situation as if it

were *like something else*.  For example, I was taught as a very young

player to imagine the sound of the instrument as a

 smooth, solid tube

that began deep inside me, passed through the clarinet and stretched out

into the room.  I still think this is a very good image for a beginning



Good teachers have always been aware that the transmission of subtle

skills involves the creation of suitable metaphors for a student, even

if only as an interim device.  These metaphors work better than explicit

instruction.  In fact, fully explicit instruction is actually

impossible, because even the best teacher cannot say in detail exactly

what he or she does. Indeed, usually the teacher too is operating out of

a personal metaphor.  It is a question of leading the student into a

successful experience by describing the situation in such a way as to

help with a particular difficulty.


So metaphors constitute an indispensable tool for a teacher. They vary

in generality, from those designed to address the student's attitude to

her whole being with the instrument, to those concerned with the

character of a particular phrase or note.  In fact, given the great

complexity and multi-levelled nature of what we do when we play, you

would have to say that even the most careful scientific description is

metaphorical too, being necessarily a simplified model of the situation.


We may not always notice that we simplify in this way.  (Sometimes it is

surprising that someone else fails to understand us -- after all, *we*

find the matter perfectly clear.)  On the other hand, adopting the

metaphorical attitude allows us, if we wish, deliberately to go

*against* scientific description.  It may be a better tactic to allow a

student to discover the physical solution to his problem whilst trying

to do something which is literally impossible.


A good example is what is called in brass teaching 'the no-pressure

embouchure system', which is a very helpful metaphor.  This is so

despite the fact that the magazine New Scientist was able to show a few

years ago, by careful experiment using strain gauges, that no

professional actually played using this system, even though some of them

said they did.  The fact is that you play better by thinking of what you

are doing as 'not pressing the mouthpiece against your lips' than you do

otherwise.  This is true whether or not you actually are pressing

slightly, as shown by a strain gauge attached to the instrument.  Though

the 'no-pressure system' is in one sense a lie, it is what we might call

a *useful* lie; one that is worth telling oneself when playing, and

worth transmitting to students.


Another example would be my 'smooth tube of sound'.  This tube of sound

doesn't *really* come from deep inside me, even though I may be better

off imagining that it does.


Yet clearly, when we use a metaphor, there is a danger of saying

something that is both wrong *and* not useful.




In fact, I believe that there are some people who talk about the

diaphragm in their teaching both inaccurately and unhelpfully.  The

central fact that must not be obscured is that the diaphragm is a muscle

that can only exert force *downwards*, i.e. to draw air into the lungs.

As a passive membrane dividing the abdomen from the thoracic cavity it

is pushed up by the abdominal muscles in the usual action of blowing an

instrument (as contrasted with the universally condemned method of

pulling down the previously raised ribcage), and perhaps this is what is

meant when many people speak of 'playing from the diaphragm'.  But this

is not the same as using your diaphragm as a muscle in order to blow,

which is a physical impossibility.


What I want to bring out in this essay is one aspect of breathing and

blowing which does have surprising and unusual experiential

characteristics when we compare it to most of the rest of our actions as

we play an instrument.  The technique itself is mentioned in wind

instrument methods, and certainly employed by able players, who

communicate it with varying success in their teaching, but it is rarely

discussed in such a way as to make the situation usefully clear, at any

rate to me; and it hasn't been approached exactly from the position I

propose to take, as far as I know. Moreover I think the 'surprise'

connected with it has been almost universally overlooked.


I always liked, and often repeated to students, Paul Harvey's advice to

'keep your trousers up' when playing.  He told the story of how he

forgot his belt (or was it braces?) one day when he had to play a

concert, and found that his performance was improved as a side effect of

his effort to make his abdomen as large as possible.  I've also found

this a useful metaphor in practice.  But there is another variable we

can control whilst we have our attention on our abdomen, which is to

what degree the abdominal muscles are flexed as we are blowing.




When muscles are working against very little resistance, we don't

experience tension in them.  They work smoothly, and the resultant

motions look relaxed and fluid.  But  if I flex the opposing muscles in

my arm, both sets of muscles become hard, and my biceps stand out if the

effort in both is sufficiently large.  If my arm is motionless, I can

tell without looking that my triceps are flexed by the fact that my

biceps are flexed in this way.  (The triceps are the ones on the back of

the upper arm.)  So it is with the opposition abdomen/diaphragm.  I know

(if my airway is open) that if no air is going in or out, and my

abdominal muscles are flexed, that my diaphragm is also flexed. (Indeed,

this is the only way I can know it!  After all, it's inside, so I can't

see it, and I can't feel it directly, as we've said.)


When we want to make precise and controlled movements, we do generally

use opposing sets of muscles, and here a danger is that we will use too

much force in both sets, since the output is unaffected by an equal

increase in tension in both.  But this danger is well understood.  We

may use metaphors in our teaching to avoid this danger:  'Float the

sound...imagine that your arms and instrument are balloons filled with a

light gas ...' etc. etc.


Precise and controlled movements are of course central to any art, just

as much as freely expressive ones.  A perfectly executed trill, a fine

piece of handwriting, an elegant pirouette -- all these require the

delicate balance of pairs of opposing forces, each supporting its

counterpart, under the overall orchestration of a guiding intelligence

and expressive impulse.  And the word 'support' is crucial, both for

precision of adjustment and speed of response.  It's why we push our

hand against a surface when we write on it (or use a special

signwriter's support stick), and why we poise ourselves ready to spring

when we wait for the serve at tennis.


How does all this apply to the diaphragm?


Normally, when we breathe in, the diaphragm encounters no opposition

other than the elasticity of the viscera.  This elasticity causes the

diaphragm to return to its normal position when it relaxes.  Similarly,

when we blow out air using the abdominal muscles, the diaphragm is

relaxed, and so the only opposition is the inertia of the lungs and the

outgoing air.  Opposition occurs when the diaphragm and abdominal

muscles are both working *at the same time*.


The characteristic of muscles balanced in opposition is that both are

slightly flexed.  So, if you perform the experiment of breathing in with

your abdominal muscles flexed (not too much), you will find that you can

achieve a point of equilibrium where the air isn't moving.  And then,

putting your clarinet in your mouth, you can play a note, still with

your abdominal muscles flexed.  (If you prefer, and indeed this is the

more usual way of proceeding, you need not breathe in with your

abdominal muscles flexed -- you can flex them afterwards.  As we said

before, being aware of our abdominal muscles working is the only way we

can know that our diaphragm is also working.)  Now, you will find you

can perform a crescendo, and a diminuendo, still with your abdominal

muscles flexed to the same degree.




So what? you might ask.


Here's the point I never noticed, and which I now find makes such a

difference, not to begin with to what I do, but to how I imagine what I

do (i.e. to my personal metaphor), and therefore, in the end, to almost

everything.  It is that the crescendo, and perhaps even more clearly,

the diminuendo, can occur in this situation without anything else at all

happening in your experience.  You imagine a diminuendo -- hey presto, a

diminuendo.  You want a faster diminuendo? -- no problem.


I don't just mean that the process of doing it has been submerged, in

the same way that the actions of driving a car, say, in the end become

automatic.  In this case you can call up the experience into

consciousness by paying attention, even though you weren't aware of it

before.  No, I mean that you can't call up any physical experience

corresponding to the change in dynamic.  Everything stays the same.

Perhaps you can feel a slightly different movement of air in the mouth

as the dynamic changes, or a different embouchure. But nothing in the

blowing process.


You don't do anything -- you just imagine it.  The only change is in the

sound. You shouldn't take my word for this -- you have to try it

yourself.  Play about with it for a bit. Convince yourself that you

really are keeping everything else the same in your experience.


Remember the 'no-pressure system' -- well, this is the 'no-doing



The strangeness of all this is rather like the strangeness of the

experiment with the electrical conductivity of your skin.  There, you

couldn't be sure what you were doing to produce the required result.  In

this case, equally, you're no longer listening to whether it's coming

out the way you think you *did* it.  Now it seems you're not *doing*

anything;  once you've set it up, there isn't anything else to *do* but

listen to the result.


In other words, to imagine it (and listen to it), *is to do it*.


The explanation for this, of course, is that the diaphragm is resisting

the abdominal muscles (which remain at constant tension) to a varying

degree.  But that is inaccessible to experience.  So our only feedback

is to listen to the result, and thus we establish a direct link with our

own sound.


How did I (we?) miss this?  I suppose, like most things, by not paying

close enough attention at the crucial moment.  Also, it's very much not

what you'd expect, and you have to be very careful to hold everything

constant to appreciate it.  But, as I shall spell out in a bit more

detail later, it explains lots, like how passagework becomes even by

itself, if we listen to it, and why we can play fast dotted rhythms

seemingly without effort if we *support* -- and here's the magic word!

Have you been confused, like me, by the way different people use this

term?  Doesn't it help to know it means the exact opposite of blowing?

or rather that it's an opposition or complement to blowing -- part of a

magic technique which works by your setting the only variable you leave

available to yourself (the flexion in your abdomen), at one strength and

then allowing the result to change according to your whim? -- a sort of

black box that you can't fiddle with, only use? -- dealer only service?

Isn't that wonderful?  (Doesn't it make you want to sing and shout?)


You can see that looking at it this way is a reversal of how support is

normally envisaged.  Normally, support is what stays constant while

action varies.  If we assign the role of support to the diaphragm, then

here it's the support that varies, whilst the action stays constant.  We

could of course say that you support with your abdomen and act with your

diaphragm outside your experience, in the opposite direction, and people

who are really clear about all this already (perhaps there are lots, I

don't know) may speak about it that way round.


At any rate, the situation is strange enough to be worthy of more

informed discussion than it gets.




Perhaps we can tie in here a well-known phenomenon on voice and flute,

looked at from this slightly different perspective.  Most singers and

flute players (though few clarinettists) have what is called a

'diaphragm vibrato', which they acquire and then refine, many of them

without really knowing how they do it.  Vibrato is spoken of in much the

same way as I have been speaking of support -- as a rather mysterious

and even magical part of playing which seems very closely connected with

the innermost being of the performer.  Teaching it seems to be largely a

question of setting up circumstances in which the student will "catch

on. physically to the idea.  It seems plausible to conjecture that this

is because the mechanism is a periodic variation of diaphragm flexion

outside awareness, and I find it possible to imagine that this sort of

vibrato occurs most naturally in circumstances where the opposition

abdomen/diaphragm is relatively small.  (Intuitively, when our movements

are larger, or faster and more free, we want to be as relaxed as

possible for best effect.  The forces 'tied up' in the oppositions

simply generate heat and tire us.)  Clarinet players have a slower

airstream, need more precise control, and so tend to play with stronger

support than flautists or singers; my guess is that this minimises the

chance that a diaphragm oscillation will arise and be developed as an

expressive device.  Notice that diaphragm vibrato is not unknown on the

more free-blowing saxophone, though of course stylistic considerations

enter considerably here.  Clarinet players who want to use vibrato

usually employ other means to achieve it.




When your abdominal muscles are flexed more than is required simply to

play at the dynamic you are delivering, you're using diaphragm support.

Your diaphragm is resisting your blowing, but you have the advantage of

very precise control over dynamics.  However, you still have to judge

whether the effect is what the music requires.  The rather 'careful'

quality of such dynamic control has a way of spilling over into other

aspects of one's playing, and this can need guarding against.  I am

thinking in particular of the sort of restrictions we can make in the

air column, limiting the resonance of our playing by, for example,

closing the throat.  It is easier to do this by mistake if we are

already committed to the diaphragm/abdomen opposition.  So it's worth

while practising keeping the air column as open as possible with maximum

support, rather as we sometimes practise playing fortissimo with a most

delicate finger action, and vice-versa.


But it has to be said that a very valid musical effect can be obtained

by precisely controlled resistance all along the line.  Debussy's 'doux

et penetrant' in the Rhapsodie, for example, can be played in this way.

And I've always felt that it isn't enough to play the solo in

Tschaikovsky's Pathetique merely beautifully.  It must represent the

loneliness that comes from expression through reluctance to express,

which reluctance has also to find expression.


Of course, you don't have to play with support.  Often, playing without

it has a light quality in low dynamics, suitable for short, floaty

phrases, and a grand, gestural quality when loud.  All the other

variables of tone-colour, resonance are still available.  The

appropriateness in the context of the music is always what counts.




I mentioned before that tennis players use opposition when they are

waiting for the serve.  Another way of describing what they are doing is

to say that they are storing energy so that it can be delivered fast,

and in the required direction, immediately they find out what that

direction is.  It is as though they are springing both to the left and

to the right at the moment the other player serves, but because the

muscles that would drive them to the left exactly balance the muscles

that would drive them to the right, there is no overall effect.  When it

turns out that the serve goes to the right, they simultaneously relax

the muscles driving them to the left, and begin to work harder with the

opposing set.  But they have a flying start, because of the initial

working of the muscles driving them to the right.


A bow-and-arrow is an energy storage system.  We do all the work of

bending the bow *before* we shoot, storing the energy that will be

released over a much shorter interval in order to throw the arrow far

faster and farther than we could by hand alone.


There is a useful analogy between the bent bow, which embodies a bow/arm

opposition, and playing with support, which embodies an

abdomen/diaphragm opposition.


In this analogy, the abdominal muscles correspond to the bow, and the

diaphragm to the arm.  The sudden delivery of energy common to both

would in the case of playing a wind instrument be what is required

either for a sudden change of dynamic between an adjacent pair of notes

(a sforzando or subito piano); or for a precisely controlled change of

air pressure to equalise the dynamic of an adjacent pair of notes with

different responses on the instrument.  Support enables us to do both of

these things easily and elegantly, and moreover *without knowing

precisely how*, so that it seems an automatic and natural ability.


Support is also useful for taking a fast, inconspicuous breath.  In the

bow-and-arrow analogy this would be like letting go the bow rather than

the arrow, which wouldn't be very useful -- but clearly relaxing the

abdominal muscles with the diaphragm already strongly flexed would

result in a maximum delivery of energy to draw in air over a short

timespan, which is precisely what we want.  And so it proves: to play

with support just before taking a breath guarantees both maximum

air-intake and precision of return to the playing position.  How?  We

simply bring our abdominal muscles back to the state of flexion they

were in just before the breath, and continue with the phrase.




The usefulness of this little discovery for me is that I find I'm now

much more able to accept and trust as rational what I often did before

instinctively, and to simplify my actions so that they have more chance

of success.  The support mechanism can be calibrated at the beginning of

a difficulty (translated: you decide how hard your abdomen should be)

and the calibration then changed until the setting that produces the

best effect is reached.  After practising in this way I find I often

need to do, and compute, less than I'd thought.  When teaching, it's

still difficult to stop people sticking to one way of playing which

isn't working, and now some of them think you should flex your abdomen

all the time, but -- 'twas ever thus.


A few more things to try:  what we mostly did already for an upward leap

-- support on the low note -- then, imagine the upper note as clearly as

possible, but concentrate on keeping the support constant.


Before a 'difficult' entry: breathe in against opposition, rather like

yawning, and time the top of the yawn to coincide with the moment of

entry.  As well as guaranteeing precise control, this tactic gives you

something to think about other than the thought that you may miss the



In medium speed articulation (like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony: repeated

pianissimo 'A's in the clarinet register) -- where it's often difficult

to guarantee an even response -- support, and then ask your diaphragm to

help!  The quality of this 'request' is important.  I don't mean you

actually do anything, in fact, quite the opposite, as I've explained.

It's more like letting go of the worry about having it be even,

realising that there's an inaccessible mechanism at work which may know

or learn what's necessary.  If you like, imagine writing your request on

a small piece of paper and swallowing it!  You have to realise that you,

consciously, have really no control over it.  I think this realisation

is most powerful.  The idea of giving in to a wiser self has often been

held out as the key to mastery in all sorts of traditions.  The

relinquishing of the idea of control is often all that's needed in this



I hope this little essay may stimulate some people to make discoveries

for themselves.  As I said before, I think the subject hasn't been well

served.  I've outlined one particular metaphor for playing that I find

useful, but anyone who wants to extend that metaphor is welcome to do

so, with the proviso that it should be a helpful extension.  There are

many connections to be made with other aspects of playing, and the

possibility of technical detachment going hand in hand with expressive

involvement is an ongoing project for all of us.


The creation of metaphors is arguably what we are about in all aspects

of music, but it's important to bear in mind that whilst these must have

some coherence, they are above all *personal*.


Antony Pay 1996






After reading numerous very interesting comments about the altissimo clarinet

register and related issues including "air support", I wondered if any one

would be interested in some comments about what air support might mean and if

any one had any comments of their own pro or contra?  This is something I had

in mind for an article but never fully completed it except in this rough form


(Everett J Austin, MD  San Francisco)

Blowing the single-reed instruments:  some comments on the abdominal and

especially laryngeal (glottal) functions


 Wind is one of the most vital elements in the playing of any wind

instrument, and this is certainly the case with the single reed instruments.

 A host of factors go into making music beautifully (or otherwise!) on these

instruments, but many if not most will agree that control of the "air column"

(la colonne d'air in French) is fundamental to good tone, intonation and to

attaining a range of expressive capacity in the areas of dynamics and tone

color.  The instrumental variables are enormous as well, but assuming an

instrument that is well-designed and in good repair, a good mouthpiece

(easier said than done!) with a good reed balanced and matched to its facing,

a variety of very musical sounds can be produced, determined in large part by

what the player's ear wants, and not dictated completely by the instrument

and the player's anatomy (without denying the obvious influence of these

mechanical and anatomical factors!).

 Perhaps this is why it is often easy to recognize the "sound" of a given

player, even when they play a different "set-up", and why one cannot always

tell whether a clarinetist is playing on a clarinet of French, English,

German or Viennese design:  the desire to produce a certain sound helps our

bodies find a way to bring it to our ears if the instrument does not

interpose physically unsurmountable barriers.  Pamela Weston's book, Clarinet

Virtuosi is full of references to this phenomenon.

 To manufacture an absurd example (a "thought experiment" that physicists are

so fond of):  what if Acker Bilk and Karl Leister "swapped horns"?  For

hygienic and geographical reasons this would probably never occur, but if it

did, one can be fairly certain that each would sound much more like himself

than the other, because that is how he wants to sound.  How could this be?

 Partly due to their anatomical differences (size and shape of oral, nasal

and chest cavities, etc.) and use of embouchure, but probably in large part

to how the airflow is managed (consciously or subconsciously) in relation to

these relatively fixed instrumental and physical factors (which, of course

are extremely important, but are not the focus of this discussion, except to

affirm here that it seems to be fixed physical characteristics which seem to

guarantee a certain uniqueness of sound, sometimes to the frustration of the

player who may wish to emulate exactly a much-admired model.)  In this short

essay, I would like to specify some of the ways in which control of the wind

occurs in the body of the player, in the hope that an awareness of this

anatomy may help players get the sounds that their ear desires more reliably.

 Air control is often emphasized in didactic writings, usually an exhortation

to "provide adequate air support", but rarely are all anatomical variables

accurately described.  The term "diaphragm" is often incorrectly used to

refer to the supportive muscles of the abdominal wall and back and imaginary

diaphragmatic functions such as forceful exhalation may be conjured up.

 Whereas the diaphragm is an important but fairly thin muscular partition

between the abdominal and thoracic (chest) cavities.  The main function of

the diaphragm is to prevent entry of the intestines into the chest and to

expand the lungs during inspiration (breathing in).  Expiration (blowing out)

and "air support" is a function of the elastic properties of the thorax and

of the muscular contraction of the abdominal, intercostal (rib) and flank

muscles.  A recent article in The Clarinet should clarify these notions for

most.   The most dimly understood areas of the respiratory apparatus,

however, appear to be the larynx ("voice box") and oropharynx ("throat").

 Keith Stein makes a passing reference to the larynx in his superb treatise

on playing the clarinet and David Liebman makes specific reference to it in

his book on saxophone tone production.  Fred Hemke is fairly explicit about

this in his short and  cogent but unfortunately out of print pamphlet on the

saxophone (at one time available from Selmer), but by and large the "throat"

is a mysterious dark cavern to most players and teachers, even though

consciously or subconsciously it is can have very important positive and

negative influences on tone and intonation.

 The larynx (glottis) has obvious functions in speaking and singing: this is

where phonation occurs (where the sound is made).  In whispering and in

playing an instrument like the clarinet or saxophone, the larynx assumes a

slightly different role, that of an essentially silent valve (a pair of folds

of tissue held at various distances apart to regulate air passage into the

throat from the lungs) regulating air flow and balancing the pressure of the

abdominal (respiratory) muscles.    John Jessen in Seattle made me aware of

this function, since it has always been one of the central points of his

teaching of good centered tone and intonation on single reed instruments.

 Now in his mid-eighties, he credits his early teacher Merle Johnson for this

and was told by Johnson that these concepts came from study with French

players such as Marcel Mule.  I have informally surveyed a number of teachers

and players about this about the larynx or "throat" and generally find that

they are at best vague about this region of the anatomy.  I suspect in most

good players it is entirely unconsciously controlled.  I spoke with an ear

nose and throat surgeon who is a excellent clarinet player and former student

of Ralph McLane and Daniel Bonade, who knows this anatomy quite intimately

and acknowledged its relevance, but had never given it much thought in his

playing, nor did his teachers.

 The most familiar physical analogy for the glottal or laryngeal function

would be the garden hose analogy:  the faucet (respiratory muscles) varies

the pressure of the water (air column) and the nozzle (larynx) controls the

size of the opening through which the water (air) may flow.  Thus, the water

pressure at the faucet and the opening of the nozzle are two independent

variables which produce a wide variety of combinations of water (air)

velocity (speed) and flow-rate (volume of water (air) per unit time).  If the

faucet is opened we get more volume and pressure and some increase in

velocity and if the nozzle is closed we get the same volume but at a much

higher velocity.

 Of course, this is all very simple, and playing a variety of instruments

from the bass saxophone to the E-flat clarinet is not, but the concept is

still potentially useful in understanding what goes on in ideal conditions

and also in trouble-shooting.  There are other variables including the

resistance (impedance) of the reed-mouthpiece/instrument combination and how

that varies with different pitches and also different embouchure variables

(pressure, longitudinal placement on the reed, etc).  In general, however,

the instrumental resistance should be less than that of the larynx:

 otherwise, one is not "supporting the air column", but blowing against the

instrument.  This latter approach can be done and has been advocated with an

extremely resistant set-up, but would seem to allow for considerably less

tonal flexibility and more precarious intonation.  Thus this discussion

assumes a resistant but somewhat somewhat free-blowing (responsive)

instrumental set-up.

 Now to give this abstract discussion a concrete example which should be

easily appreciated, except by specialists, compare the proper blowing of a

low saxophone with that of a high clarinet (or any sax with any clarinet).  A

bass or baritone saxophone requires a large voume of air at a slow air speed

to produce a full, centered sound, so the larynx is wide open or nearly so

and the respiratory muscles are making a big controlled exhalation.  The

E-flat or B-flat clarinet require a much smaller volume of air at a much

higher air speed to produce a properly centered tone with good intonation ,

so the abdominal muscles are firmer and the glottal opening smaller to give a

jet of air to the reed.  If the high clarinet is blown like a saxophone, it

may sound ok ("big" perhaps?) but not round and centered and will lack

projection and add intonation problems (in particular flat and

unfocussed/blaring/flaring in the upper clarion and higher) to an already

imperfect instrument.  If the big saxophone is blown like the small clarinet?

 Expect a visit from the Humane Society.  Within the clarinet and the

saxophone families, similar considerations regarding the general ranges of

air speed and volume apply depending largely on the size of the instrument in

relation to its sibs, but not as dramatic as in the above example.

 The details of exactly how the airflow should be ideally varied in the

playing of various individual clarinets and saxophones is a fairly detailed

and complex subject to articulate, and in the end is determined by the

player's desire to sound a certain way, by intent listening and by the the

player's body ultimately making the adjustments necessary to satisfy the ear

(brain) of the player.  I will not go into these details here, but in general

terms the low notes on these instruments require a greater volume of air at a

slower speed and the higher notes require a higher air speed with generally

less volume.  Variation in dynamics introduces an additional complication,

whereby (in one school of playing) playing softer takes less air volume but a

firm support with a correspondingly faster airjet to maintain focus and

pitch.  At this point, still other potential (and useful) variables can be

cautiously mentioned, which must themselves be understood, mastered and put

in their proper place.  These include: tongue position (generally should not

be obstructive but should focus the airstream at the tip of the reed, raising

arch of tongue raises pitch and may assist altissimo, lowering tongue arch

lowers pitch), as well as embouchure pressure and pivot point of jaw pressure

on reed (should not overly inhibit reed vibration, rolling jaw forward

slightly assists production of altissimo).

 What is the point of all these references to human anatomy and elementary

physics in the context of the art of music?  Mainly that the analysis and

real understanding of technique can extend profitably beyond more

approachable areas like fingerings and fiddling with reeds and sometimes help

us know what we are doing right and what we might do better.  Ultimately,

however, after these matters have been consciously processed, they should

again become largely unconscious good habits which are merely the wherewithal

for making music they way we would like to hear it, which is our raison

d'etre anyway!

 Everett J. Austin, MD  September 3, 1995






I received an email question recently from somebody who was having

difficulty sustaining breath support while playing.  In my attempt to

address their question, I found myself several hours later in the middle

of a lengthy explication on the subject of breathing technique and phy-

sical relaxation.  I decided to go ahead and finish that essay, and invite

all of you to read it and make comments, as well as ask questions.  I

cite no references in this essay, because my only source for the infor-

mation is my own experience as a player.  Thus, all statements are

tacitly preceded by the caveat, “In my opinion…” 


> My problem is: my long tones last 15 seconds (and the

> last seconds my body became so stiff)


I assumeПРЕДПОЛАГАТЬ that you wish to extendПРОДЛИТЬ the length of time that you

can play a passage before you need to take a breath.  Your sen-

tenceПРЕДЛОЖЕНИЕ above, especially the portion

 in parenthesesИНТЕРМЕДИЯ, reveal s ОБНАРУЖИВАТЬ a

sort of ‘secret’ about clarinet playing that many players never

actually recognizeПРИЗНАВАТЬ УЗНАВАТЬ.  I need to say a few more things before I

discuss the secret.


The most difficult and important obstacle that a clarinet player

must solve while developing their technique does not pertain to

the fingers, or the tongue, or the embouchure -- although each of

these areas is greatly affected by the obstacle in question.  I'm

talking about physical tension.  In your sentence above, you write,

"...and in the last seconds my body becomes stiff."  When your body

becomes stiff, your muscles contract, you grip the instrument more

tightly than normal, and nothing seems to work quite properly any

more.  The primary reason that most clarinetists never reach their

full technical potential on the instrument is that they never devel-

op the ability to invoke and sustain physical relaxation on command. 

If you can develop the ability to relax your muscles and allow them to

*remain* relaxed while you play, all other difficulties (embouchure,

air, tongue, fingers, etc.) become much easier to resolve and refine. 

With the presence of physical tension, you will never reach the point

where playing the clarinet is effortless.  It is my philosophy that

all players should strive for the point where playing the clarinet

is a relaxing, effortless activity.  You will meet very few clarinet

players who claim to have achieved this -- even among profession-



Achieving excellence on the clarinet largely involves "getting out

of your own way."  Rather than being an issue of undeveloped muscle

memory and inadequately developed technique (things that are very

easily rectified), much of what keeps people from becoming better

players is the interference of negative habits and techniques that

already exist when they play.  Many of these problems are completely

invisible to the player, which is why it's so valuable to receive

feedback from a teacher or fellow player, to point out things in your

playing of which you may not be consciously aware.  The main point:

most of these bad habits and poor techniques arise in an unconscious

attempt to compensate for muscles that are too tense to operate ef-

fectively.  Eliminate the tension, and the path is cleared for those

muscles to be reconditioned to operate to their optimum capacity and

effect.  I am convinced that if the technique for conscious physical

relaxation were emphasized with equal consistency as embouchure,

finger, and tongue exercises, the beginning player would develop

twice as quickly as is typically the case.


Okay, so what's the 'secret'?  You alluded to part of it in your very

first sentence.  You indicated that, as you exhausted your air supply,

your body became stiff and tense.  This is a conditioned reflex, not an

autonomic function of the body.  It is possible to replace this reflex

with a habit that enables you to remain relaxed as you play.  And, quite

naturally, once the new positive reflex is in place, you will discover

that you've also succeeded in extending the length of time that you can

play without needing to take a breath -- your original goal.  But this

is merely one of dozens of technical doors which will open wider for

you as a result of avoiding physical tension.  Potential will rise

dramatically in all areas of technique, from the embouchure to the

tongue to the fingers, and everywhere else.  Intuitively, you might

think that running out of air is what originally caused you to become

physically tense.  But there is a conceptual layer one level beneath:

had you been genuinely relaxed before you released the original breath,

you would not have run out of air nearly as quickly in the first place,

nor would you have experienced the debilitating physical tension that

you subsequently described. 


Generating physical relaxation or, more accurately, conditioning

your body such that tension-inducing reflexes no longer occur, is

a three-part process.  And yes, the diaphragm and abdominal muscles

are naturally part of it -- Part 1.  Parts 2 and 3 deal more (al-

though not exclusively) with psychology and conceptual understand-

ing than with direct physical action.


As has been understood for some time, the diaphragm is an involun-

tary muscle which expands as part of the body's autonomic breathing

function.  When you're not thinking about how to breathe, your brain

does it for you by automatically expanding the diaphragm outward,

which (somehow) creates a vacuum in your lungs and draws air inward. 

When the brain senses that enough oxygen has been received, it relaxes

the diaphragm and lets the abdominal muscles push the abdomen back

into a normal state of rest.  This causes the air in the lungs to be

expelled, and the process is repeated, ad infinitum (we wish). 


Now we get to the real substance of the issue.  Playing the clarinet

is not an autonomic function (although people like Karl Leister make

you wonder sometimes), and the act of breathing is a conscious one

in this case.  This is actually to our advantage -- it would be a

serious problem if we could not assume manual control of our breath-

ing process on command.  Whether conscious or autonomic, it is only

when the diaphragm is relaxed that the abdominal muscles will automat-

ically compress the abdomen back into a state of rest, expelling the

air from the lungs in the process.  It stands to reason, then, that

if we can somehow prevent the diaphragm from relaxing (when the lungs

have been filled with air), the abdominal muscles will not contract,

and the air will not be forced out of the lungs nearly as quickly as

when we breathe unconsciously.  In fact, if the diaphragm is forced

to remain in a perpetually expanded state, the air in the lungs will

never be expelled at all.  We're shooting for something a little less

extreme than this, but not by very much.  Here's part 1 of the re-

laxation technique, which is inextricably linked to how we breathe

when playing the clarinet, as well as to what we do with our bodies

before and after the air has been inhaled.  Mind you, this is only a

third of the prescription, and is not meant to be applied in isolation.

You must apply parts 1, 2, and 3 together in order to get the full ef-

fect of the technique:


Part 1



1. WithOUT the clarinet in hand, inhaleВДЫХАТЬ

deeplyГЛУБОКО by expandingРАСШИРЕНИЯ first

    from the diaphragm area, such that the abdomen is fully extendedРАСШИРИТСЯ. 

    When teaching this technique to fellow undergraduate students, I

    often found myself using the phrase, "Make yourself look fat." 

    When it didn't get chuckles, the idea seemed to produce the

    correct effect.


   Now let me repeat a phrase from a previous paragraph:


   "If the diaphragm is forced to remainОСТАВАТЬСЯ in a perpetuallyПОСТОЯННО expanded

    state, the air in the lungs will never be expelledВЫТОЛКАН."


   Once you've experienced this concept in application, and actually

   understand it viscerally, it's a short step forward to recognize

   its power when applied to clarinet technique.  If the diaphragm is

   forced to remain in an ALMOST completely expanded state while play-

   ing clarinet, you suddenly achieve enormous control over how much

   -- and how quickly -- the air is expelled from the lungs.


2. Apply the above breathing instructions in the context of taking a

    breath, for the purpose of producing a tone on the clarinet. However:

    do not relax the diaphragm when you begin to release the air across

    the reed and into the mouthpiece.  Continue to "make yourself look

    fat".  Clearly, according to my own description, the diaphragm must

    relax at least a tiny bit in order for the abdominal muscles to push

    the air out of the lungs.  The power of this technique is in the know-

    ledge that you possess total control over how quickly those abdominal

    muscles will be allowed to contract, based entirely on how much you

    decide to relax the diaphragm.  Remember, the abdominal muscles will

    only contract and expel the air to the degree to which you allow the

    diaphragm to relax.


3. 1 & 2 above may remain opaque or nebulous in terms of practicality

    until Parts 2 and 3 below are applied in conjunction.


Part 2:



You will remember that the early part of this essay focused heavily

on the effects of physical tension relative to clarinet technique.  I

promised that I would provide a means for consciously invoking physical

relaxation on command and, in fact, I already have.  Part 1 (above) is

that technique, albeit incomplete.  Here's the rest:


1. Physical tension is non-discriminatory.  It has no preference relative to

   where it ultimately resides in the body, and only responds to muscle ac-

   tions and reflexes that we cause to occur, consciously and otherwise.  Most

   often, it is generated subconsciously.  Since it can form and manifest it-

   self in any given area of the body, the only practical way to avoid it is

   to develop a means for preventing it from occurring *anywhere* in the body,

   from the very start.


2. There is only one place in the entire body where tension has no negative

   effect on clarinet technique.  This is also the only place in the body where

   tension actually has a *positive* effect, because of the simultaneous con-

   trol and physical relaxation that it produces everywhere *else*.  Where is

   this magical place?  You guessed it: the diaphragm.  Here's why:


   a. Tension in any muscular group other than the diaphragm causes those

      muscles to lose their optimal flexibility and strength, be they in the

      face, the fingers, the throat, or inside the mouth (i.e.; the tongue).

      This restricts your ability to consciously manipulate those muscles

      to optimum effect.  Your goal is optimal functionality of all muscle

      groups, even the ones not directly involved in playing the clarinet,

      unrestricted by any involuntary contractive impulses and, simulta-

      neously, facilitated by relevant muscle memory reflexes that have

      been developed in favor of optimal clarinet technique. 


       Example: finger dexterity and smoothness of technique are at their

       most refined when the fingers are placed a certain very close distance

       away from their corresponding tone holes and keys at all times.  The

       fingers do not assume this optimal distance automatically, and must be

       conditioned via slow practice and repetition over time to do so.  Fur-

       thermore, even when the fingers have been conditioned to assume the

       optimal configuration, they will not necessarily operate in the desired

       smooth and facile manner that was intended.  Unconscious tension in

       the fingers (which may have been there from the start, or may have

       traveled via the legs, to the shoulders, to the arms and hands) will

       confound any advantage that has been created via optimally programmed

       muscle memory.  When tension is introduced into a given muscle group,

       muscle memory does not work as well as intended.  Whether the tension

       was in the fingers from the start, or whether it started elsewhere and

       traveled to the fingers, all of your hard work at conditioning the fing-

       ers to be poised close to the instrument will never come to full frui-

       tion until you simultaneously develop a reflex to prevent tension from

       entering those wonderfully conditioned muscles.


       Another example: a light and agileЛОВКИЙ,ПРОВОРНЫЙ tongue – one that can move quickly

       and also effortlessly effect the full range of articulation styles – must

       be conditioned to poise itself very close to the tip of the reed at all

       times.  Much like with the fingers, optimal functionality of the tongue

       involves very fine muscular motion within a very narrowly defined range

       of distance.  It is this fine muscle control – whichever area of clarinet

       technique is being discussed – that is confounded by unwanted physical

       tension, causing the muscle to work against the memory which has been so

       meticulously conditioned into it. 


   b. Tension will travel from one muscle group to another in response to

       conditioned reflexes.


   c. Since control of the diaphragm is an issue of consciously forcing it

       to remain expanded outward (in order to manipulate the volume and

       speed of air release,) constant muscular force is required with the



   d. (Following from b. and c.) When constant muscular force is applied

       to keeping the diaphragm expanded, it is possible to release all

       superfluous muscular force being applied everywhere else (i.e.; fing-

       ers, tongue, throat, embouchure).  This is key, per the examples pro-

       vided above, since the absence of tension enables positively condi-

       tioned reflexes to work in an optimal fashion.


3. Muscular tension in any muscle group *beyond* the fingers, face, throat,

   and tongue (e.g.; the shoulders, the quadriceps, the biceps, the neck, etc.)

   will unavoidably travel to one of these aforementioned vital muscle groups

   and confound optimal functionality -- unless a mechanism is engaged that

   will prevent this tension from being generated anywhere in the first place. 

   Usage of the diaphragm, as described in Part 1, is the mechanism in question.


a.         Again: the diaphragm is the only muscle (it’s a muscular membrane)

        that has a positive effect on clarinet playing when compelledЗАСТАВЛЯТЬ to re-

        main in a state of flexion.  When air is inhaled, and the diaphragm

        is consciously expanded and held in place, all other muscle groups

        in the body are free to relax and release whatever flexion may exist

        prior to taking in the breath of air.  For the purpose of clarinet

        playing, those muscles should relax and release *before* the dia-

        phragm is expanded and the air inhaled into the lungs.  Start by

        allowing all muscles to relax first, *then* simultaneously expand

        the diaphragm and inhale.


Part III



Most players are so accustomed to the presence of physical tension throughout

Their bodies that it feels awkward and unsettling to play without it.  Tension

provides an unproductive psychological anchor to which many players cling,

thinking that without this counter-productive muscular resistance, they have

no means to manipulate those muscles when playing.  Only when playing has

been experienced without this tension will the power of fine muscular control

and motion become fully accessible.*  Then it becomes a matter of developing

the muscles such that *only* that fine type of control is ever used – never to

return to the coarse and exaggerated motion which characterized the originally

tension-ridden playing.  Once the floating sensation of playing without tension

is experienced and identified, it becomes a matter of invoking that sensation

every time you play, in exactly the same manner that you condition certain

muscles to operate within a narrow range of physical distance.  How? 

Practice, of course.


* (This “power” takes different forms, depending on the clarinet technique in

   question.  In the embouchure, for example, it takes the form of delicate yet

   firm support of the mouthpiece and reed, using only the lips in an “ooh”

   configuration, as if sucking on a drinking straw, except that you are blow-

   ing.  No jaw motion.  Manipulations of tone quality, of intonation, of reed

   response – all occur via infinitesimal muscular adjustments in the embou-

   chure, imperceptible to the naked eye, yet fully perceptible and control-

   able by the player, in conjunction with limitless control of the air

   stream via the diaphragm.)


The following statements use similar language, but each is a separate concept

in the sequence of learning how to play without physical tension, ultimately

effecting optimum functionality in all areas of clarinet technique toward ef-

fortless playing.  Maxim: if you find something difficult about playing the

clarinet, look first to identify any sources of tension.  Address the tension

first, then move forward with the conditioning of those muscles involved in

making that area of performance an effortless one.


1. After learning how to manipulate air flow via an expanded diaphragm,

   you must practice *maintaining* the diaphragm in an expanded state at

   all times while playing, systemically focusing all physical tension in

   that single area of the body, thereby allowing all other muscles to relax.


2. After learning how to maintain the diaphragm in an extended state while

   playing, you must practice releasing the tension and flexion in all other

   muscles *before* invoking the diaphragm technique in the first place.  

   Let the body relax as you sit or stand.  From this state of rest, breathe

   in and expand the diaphragm.


3. After learning how to relax all other muscles prior to inhaling, you must

   practice maintaining that relaxation after releasing the air into the instru-

   ment, which involves focusing your mental attention simultaneously on (1) the

   physical sensation of maintaining a continuously expanded diaphragm and (2)

   the physical sensation of the fact that all other muscles are still free of

   tension while you play.


4. After learning how to begin and continue playing with relaxed muscles,

   where the diaphragm is the only muscle in the body that is actively and

   consciously flexed at all times, you are at liberty to develop maximum

   facility of fine muscular motion in all areas of clarinet technique, which

   will result in the realization of your maximum  potential as a clarinetist.


    a. Optimum facility of fine muscular motion is easy to develop, but it

       takes time and discipline.  It first involves constant vigilance to en-

       sure that tension never creeps back into the body, something that can

       be assured by maintaining the diaphragm in its extended state.


    b. Further definition of what constitutes proper development of fine

       muscular control and motion requires face-to-face guidance, which

       is plainly beyond the scope of this essay.




This is about as much as I can say on the subject of breathing technique

and physical relaxation without feedback from readers, i.e.; comments and

questions relative to the content of this essay.  I will make one last obser-



Have you ever been excited or upset or agitated, and somebody said to you,

“Calm down.  Take a deep breath.”?  If you heeded their advice, you may

have noticed that the act of taking a deep breath did indeed have a calming

effect on your state-of-mind and body.  This is an issue I did not formally

discuss in the above essay, yet it is useful to recognize it as a facilitat-

ing by-product of proper breathing technique on the clarinet.  The brain

craves oxygen at all times.  When the brain senses that it is not receiving

enough oxygenated blood, it will send signals to the rest of the body and

quickly force you to address the issue.  That’s what yawning is all about. 

When you’re physically fatigued, the body’s autonomic breathing function is

slightly repressed, and you take in less oxygen than the brain considers

acceptable.  The brain triggers the yawn reflex in this case, in effect forc-

ing you to compensate for the fact that you’re not breathing as deeply as



This wraps nicely around to the person’s question which prompted the

entire essay above.  A person wrote to me, “My problem is: my long tones

last 15 seconds (and in the last seconds my body becomes stiff).”  That

stiffness – the physical tension that arises as we run out of air while play-

ing – is an autonomic reflex of the brain, which “thinks” that it is being

denied the oxygen it requires to function.  Relaxing the muscles before

playing, then breathing deeply, establishes a foundation of relaxation upon

which the playing you’re going to do may be optimally constructed.  The

brain receives a fresh dose of oxygenated blood, prompting it to allow your

body’s muscles to *stay* relaxed while you use your air to generate a tone

on the clarinet.  Via the diaphragm, you draw all tension away from the

body’s muscles, centering it in the abdominal region, allowing you to

sustain physical relaxation in all other muscle locations, even as you

reach the point of fully exhausting that original intake of air.  Hence,

all areas of technique will remain consistent to the end of the musical

phrase.  Your tone will not go thin or sharp, your fingers will not begin

to slow down and grip the instrument more tightly, your embouchure

will not pinch down on the reed as if in an attempt to squeeze more

oxygen out of it for consumption by the brain.  And when you reach

the end of the air supply for that phrase, you simply take in more air,

continuing to use the expanded diaphragm technique to manage and

manipulate air flow and physical relaxation.  When these things are

working well together, it’s natural that the mind begins to relax as

well.  This is when it becomes possible to achieve effortless playing

of the clarinet.


-- Neil




On Fri, 11 Oct 1996, Jonathan Cohler wrote:


> One of the major elements of "centering" your sound, and producing a

> "clear", "free blowing" sound is properly aligning the reed resonance with

> one of the strong resonance peeks of the air column.


John follows the above statement with further scientific data concerning

nodes and pitch frequencies and resonance cutoff points and such.  I've not

seen any responses to his recent posts which engaged him specifically in

terms of his technical discourse -- most likely because very few of us

really understand how the data relate to our desire to improve as players.

Physicists and acousticians on the list may very well be nodding their heads

in favorable observation of scientific principles being used to explain

phsyical phenomena -- and indeed, it is invaluable for those with a desire

to understand *why* nodes and frequencies and resonance cutoff points affect

our playing.  But when talking about improving one's abilities as a

clarinetist, I suspect more interest is directed toward clarinet-specific

experience and terminology, offering understanding of *how* to play better,

as opposed to why it works in narrow scientific terms.


For those clarinetists on the list who also understand wave theory and the

physics of sound production, John's comments probably make perfect sense

and might even help a few of them answer questions about their own playing.

But for the rest of us, John, can you offer us information based more on your

personal experience of your own growth process and

physical sensations informed you in the direction of arriving at your

present level of playing excellence?  Or did you really learn clarinet by

consciously applying physical scientific principles to your daily

practice regimen as a student?  We want to tap into your knowledge and

experience, but we also want to understand what you're saying.  Help!


> Now there are only two variables (assuming a fixed mouthpiece, reed and

> ligature) that we can control to effect reed resonance.  Those two

> variables are amount of pressure and PLACEMENT of pressure.  And they

> accomplish different things (so you cannot substitute one for the other).


I won't attempt to contest this statement, because I can neither prove

nor disprove its validity. I simply don't know enough about the physics

(or the relevance, for that matter) of "reed resonance" to digest what

has been written above.  I'll just assume it is correct and try to

add something more to it.  My own experience of achieving optimum reed

response and clarinet tone -- and thus, flexibility in all areas of tone

production -- involves determining on a per-reed basis the lowest

possible contact point between the reed and my lower lip which will

still allow me to produce a controllable tone.  As I stated in a recent

post, emphasis on the embouchure as some kind of device for *producing*

tone is a mistake (John does not say this, but he also makes no mention

of certain other highly germane elements of tone production).  I believe,

based on my own personal results, that formation and conditioning of the

embouchure should be undertaken contingent upon allowing a focused air

stream to initiate and manipulate the quality of tone.  The embouchure

muscles need to be conditioned and well-developed, without question,

because their primary function is to facilitate, via the air stream, free

vibration of the reed.  Where many students perceive the embouchure

muscles as things which press inward upon the reed and mouthpiece, I

suggest that merely the lips and sides of the mouth should exert any

pressure, and the surrounding facial muscles -- and jaw bone -- should be

conditioned to relax, allowing the air stream to do the "work".  Much

like conditioning the diaphragm muscle to push downward and outward when

playing -- which is in direct opposition to how it is designed to naturally

*contract* -- one should endeavor to condition the facial muscles to

relax rather than push purposefully inward against the mouthpiece and

reed. Once the muscles have been toned and conditioned to relax,

attention should focus on the delicate vibratory sensations detectable

(very acutely) by the lips alone, in combination with manipulating the *air

stream* when attempting to manipulate tone and response.


How does one bring all of this mumbo-jumbo to fruition?  Drop the jaw --

open the mouth with the embouchure intact on the mouthpiece -- as far as

you possibly can.  In fact, even before involving the embouchure, start by

opening your mouth as wide as you possibly can, in an "ahhhh" formation,

as if you had just won the lottery and were registering the surprise on

your face (no need to open the eyes wide, in this case).  With your jaw

fully extended downward like this, one of the first things you notice is

that the sides of the mouth are automatically pulled taut and inward toward

the center.  What you also notice, if you're looking in a mirror, is that the

chin is wonderfully, perfectly flat -- and if you merely curled the lower

lip inward a little bit while keeping your mouth wide open, you would

have a picture-perfect lower half of your embouchure.  In other words,

make an "oh" with your lips while your mouth is still wide open.


Having performed the above, close your mouth again and relax a little.

Breathe perfectly normally throughout the following exercise, through

your nose when necessary.  Now, with your clarinet assembled and your

mouthpiece attached (including a reed), do the following: Open your mouth

-- not all the way this time, but enough that you can insert the mouthpiece

without making any contact with your lips.  Now insert the tip of the

mouthpiece into your mouth normally -- as if you were about to play -- and

simply enclose the mouthpiece with your lips *without_exerting_ANY_muscular_

_pressure_whatsoever* from the lips, the facial muscles, or the jaw.  Your

whole face should be completely relaxed, such that the lips are merely in

contact with the mouthpiece, enclosing it with a light seal.  In this

configuration, now drop the jaw like you did before -- as open as you

possibly can -- while keeping the embouchure on the mouthpiece.  With the

mouthpiece in the mouth, and the jaw dropped all the way, form an "oh" or

an "ooh" -- with the LIPS.  Remember, no tension or flexion of the facial

muscles at any point -- just the lips.  You may find, when you drop the

jaw, that the lower lip comes off of the mouthpiece.  What this tells you

is something you already knew: the jaw is able to drop to such an extent

that the lower lip can be pulled _completely_off_of_the_reed by dropping

the jaw.  This piece of information is important because it demonstrates

that the embouchure can be in contact with the reed without any pressure

from the jaw whatsoever.  This is what you're shooting for.  The way to

achieve it is just like I explained: Form the embouchure and then drop the

jaw as far as you can, to the point immediately before the lower lip

comes off of the reed.  Now say "oh" with the lips while still pushing the

jaw downward, and voila:  you've achieved the perfect embouchure.  What's

left is conditioning and strengthening the facial muscles in this

position, in addition to learning how to create and sustain a focused air

stream.  Then you have to combine the two elements, which is an even

greater challenge.


Think of the facial muscles and embouchure in analogous terms to how you

should also understand use of the air supply: It doesn't take very much air

at all to initiate vibration of the reed.  Beginning students, who have no

concept whatsoever of what it means to support or focus an air stream, equate

volume of sound with the volume of air being released into the mouthpiece.  An

advanced player capitalizes on the power of the diaphragm -- NOT by using this

powerful muscle to force more air into the mouthpiece, but by sustaining

abdominal pressure which, in turn, sustains a continuously forward-directed

air stream from the lungs, through the wind pipe, into the oral cavity,

and across the reed into the clarinet.  By developing the diaphragm's

strength and ability to sustain and support an air stream, one is able to

use an increasingly *smaller* quantity of air to produce *greater* volume

for longer periods of time.  How?  If the air is produced under constant

pressure from the diaphragm, there must be another way to regulate its

velocity, such that it can be used to manipulate reed vibration and

response.  When you run water through a garden hose, diminishing the

opening of the hose with the tip of your finger causes the water to rush out

faster, while less of it seems to be escaping at the same time.  You can

do that with your air as well, by manipulating the throat, tongue, and oral

cavity such that the air which does escape is focused prior to reaching

the embouchure.  That's the key to using the diaphragm as a SUPPORT

device, rather than using it as a FORCE device.  You use it only to

pressurize the air, while using other "body parts" to manipulate the

otherwise unfocused (but supported) air stream before it reaches the



This idea of support vs. force applies to the embouchure itself.  If you

use the concepts from the previous paragraph analogously, you can equate

the lips with the air stream, and the surrounding facial muscles with the

diaphragm.  The lips are the only part of the face which are in any

contact with the reed and mouthpiece.  Again, no upward pressure from the

jaw pushing the lower teeth into the lower lip.  The jaw is pushed

downward as far away from the reed as possible without actually

disengaging the lower lip.  "But then how does the embouchure support the

air stream and vibration of the reed?"  The lips themselves aren't very

strong.  But those surrounding muscles -- in the sides of the mouth,

above the upper lips, and *especially* in the chin and outlining the jaw --

are quite strong.  Think again about the air.  If just the lungs and chest

are used to blow air into the mouthpiece, it's a feeble stream of air at best.

But by invoking the power of the diaphragm, you are able to bolster the

force and velocity of the air stream dramatically without any additional

strain on the chest or lungs (beyond breathing deeply and filling them up

with air, of course).  While the lips are not powerful, you can use the

surrounding musculature to lend the necessary support in order to support

the air stream and reed vibration.  And it takes practice.  You have to

practice *using* those muscles, invoking them by making yourself refrain

from using the jaw, making sure that only the lips are exerting pressure

on the mouthpiece.  As I said in a previous post, there is absolutely no

way the lips, by themselves, can exert the kind of pressure which could

possibly inhibit vibration of the reed.  And something I failed to

mentioned earlier in the exercise concerning opening your mouth wide: it

obviously increases the volume of your oral cavity.   This gives the

tongue room to position itself for optimum articulation, and for optimum

flexibility when focusing the air stream.


> Certainly, it is possible to find an optimal average placement of the

> pressure on a reed.  And this is of course what we should refer to in

> teaching students a nice "stable" embouchure. Equally as certain,

> however, is that without some adjustments to the PLACEMENT, in addition

> to the amount, of pressure one CANNOT achieve optimal sound production

> on all notes of the clarinet. >


I partially disagree with this notion and, in essence, I believe I also

disagree with its fundamental assertion.  Something I stated earlier in

this post was with respect to placement of the lower lip on the reed.  My

very successful practice has been to determine, on a per-reed basis, the

lowest possible contact point between my lower lip and the reed, which

will still enable me to produce a controllable tone in all registers, given

my ability to manipulate the air stream and the very subtle pressure

modulations from my embouchure. I take in a commensurate amount of

mouthpiece in order to accomodate how low on the reed I go.  Regardless

of mouthpiece and ligature considerations, it is a very simple matter to

determine how much reed can be taken into the mouth before it is

impossible not to squeak -- assuming the reed is not prone to squeaking

as a design flaw.  I look for that point and then place the lower lip

just above it on the reed.  I've effectively discovered the lowest

fulcrum point, where the greatest possible amount of reed is vibrating,

subject now simply to minute adjustments of embouchure pressure and air

stream focus in order to manipulate the sound and make music.  Any

adjustments of embouchure are with respect to pressure only (and are of

the smallest and most delicate degree), for I do not modulate the contact

point between my lower lip and the reed in question.  When I take a

breath during performance, I've already memorized how much mouthpiece to

take in and know exactly where to replace my lower lip.  If you were to

watch my embouchure during peformance, you would see practically no

movement whatsoever, and certainly no adjustment of placement on the reed.


> However, to those who would advocate this position, I would ask:


>         What is your reason for limiting your playing capability?


What I've discovered is that by determining a given reed's greatest

potential for vibration prior to uncontrollabe squeaking, I've

effectively eliminated the reed as a variable and have made it part of

the "control" in the grand clarinet playing "experiment" each time I

play.  I achieve the greatest possible range in dynamics and expression for

that given reed by giving it the greatest opportunity to produce sound within

its potential. The rest of the adjustments come from me, where my ability to

adjust air stream focus, velocity, and volume -- in addition to infinitesimal

modulations of pressure from my lips -- facilitate every manner of

expressive capacity on the instrument.


>         And remember the answer "Well, when I move my embouchure, I have

>         difficulties," is not a valid answer, as that is a blanket

>         statement that is true of any new technique being learned.


I used to adjust position on the reed, and then I discovered how powerful

and flexible my air could be...and the embouchure eventually just became a

fixed yet facile aperture which allowed the air to do the work almost

entirely by itself.






Air Speed - What is it and How Can Controlling it Help Your Playing? ?

Roger Garrett

I was teaching an adult student a few years back, and we were working on the concept of tonguing. I would

 demonstrate how to blow air and then use the tongue to interrupt the reed without interrupting the air flow.

 Try as she might, the student could not keep the air going while placing the tongue against the reed. In subsequent

 lessons, we discussed the concept of air support, what it is, and how she could use air speed to influence pitch, tone

 quality, dynamic control, and attacks in the upper clarion register. It was during this lesson that my student said, "

I have determined that the reason I cannot do what you are demonstrating is that I need to develop better control

over the way I use my air." On her own, she had deduced that control of the air speed was paramount to achieving

 the next level of control in her playing.


What exactly is air speed? I have heard it referred to as air support, air temperature, air flow, constant air, "pushing,"

 flexed diaphragm, and a host of other descriptors. For the purposes of this article, air speed will be defined as the

speed of the air determined by the size of the air stream that we imagine is directed at the reed. For example, if one

 were to think of a tiny plastic straw and the amount of air they could blow through that straw and still blow out a

 candle flame on the opposite side of the straw, that would be fast air. The adverse would be to blow a very warm air

 stream through a toilet paper tube at the same candle - just enough to get the flame to bend a little. One can also

 think of air speed as equivalent to air temperature. Try this experiment: Holding your hand in front of your nose and

 mouth, form an embouchure and breathe very warm, almost hot, air onto the palm of your hand. Notice the speed of

the air is slow. Now repeat the exercise, this time blowing a very cold air stream against the palm of your hand. Again,

 notice the speed of the air is faster than before. Where exactly is the change taking place that allows one air stream to

 be warm (slow) and the other to be fast (cold)? Is the air support different, or is the air speed separate from the

support system? If the latter, what controls the speed of the air?


The problem with using air speed as a teaching tool is synonymous with using tongue position as a teaching tool: both

 can be so confusing to the student that something undesirable in the playing could occur, thus compounding the issue

 at hand. Change of air speed should and can be as subconscious a technique as forming the embouchure or tonguing

 on the reed. Still, knowing how and when to use slow air vs. fast air will ultimately give a person control over their



When I was in college, I used to think of long tone exercises as a means to developing embouchure strength. In fact,

 it is a very good way to develop superb embouchure strength and tiny muscle control. However, it is even more

valuable as a means for developing control over the air stream in conjunction with the embouchure. A good example

of a long tone exercise might be to start on an open G with the tongue on the reed at the softest controlled volume

 possible, crescendo to the loudest controlled volume - sustain for a few seconds, and then fade out to nothing.

Repeat this exercise for every note of the chromatic scale down to low E. Control upper lip, corners, quality of tone

 for every note and dynamic played. Every shade of grey should be heard in the volume on both the way up and

 especially the way down. During each note's crescendo and decresendo, monitor the tone. Is it clear and controlled?

 Is there any "garbage" in the sound (reed hiss, air hiss, tip buzz, etc.)? Does the note begin exactly when you want it to?

 Can you hear every detail of the tone as it descrescendos to absolute niente? Did the sound cut out on you or fade in

 and out? If the latter two occurred, you were squeezing off the reed or you were allowing the back of the throat

(tongue) to negatively affect the air stream. Perhaps the most important realization that comes from doing long

 tones is that slow air can be equated to softer dynamics, and fast air is often associated with louder dynamics.


While playing the long tones, were you aware of a point at which the slow air stream (warm) gradually turned to a

 faster (colder) air stream? That point of departure should be one that is seamless from air speed to air speed, and

 it is the critical skill to develop. Once successful with the chromatic long tones in the chalumeau register, repeat

 the exercise in the clarion register beginning on long B and ascending chromatically to high C. The position in the

back of the throat (tongue) will be much less exaggerated than for the low register, and any slight movement during

 the long tone will have a much greater impact in the clarion register than it did in the chalumeau. Notice the way the

 embouchure, lips, and muscles surrounding the nose, upper lip, and cheeks work to make each note clear and

controlled. Most teachers (myself included) stress no movement in the embouchure, but, in fact, there is always

microscopic movement and adjustment on each note.


The air speed is related to the back of the throat tongue position. Think "Heee" and breathe out. A hiss results. By

 keeping steady support and pushing air through a smaller opening, the air speeds up. Now think "Hah" and breathe

 out. The tongue in the back has dropped and the aural cavity has become bigger. The air is now more spread in it's

 approach to the reed, resulting in a slower air speed. Tongue position in the back should not be confused with what

the middle of the tongue and the soft palate are doing. Say "Yew" and notice where the back of the tongue is during

 the word. Now repeat the word and see where the middle of the tongue begins the word and where it ends up at the

 end of the word. Repeat the procedure with the word "Yo." The positions you notice, both in the back of the throat

and in the middle tongue position, affect ability to realize different registers on the instrument. You can further

 experiment by overblowing the partial for open G. The next "squeak" to come out is high D. Be aware of the

difference in tongue position for these two notes. The D position is the correct tongue placement for the beginning

 of the altissimo register. Notice how the embouchure didn't have to change and no squeezing of the reed was

 necessary? Repeat this procedure moving down from open G to F, E, D, and C. You should be able to get two

 overblown partials out for E (high B, and altissimo G). The notes that come out in the upper partials, without

the aid of the register key, will be flat in pitch. Don't be concerned about the pitch issue. Once the correct fingerings

 are used, the note, if played the same tongue position used in overblowing the partial, will be very close to in tune.


The point I am making with regard to back of the tongue placement for air speed and middle of the tongue position

 for register changes is that the tongue serves several functions beyond articulation. It is easy to get them mixed up.


For general playing, we tend to use moderately fast to very fast air. In band, students spend most of their time playing

 with fast air. It is for this reason that most students do not control slow (warm) air as well as they do fast (cold) air.

 This is why high school and jr. high school band directors are frustrated with pitch and control of very soft playing

by the clarinet section. Most students are trying to play the soft passage by using fast air and biting or squeezing to

get softer. This causes the pitch to rise, the tip of the reed to buzz, and the tone to occasionally cut out on the student.

 In fact, it is most noticeable in the clarion register (eg. from G on the top of the staff up to high C).


A great example for use of warm air is the opening of the Adagio movement of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, K. 622.

 To begin with, most students do not attack the first note at the dynamic of piano with a perfect, resonant tone.

 Beyond the initial attack, all of the skips between notes within the first eight measures are usually accompanied

by a sub-tone or hesitation before the upper note. Sub-tones can and usually are caused by incorrect tongue position

 (back of throat) - most often for clarion A, B, and high C. Sometimes the student is close enough to the correct tongue

 position that using a slower air speed will allow the notes to connect quite nicely. More often than not, however, the

 student is trying to play the entire opening with fast air speed, very little mouthpiece, and is squeezing the reed to play

 softer. This kind of approach will result in sharp pitch on some notes, lack of flexibility between intervals, and a thinner,

 less resonant sound quality.


Another example for use of warm air is Exercise No. 1 from Rose 40 Etudes. The first two measures contain everything

 needed to tell the student if they are using the correct speed of air. While most teachers use this exercise as a platform

 for teaching legato finger technique, it is also great for developing correct air speed. If the notes are not connecting

 perfectly at quarter = 72, and if fingers are working properly, the issue will most likely be how air is getting to the reed.


A more advanced work that requires enormous control of air speed is the Premiere Rhapsody by Claude Debussy. The

first line of the Rhapsody requires very slow air - that is - until the last measure in which the rapid crescendo occurs. It

 is critical that the student be capable of seamlessly moving between slow to fast air and back. The ascending

 arpeggiated motifs that occur just before the accelerated and articulated cadenza on the first page are very good

examples of technique that works best with a slow air speed. Many students try to play these passages with fast air

, and the tone sounds more "forced" than it does natural.


Finally, control of the air speed can do a lot to help a clarinetist do a lot to conserve air and use it efficiently over long

 phrases. I was working with a student this past week on the Baermann cadenza in the First Concerto by von Weber

 and he was unable to make the entire phrase in one breath. He was using fast air to play the technical passage - very

 fast air. Register skips were not connecting, the tone between registers was changing character, and he was running

out of air much faster than he should have. By asking him to play a long tone on clarion G (top of the staff), and then

 play the entire passage with the kind of air speed he used on the end of the long tone (descrescendo), he made the

 passage in one breath! I think it was a revelation to him to see how controlling of the speed of the air helped his

efficiency in using the air over a longer passage. It will be interesting to see how he uses that knowledge in future



Understanding how air gets to the reed and at what speed the air controls a particular passage in a given register is a

great tool to have available. Some general guidelines then:


Practice long tones daily - in the lowest and clarion registers. Be picky about them.


Practice intervals beginning on long C (third space on the staff) - moving up one step to D, back to C, up to E, back to

 C, up to F, back to C and so forth until reaching high C. Play it all piano and make sure every note connects perfectly.


Practice intervals beginning on high C - moving one ? step lower to B, back to C, down to A, back to C, down to G,

 back to C and so forth until reaching long C. Be sure to increase air for the lower notes and readjust air for the skip

 back to high C without negatively affecting the connection between the two.


Always maintain a "correct" embouchure - without the freedom the correct embouchure gives the reed, air speed will

 make very little difference.


Know that air speed is a result of how air is shaped in the back of the throat - NOT a result of less air in.

Always take a deep breath!


Tongue position in the back of the throat is related to air speed. Explore the infinite differences between an "Eeee"

 position and an "Ahhhh" position.


Don't mix up tongue position as it relates to air speed and tongue position as it relates to register changes.


Roger Garrett is currently the full time Clarinet Professor at Illinois Wesleyan University where he teaches clarinet,

 conducts the Symphonic Winds, and teaches conducting. Prior to teaching at Illinois Wesleyan University, Mr. Garrett

 taught in the public schools of Longview, WA and Bozeman, MT. He earned his degrees from the University of

Michigan where he studied clarinet with David Shifrin, Herbert Blayman, and John Mohler. Mr. Garrett is currently

 principal clarinetist with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra in Peoria, IL.





The techniques in this article are by no means the only approach to teaching articulation. However, it is the approach

 that I have used in the classroom and studio for 17 years with good success. My goal is to provide some input for the

 non-clarinetist band director, or for a student that doesn't study privately. 


Articulation Fundamentals

To establish the feel of a good attack, place the tongue on the reed 1/4 inch back from the tip of the reed. To start the

 tone, build up wind pressure against the tongue and say the syllable "tee". Saying the syllable "tee" when starting the

 tone keeps the tongue arched. The consonant "t" starts the attack. The vowel sound "ee" maintains the arch and

minimizes the distance for the tongue to move. Only the tip of the tongue actually moves. The tongue should be

released from the reed precisely with the start of the air. Compare the sensation to the water in a garden hose being

 released. The water pressure doesn't stop when you release the nozzle trigger; thus, your wind doesn't stop when you

 start your attack. The attack is only established when there is continual pressure of air against the mouthpiece with

 abdominal support. The tongue acts as a valve, releasing and stopping the flow of air through the instrument with the

 pressure remaining constant (like the garden hose).


Below is a good approach to use in initially developing the tongue action. It is an exercise by Janis A. Brown, Clarinet

 Instructor at Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas. I use it with minor modifications to match my

 teaching style. This exercise is excellent for producing a good attack and also for assuring a proper tongue arch.

Carefully follow the instructions below:


1. Have the student whisper: "he, he, he, he" repeatedly on quarter notes.

2. Change the syllable "he, he, he, he" to "tee, tee, tee, tee."


Your tongue should be near the roof of your mouth and the tip of your tongue near the tip of the reed. Work with

 only the mouthpiece and barrel; try to achieve a crispness in each attack. Concentrate on moving only the tip of

 the tongue, tonguing 1/4 inch back from the reed tip.


Common Articulation Problems


The list of problems below (1-5) are the list of problems described in the Westphal's Guide to Teaching Woodwinds,

William C Brown, publisher. They deal with the most common problems of young clarinetists; again I have adapted

them to my teaching style.


1. Movement of the jaw in tonguing. Caused by too large or too violent movements from the tongue. Care should be

 taken to keep the base of the tongue motionless.

Solution: Practice basic principles of articulation in the mirror. Carefully observe the jaw for any unnecessary motion.


2. Sluggish tongue. Caused by improper tongue placement onto the reed.

Solution: Work on tongue placement. Practice slowly with a rhythmic approach exercises that let you think about the

 tongue placement and position. Try practicing quarter notes, eighths, triplets, sixteenths and then thirty second notes

 on a variety of ranges.


3. Hard attack. Caused by too much tongue pressure against the reed/or too much tongue is in contact with the reed.

Solution: Work for lighter attacks and getting the tongue 1/4" back from the tip of the reed.


4. Poor staccato. Caused by lack of breath support (assuming the tongue placement is correct).

Solution: Sustained, continuous breath support is needed. The support should be relaxed between staccato notes, then tightened simultaneously with the beginning of the note. Review the tonguing concepts at the top of the page so you can properly analyze your approach. In order to analyze your tonguing motion, staccato should be practiced slowly at first. Strive for the same arc on each attack, with the same amount of impact of the tongue on the reed. The Klose 25 Daily Exercises (New York: Carl Fisher) is excellent for staccato practice. Another valuable book for both staccato and legato playing is the Rose 40 Studies for Clarinet (New York: Carl Fisher) number 5, 6, 8, 11, 16, 17 and 19 are great staccato exercises.


5. Lack of coordination between the tongue and fingers. This is the result of practicing and playing too fast without the

 essential slow working out process. Foundation is built from slow repetition. Usually it is the fingers that are too slow.

Solution: Practice at slow, manageable tempos at first. Practice "driving" your fingers ahead when you are aware they are late. Avoid the temptation to "slam" the fingers down as it cause unevenness and tension in playing. Fingers must move the same distance, slightly above the keys.


Other problems to be on the lookout for are the following:


-- relaxing the air at the end of a note;

-- "gushing" air at the start of each note;

-- undefined (or fuzzy) attacks due to using an improper syllable starting the note.



Care should be taken on entrances to make sure the tongue and air start simultaneously. A big, full sound is more

 conducive to good articulation than an unsupported tone. No noticeable throat motion should be evident. If the throat

 is moving it usually means you are using too much tongue for each attack.




"Excerises for the tongue, anyone?"


Exercises for the tongue involve many other aspects of clarinet technique (the

air column, most predominantly), but the fundamental tenet for proper

articulation technique resides in physical relaxation.  It is impossible to

effect clear articulation when the tongue (which is just another muscle) is

tense.  While not set in stone as a rule, it is highly recommeded that tonguing

exercises be performed in conjunction with a metronome, in order to develop

rhythmic sensitivity, as well as to guage one's progress in the quest for even,

accurate, and rapid articulation.


One possible exercise:  Set your metronome at around 50 beats per minute, where

each beat is a quarter note.  This is a legato exercise, intended to develop

sensitivity between the tip of the tongue and the tip of the reed.  Begin with

a full breath, tonguing one note per beat on, say, throat G (or throat E for

stability, if you like) for as long as you can sustain the note.  Attempt to

create as smooth a connection as possible between each repetition of the note,

allowing the tip of the tongue to merely brush gently across the tip of the

reed, creating as miniscule a separation as possible between each rendering of

the note.  Do this exercise a couple of times, taking in a full breath each

time and playing the study until you run out of air.  Attempt to sustain the

note with the air, allowing the tongue to "ride" on the stream of air, as

relaxed as possible.


Performing a slow exercise such as the one above will allow you to concentrate

separately on a number of different aspects pertaining to well-defined



*  The tip of the tongue should not be very far from the tip of the reed

*  The same area of the tongue's tip should strike the reed _every single time_

*  The tongue should be raised in the back, focusing the air stream, allowing

   the air to relax the tongue muscle (which means you're supporting amply from


   the diaphragm) and sustain the vibration of the reed without any distortion

   of sound with each release of the tongue from the reed

*  The embouchure must be firmly set (not tense, mind you), such that the reed

   is allowed to vibrate evenly and without inhibition


   MOST important:

*  The AIR initiates and sustains the sound - not the tongue.  This is why it's


   so important to relax the tongue - in order to allow the air to do its work.


   If the tongue is tense, that tension will carry over into the embouchure


   vice versa), interfering with vibration of the reed and frustrating the



It is common knowledge that articulation studies also have a remedial effect on

a weak or poorly defined embouchure.  Basically stated, it's impossible to

effect a good staccatto when the embouchure is improperly or inadequately

developed.  Interestingly, the simply act of articulation studies has a way of

exercising the muscles of the embouchure, as well as conditioning one to

properly focus the air stream in order to effect the most desirable

articulation style.


Another possible exercise:  Set the metronome between 50 and 60 beats per

minute, where each beat is a quarter note.  This whole exercise should be

played in the key of C, with no accidentals.  Starting on chalumeau C (below

the staff), slur from C to G in 16th notes (as if you were playing the scale)

and back down again.  Upon arrival at C again, play it staccatto and reverse

direction, ascending up the first five notes of the scale STACCATTO, and

staccatto back down again.  You are, in effect, playing up and down the first

five notes of the scale - legato the first time, staccato the second.  When

descending the scale the second time, in staccato, do not continue all the way

back down to C again.  Instead, stop at D and use it as a new starting point.

When you reach D on your staccatto descent, play it twice - once staccatto as a

completion of the first scale, and then play it legato as the starting point of

a new scale beginning on that note.  All of this should be done in tempo.


The logic behind playing a scale segment legato first, and THEN staccatto, is

that you are first acquainting yourself with the sensation of allowing the

notes to be created and sustained solely by the air column.  Repeating the

segment staccatto is merely an introduction of an interruptive mechanism to the

reed (not the air!), wherein the reed is momentarily prevented from vibrating,

but the air column remains CONSTANT.  This is crucial.  Allow the air to do the

work, sustaining the note, sustaining the vibration of the reed, and allowing

the tongue to relax as it moves ever-so-slightly forward (assuming it isn't

very far from the reed tip to begin) and lightly brushes across the tip of the

reed to halt its vibration for a fraction of a milisecond.


Continue the exercise from chalumeau to clarion C, and then back down again,

five notes at a time.


If you're wondering where I got all of this from, the exercises are from my

teacher.  The logic and rationale behind them were gleaned purely by

experience, by doing the exercises consistently and understanding their worth

as my articulation technique developed.  All aspects of clarinet technique

ultimately come down to physical relaxation, as facilitated by proper use of

the air supply, which in turn fuels the rest of the technical mechanism of

clarinet playing.  I'm rusty nowadays, but the above exercises, in combination

with a balanced approach to technical development in all areas, enabled me to

reach a smooth, effortless, and (perhaps most relevant) sustainable

articulation speed of 160 - single tongue.  I'm doing those exercises now, and

expect to regain proper and refined articulation technique in a very short

period of time.


- Neil





Dear Joe,

     As far as articulation is concerned, you are supposed to keep the

air going through the clarinet, and lightly (and gently) strike the reed

with your tongue repeaedly. I personally would call the sound

"du--du--du--du--du", but other people on the list may think

"dee--dee--dee--dee" or have another syllable. As you practice your

"du--du's" or "dee-dee's", you are learning to play a beautiful legato

articulation. I am teaching all of my students how to slur their scales

and articulate them in a legato style. I don't even bother to think

about staccato until the legato sounds really good. Most of their

staccato's sound terrible, like "chwut--chwut", and I feel that it is

important to get control of the continuous air with the tongue

interrupting the air, cleanly, before going on to staccato. With

staccato, you just leave the toungue on the reed longer, making a longer

space between notes. Eventually you are able to play "staccatismo" (is

their such a word?) phrases gracefully, without those terrible "chwut"

and "thud"-like sounds. Daniel Bonade talked about articulation in is

publication "Compendium" for clarinet, where he tries to explain

articulation and has exercises for it. I believe that STARK also has 2

volumes of articulation studies.

      When I teach articulation, I start with a basic rhythm pattern on

one note, say for example, straight sixteenths, or eighths and

sixteenths, for one or 2 bars in 4/4 time, and then move up the scale

diatonically repeating the pattern, so that it feels comfortable on each

degree of the scale. Then play the scale up-&-down in eights,

repeatedly. I have a few 11-year olds who can bounce up & down their

scales (up to 3 #'s and 3 b's) very nicely (usually). They have some

idiot band directors who encourage them to "thud"and "chwut", which

makes it hard to maintain good articulation. The band directors, usually

brass players, are trying to "demand" staccato immediately, so that

(they think) their bands will sound "better".

      Articulation is an ongoing process of stiking the reed just right

with the air still going. Most young people want to stop blowing in

between notes and stab at them, like with a knife or machine gun. 







    Again, a few more comments from Neil in February, 1997:

        Something which my old teacher once said to me was, "You have to have a

        good embouchure in order to have a good staccato." I didn't understand

        his logic at the time, but I decided to apply the concept in reverse,

        thinking, "Well, maybe working on my tonguing technique will spark some

        development in my embouchure along the way."

        His recommendation for the process was to learn how to play as perfectly

        a legato articulation as possible, to the level where the separation

        between notes was nearly imperceptible. This requires the tongue to be

        very very light, which in turn requires a great deal of relaxation.

        I began by picking throat G with the metronome set at somewhere in the

        40 range. The complete exercise involved simply playing legato quarter

        notes (4 of them), followed by four 8th-note couplets (8 notes total),

        followed by four 8th-note triplets (12 notes total), followed by four

        16th note quadruplets (16 notes total). As I played this seemingly

        brainless exercise, I began to focus my attention on a number of

        different areas of technique, beginning with the point of contact

        between my tongue and the reed. Because the exercise proceeded at such a

        slow tempo, I had time to focus one-at-a-time on each area of relevance

        and pay serious attention to indicators which let me know whether I was

        moving in the right direction.


        Point of Contact Between Tongue and Reed

        Many players advocate that the point of contact upon the reed by the

        tongue should be slightly back from the very tip of the tongue.

        Everybody figures out what works best for them, and having the tongue

        contact the reed precisely at the tip of the tongue turned out to be the

        best configuration for me. As I performed the exercise, I "searched" for

        the physical sensation, by my tongue, which informed me that the very

        tip of the tongue was, in fact, making contact with the reed. Over the

        course of time and development (this may seem a little gross), I began

        to practice articulation studies so much that the tip of my tongue

        actually bled a little bit. This wasn't a problem, for the tongue heals

        very quickly (I've heard it's one of the fastest healing parts of the

        body, for whatever reason). Paying attention to the physical sensation,

        in conjunction with the red "marker" made it very clear whether or not I

        was using the correct area of my tongue when articulating. As an aside,

        I heard an anecdote where Robert Marcellus worked so hard at his

        tonguing during one particular practice session that his embouchure

        began to "give out", and he started spewing spit and blood out the sides

        of his mouth as a result, not satisfied with the progress he was making.

        This diminished my alarm when I would finish a practice session and find

        my reed saturated red, a small chunk of flesh missing from the tip of my

        tongue. Needless to say, I don't think this type of extremism is at all

        necessary for steady advance in the area. The blood & stuff will NOT

        occur, by the way, merely from the legato exercise described above.


        Air velocity and support

        Something that every developing clarinetist must work on over the course

        of his/her growth is long tones. Doing long tones has countless benefits

        when done consistently and with good mental focus. Performing the

        aforementioned legato tonguing exercise also does double-duty as a long

        tone exercise, the difference from "normal" long tones merely being that

        you insert the tongue at a steady interval while sustaining the flow of

        air upon the reed. Why is this helpful? Because in order to achieve the

        ultimate lightness and legato in the tongue, you must teach yourself to

        let the air: a) relax the tongue and b) facilitate uninterrupted

        vibration of the reed. These two components in tandem will pave the way

        to effortless tonguing at as fast a speed as you are potentially


        Bear in mind that learning any manifold skill is an additive process

        whereby the endgame is to integrate all disparate elements of the skill

        into a singularly unified concept, actuated via a single mechanism. In

        the case of tonguing (as in the case of so many other areas of

        consummate clarinet technique), the advanced and proper use of the air

        stream is the actuating mechanism. Your goal is to be able to simply

        breathe deeply and have the tongue assume the proper relaxed

        configuration inside the oral cavity automatically, where its function

        is subordinate to the flowing air column, and it makes contact with the

        reed at the proper contact point all by itself.

        Thus, while you are lightly brush-stroking the tip of the reed with the

        tip of your tongue (say "tee-ahh", or perhaps "Lee-ahh" while your lips

        say, "oh" -- these two ideas can be integrated by saying "tee-ew"),

        switch focus in the middle of the exercise and notice what you are doing

        with your airstream. If your tongue is properly shaped (arched in the

        back of your mouth, touching the back molars with the sides, but flat

        and low in the front), the air should flow over the arched tongue in the

        back, automatically directing a focused air stream toward the front

        across the reed (not down into the mouthpiece). That air stream must be

        under continuous support from the diaphragm, and the diaphragm is the

        only part of your anatomy which should manifest any physical "tension"

        whatsoever while you play. This applies at all times, regardless of

        context. If you are sustaining proper diaphragmatic support, then begin

        to focus on the velocity of the air stream as it passes through your

        embouchure and across the reed. At lower dynamic levels, your air

        support and velocity need to be increased in order to sustain consistent

        vibration of the reed, lest physical tension arise in the lips or jaw

        and work against free reed vibration. At all times, in all playing

        contexts, the physical cause of unwanted tension in the body during

        playing is a result of an unsupported air stream, where the diaphragm

        relaxes and tension travels to another body part, confounding relaxation

        and control. This includes the tongue. Once the transfer of physical

        tension has begun, it is often difficult to counteract, even when ample

        air intake and support are restored.


        Tongue Position

        In order for the air to do its job, all other variables in technique

        must be individually and systematically eliminated. Stable tongue

        position is vital, which means you must establish the correct

        configuration and then recreate it on command every time. The tip of the

        tongue at all times should be positioned as close to the reed as

        possible without actually making contact. This makes the process of

        articulation a very subtle one, requiring the utmost relaxation and

        control, especially at the very tip. When the tongue is arched in the

        back using the syllable "ew" while saying "oh" with the lips, the tip of

        the tongue should automatically drop flat in the front of the mouth,

        conveniently placing it in a position level with the tip of the reed.

        The act of articulation at this point is then a "simple" matter of

        moving the tongue a couple of millimeters forward, making contact with

        the reed, and then quickly pulling it back those same two millimeters to

        its starting position. The principle is very simple, but the process of

        conditioning the tongue muscle to assume the correct position and then

        be relaxed enough to quickly/delicately touch the reed tip and pull away

        again demands much meticulous focus and attention to physical sensation

        and sound effect.


      I have discovered through experience that the double tonguing part of the

      technique is not only easier than the triple tonguing, but it is also more

      useful. I use triple tonguing wherever it is appropriate, of course, but

      double tonguing is needed more often. For this reason, if you have much

      greater difficulty with the triple tonguing, you should forget all about

      it until you have practiced on-the-reed double tonguing for quite some

      time. Let several months pass, if necessary, between learning double and

      triple tonging. For some clarinetists, of course, triple tonguing will

      present no more problems than double tonguing.

      Finally, if you have terrible difficulties coordinating the tonguing

      technique with your moving fingers, the cause of the trouble will be,

      almost invariably, the tongue's moving far too quickly! It is your tongue

      that is ahead, not your fingers that are behind. Remember that you have

      literaly doubled the effective speed of your tongue tip. You must remind

      yourself that you have become capable of tremendously fast tongue speeds,

      while the tongue itself should feel lazy, relaxed, and slow. I had one

      student whose only difficulty with double tonguing, from the very first

      day he tried it, was to slow it down enough so that his speed could be

      measured on a metronome! After several minutes of experimentation he

      finally slowed it down enough that, while he held a long open G, I

      "clocked" his double tonguing tempo at four beautifully tongued notes per

      beat at a metronome marking of 160.

      On-the-reed multiple tonguing, as I have described it, continues to please

      me very much. I have now used it for several years and I have taught it

      successfully to players who have been interested in learning it. I spent

      most of one summer gaining a command of the technique, and during that

      time I never let it take up too much of my practice time at any one

      sitting. During the following fall, I felt confident enough to use

      on-the-reed double tonguing during one of my solo clarinet recitals. My

      naturally slow tongue need never be a problem again, and that is




      PART1: The Introduction to the Technique

      Record the metronome markings at which you can single-tongue repeated open

      Gs both four to a beat and three to a beat.

      Momentarily putting the clarinet aside, simply sit in a good playing

      position and say the words "Tuttle-uttle-uttle-uttle" (etc.) making sure

      that the tongue remains low, relaxed, and wide across the middle; not


      Take up the clarinet and single-tongue a few repetitions of open G again,

      this time at only a medium tempo. This is just to become reacquainted with

      the reed, and to relax the tongue. Begin a fairly long open G with a

      regular single-tongued stroke, taking care to pronounce it "Tuh" as in the

      first syllable of the word "Tuttle." Do this a few times, totally relaxing

      the tongue during each held tone.

      Begin another open G with "Tuh" but this time finish the word "Tuttle" by

      returning the tongue to the reed after "Tuh" in the manner of "tle." This

      second stroke should carry the tip of the tongue up past the tip of the

      reed to the roof of the mouth, and it should leave the middle of the

      tongue relaxed and broad across the bottom of the mouth.

      Staying relaxed, return the tip of the tongue to its resting position b y

      passing it downward over the tip of the reed, pronouncing the s yllable


      The tongue is now ready for another upward stroke, as in pronouncing a

      nother "tle," and to be brushed past the reed tip again on its way t

      owards the roof of the mouth. Now another downward stroke, brushing past

      the reed tip again, to r eturn to the resting position in the bottom of

      the mouth. Repeat this whole process, quicker but still without extreme

      speed; in o ther words, do a very relaxed, smooth, and even

      "Tuttle-uttle-Uh." The last syllable could also be "Ah" if desired. Remove

      the reed and mouthpiece from the mouth and say again, "

      Tuttle-uttle-uttle-uttle" (etc.). Replace the clarinet into the embouchure

      and do it again on the open G, this time adding another stroke:

      "Tuttle-uttle-uttle-uttle-Uh." Stay relaxed throughout, aim for evenness.

      Keep practicing this on open G until the double tonguing begins to sound

      like very fast single tonguing, very smooth, even, and homogeneous. The

      tongue need not move quickly to achieve this similarity.

      At this point you should stop practicing this technique. It is very

      important to let the tongue rest now. Normal practicing, using only the

      usual single tonguing technique, may be resumed. Follow this procedure

      again later at other practice sessions, still using open G only, until you

      are satisfied that the effect is a good one, and that the up-and-down

      strokes sound identical to a listener.

      After you are satisfied with the effect, record the metronome marking at

      which you can tongue four open Gs to the beat by using this form of double

      tonguing. Compare this with your fastest tempo for single tonguing four

      notes to the beat. (Triple tonguing comes later.)


      PART II: The Development of Double Tonguing

      Extend the procedure (a tong tone followed by

      "Tuttl-uttle-tuttle-uttle-Uh," etc.) from open G to thumb F, low C, low F,

      thumb F again, top-line F, fourth-space E, throat E, low E, low F again,

      low C again, and finally thumb F again.

      After doing that exercise on thumb F, do the following also on that note:

      Tuh-tuttle-uttle-uttle-Uh" in the rhythm of: (music). Repeat the foregoing

      exercise, and then slur this passage: (music)

      Now, using the double-tonguing technique, play the following exercise:


      The next step is to repeat the last exercise, this time tonguing every

      note in all four measures rather than slurring the last two. In this

      manner, double tonguing has been accomplished while rapidly changing

      pitches. Now do the following two four-measure exercises (first, the one

      containing a slurred scale; second, the same one played all tongued) up a

      whole step, thus transposing them from F major to G major: (music)

      Transpose all eight measures (the two exercises together have become one

      longer one) down to E pure minor in the lowest octave of the clarinet's

      range. Now transpose the eight-measure exercise back to F major, then to G

      major, and then to E minor again. A rest for the tongue should occur here;

      put off further practice of the technique until another occasion.

      The next transposition of the eight-measure exercise is to G major in the

      second octave. In other words, play the exercise as it is printed above,

      in the key of G, but take it up an octave. When satisfied with that, next

      do it in F major down a whole step, so that its range begins on top-line F

      and ends on thumb F.

      The next step is to transpose the same exercise into any or all descending

      one-octave major or minor scales, but avoid the range above G on top of

      the staff. Do this until crossing the "break" downward is satisfactory.

      Having become satisfied with your execution of one-octave descending major

      and minor scales over the "break," double-tongue the following exercise.

      In syllables this exercise would be pronounced "Tuh-tuttle-uttle-uttle-Uh,

      tuttle-uttle-uttle-Uh." (Again, the last syllable could be "Ah" if that

      seems more natural.)

      Double-tongue this last exercise as slowly as possible and as fast as

      possible. Rest from this by throwing in an occasional run-through at a

      medium, comfortable tempo.

      Transpose it now up a step to G major, and then to G minor at the same

      pitch. For variety, do all three forms of G minor. Now transpose it up an

      octave to G minor beginning on the G on top of the staff. In this manner

      you encounter double tonguing over the "break" ascending. (Do not try that

      particular octave yet in G major.) Now rest the Tongue.

      When rested, or at a later practice session, transpose that exercise down

      a step to F major (not F minor yet). Make that work satisfactorily by

      employing the same over-the-break principles you have always used: Keep

      the fingers relaxed, the air flowing smoothly, and use as little finger

      movement as possible. It will probably help to put the right hand down

      when ascending from B-flat to C-natural at the "break."

      Next, go back to the G scale up a step again, this time playing it in

      major. Now the "break" will occur between A-natural and B-natural. Employ

      the same principles of smoothness and relaxation. After this can be done

      to good effect, transpose the same exercise to any and all major and minor

      scales for one octave, using the range again from low E up to no higher

      than G on top of the staff.

      Continue exactly the same thing, but now extend the range of the scale

      exercise higher, going no higher than high C-natural. Now the exercise

      must be reversed.

      Take this new exercise up one octave.

      Now take it up another octave, which which will extend your

      double-tonguing range to high F. Now up one step to G major, which extends

      the double-tonguing range to high G.

      Next, practice two- and three-octave major and minor scales, four notes to

      the beat, all over the range of the clarinet. Begin each new octave of the

      scales with this rhythm: (music)

      Double tonguing has now been accomplished over the entire range of the

      instrument, since it will be quite easy now to extend it even beyond high

      G. You are now ready for the printed page.

      Obtain a copy of Reginald Kell's "Seventeen Staccato Studies"

      (International Music Company) and look at the first study. Disregard the

      words at the top of the page, which are directed toward single tonguing


      The entire study reiterates the "eighth-and-two-sixteenths" rhythmic

      pattern. Practice the study first all slurred to become completely

      familiar with the notes.

      Next, at a comfortable tempo, practice the piece using the usual single

      tonguing. Do not bother to make much, if anything, of the dynamics in

      order to concentrate on smoothly flowing air. When you are thoroughly

      familiar with the piece, completely disregard the dynamics this time, and

      apply double tonguing to it in this manner: "Tuh-tuttle-Uh-tuttle-Uh," and

      so on. Maintain a good forte volume throughout.

      If you feel musically and technically ready, you could try playing the

      piece observing the dynamics now; however, it will be absolutely necessary

      to use continuous breath support as well as concentrated tongue control.

      Dynamic variation, executed simultaneously with double tonguing, will

      become easier to achieve later on.


      PART III: How to Practice Double Tonguing

      On-the-reed double tonguing should now be established. Proceed with the

      Kell Study No. 2, one beat to the measure, after practicing it first

      slurred and then single-tongued, just as you prepared No.1 earlier.

      Systematic practice should proceed essentially as follows: First, with a

      metronome, find a comfortable tempo at which you can double-tongue four

      notes to a beat, and do the following exercise at that tempo, using the

      metronome: (music)

      Now set the metronome only one notch faster, and do the exercise again.

      Continue setting the metronome one notch faster and repeating the exercise

      until you cannot double-tongue any faster on that exercise. Now set the

      metronome one notch slower and repeat the exercise.

      Continue setting the metronome one notch slower and repeating the

      exercise. Soon you will be back to your starting point on the metronome,

      but continue setting it one notch slower and repeating the exercise until

      your double tonguing cannot be slowed down anymore. By following this

      procedure you will greatly extend the tempo range of your double tonguing.


      Also extend your new double tonguing to the solo literature for clarinet.

      Try tonguing the long sixteenth-note passages in the fast movements of the

      Mozart Concerto and in the various solo pieces of Weber, for example.

      When this sort of thing happens in music: (music) you must put the tongue

      "in gear" by single-tonguing the first note (E) and beginning the

      "Tuttles" on the next notes (F and G). In addition to using the clarinet's

      solo literature, applying double tonguing to other music will be

      profitable. Use more of the Kell studies, other studies, and ensemble







> One metaphor for clarinet tonguing lies in the articulation difference

> between piano and organ.  On the piano, the articulation is created

> primarily by how one strikes the key, whereas on the organ, it is

> created by the release of the key.  If the tongue remains on the reed

> for long it pretty much closes things up, so the tongue can be seen

> much as a valve (?) opening an organ pipe; when one releases the key,

> the pipe is open.  When the tongue is removed, the clarinet sounds.


I think metaphors are an essential tool in the communication of skills

like articulation.  A few years ago I wrote a series of articles

collecting a number of metaphors that could apply to clarinet playing.

(Some of them are similar to the ones you use:-)


Probably in the end I will publish a small book.  Some of this material

has appeared in the "Cambridge Companion to the Clarinet", CUP.


Here is a fuller version of what is there on the subject of "Tonguing".

It complements and refers also to another article I've reproduced here,

called "All that stuff about the diaphragm", and repeats in a different

form some of the content of that article.







Why are metaphors useful?


The ability to perform some complex skill (like playing a clarinet) is

experienced by the performer as a whole.  It is impossible to teach this

whole to another directly.  We could say that it has various components

-- physical, intellectual and emotional. Any way in which we describe it

has to be incomplete.


When we begin learning a skill, obviously we make mistakes.  If those

mistakes go uncorrected, and get built into our performance, we create

another whole, different from the one we were aiming at.  It may then be

difficult to take this counterproductive 'whole' apart and find out

where we might change things in order to get better.  It may even be the

case that we have several things wrong, and changing just one of them

won't be good enough to show us we are on the right track.


Wise teachers, or wise students, will try a number of different ways of

approaching the problem.  These approaches may be in the realm of direct

instruction; but they will almost always be more successful if they

operate also on a higher level of experience, so that they take

advantage of the naturalness of our already highly sophisticated

experience of how the world works.


One thing we can try is to ask the student, or ourselves, to imagine the

experience of playing as though it is like the experience of *something

else*.  This 'something else' will usually have been generated by

someone who already has a successful experience of the particular

technique.  If we try out a number of things that a more expert player

knows the experience is like for him or her, we stand a chance of

catching on to that expertise for ourselves.


It may be that we are already imagining the experience in terms of a

wrong 'something else', which holds us in a grip that we must break.

Indeed, we may be reinforcing this grip by the way in which we 'talk

about' the situation to ourselves.


Language is constructed metaphorically.  Often we are not aware that we

are held by a metaphor, because it is built into an idiom of our

language that we use without thinking about it.


'Languaging' a point of view


Here is an example of how we may make such an assumption, without

noticing it, and lead ourselves astray.


If we say of someone, "he is full of anger," we inevitably talk

ourselves into a 'container' metaphor for emotions.  We imagine his

anger 'filling' him in some sense.  Then, the normal behaviour of

containers filled with things influences us in our assessment ot the

possibilities open to him, and therefore, on other occasions, to

ourselves.  Whether this is a good idea or not depends on the



One consequence might be that we think of our anger as something that we

can only 'let out' or 'hold in'.  On the other hand, we might imagine

instead that anger is a substance that can 'evaporate' -- this is of

course a further metaphor, and possibly a more useful one on occasion.


But now consider a superficially similar concept, that of 'confidence'.

Here the 'container' metaphor is almost wholly counterproductive.

Someone who observes another's inspiring and 'confident' performance may

be tempted to say "she is full of confidence," and then work on getting

himself full of this elusive substance.  Evaporation might be even more

counterproductive!  In any case, the similarity of language has

concealed the fact that confidence and anger have different structures.

(As we shall see in a later chapter, confidence is best thought of not

as an emotion.) 


So one way of proceeding when we are improving any skill is:


First, to notice, if we can, what sort of metaphor we are already using.

How can we do this?  The best way is to try out another metaphor.  If

there is a collision -- that is, if the metaphors are inconsistent -- we

may be able to see how we are limiting ourselves.


Second, to work towards a whole, successful experience of the skill in

the context of better chosen metaphors.


Unfortunately, neither of these instructions is easy to follow.  But one

thing is certain:  if we find that we are going through struggle and

effort, then it makes sense to look at the assumptions we are making.

The hard work of real self-examination may be less painful.


Any really able exponent of an instrument demonstrates that playing need

not be experienced as difficult.  It is as though we are clearly shown

what is required:  that we find out what works and what doesn't work ™-

and then do what works rather than what doesn't.




With all this in mind, let us look first at how all English-speaking

people are prone to deal with the notion of staccato.


How we 'language' staccato is a problem.   


The very first step ™- the verb "to tongue" ™- is a major difficulty.

This is because in common usage it can be applied to a single note (as

in, "that note is tongued"), and it carries the implication that it is

something that we do to that note, with our tongue, at its beginning.


Conductors sometimes ask us to "tongue that note harder" when they want

more of an attack.  This use of the verb again gives the impression that

it is the action of the tongue that begins the note.  Moreover, it

suggests that the harder we tongue, the louder will be the beginning.

In fact, the tongue begins the note only in the same sense that the

light-switch lights the room.  We don't get more light if we push it

harder!  Many people, though, start off by making this sort of mistake

on the clarinet.


In Italian, staccato means 'separated', which is more suggestive of the

idea that the action of the tongue will occur both at the beginning and

the end of the note, if we are to use the tongue to perform the



A better English word for our purposes is 'articulation'.  This word is

suggestive of both separating and joining.


For example, we speak of the elbow as an 'articulated' joint, and use

the phrase 'articulated lorry'; it is clear in each case that both arm

and lorry can be regarded as one and as two things.


The word 'articulation' also applies naturally to a group of notes,

indicating that those notes are to be separated to a greater or lesser

degree whilst nevertheless remaining a group.


We can say, "this group of semiquavers is to be articulated", meaning,

"what we have to do is separate these joined-up notes".


Each of the sequence of metaphors I am about to outline communicates

this experience of unity in separation.  The metaphors approach the

experience in a variety of ways, via language, mental images and

physical sensations.


Metaphor 1 -- 'Mud'


If we imagine a series of notes that we want to be staccato, or

articulated, we may think of them as represented in the diagram.


<The diagram is a series of shaded rectangles, representing the notes

which appear above them, separated by silences.  Under each silence is

the letter 'd', and under each rectangle is the letter 'u'.>


This is a very schematic representation.  The idea is that the shaded

rectangles represent the sound of the semiquavers above them.  The

letters underneath are the usual vocalisations, with the letter d

occurring where the tongue is on the reed and the letter u where it

comes off, allowing the reed to vibrate.


It is a sort of graph of sound intensity against time, although in

reality such a graph would not have sharp corners, or even be

rectangular.  The reed takes a moment to begin vibrating, and the air

inside the clarinet continues to vibrate for a moment when the reed

stops, so the result would be much less mechanical.  Even so, it is a

preliminary picture we might make of a crisply articulated short burst

of staccato.


In the conventional vocal representation of staccato, we are often asked

to say the syllables du-du-du-du-du etc.  This again has the effect that

we are likely to imagine the d initiating each note.


Looking at the middle of the passage, though, there is no particular

reason to group the d and the u in this way.  We can just as well say

the syllables ud-ud-ud-ud-ud, or, as I would suggest, creating a real

English word, mud-ud-ud-ud-ud etc.  We can imagine ourselves continually

interrupting the word 'mud'.


The advantage of this move is twofold.  Firstly it has the effect of

emphasising the unity of the passage -- there is just one word 'mud' to

be interrupted.  Secondly, it makes clear that each individual note

begins with a pure sound, one that is created by the air pressure.

There is no percussive 'clonk' made by the tongue.  Rather than

imagining that we start a note with the tongue, we imagine that we 'stop

stopping' the previous one.


Now, the question immediately arises: how much force does it require to

stop a note?  Taking this question as a sort of research project, we can

begin to experience the process of articulation from a diametrically

opposed viewpoint to that suggested by the word "tonguing".  (You've got

to do it with the clarinet, though -- thinking about it isn't enough.)


First you must be sure that you really are producing a good firm sound

before proceeding.  Then, if you play a low E, say, it is possible to

place the tongue gently on the reed without stopping the sound.  The

pitch of the note becomes flatter, but the reed is able to continue to

vibrate even though it has a 'passenger' to carry.


It's absolutely necessary to continue blowing strongly throughout the

process.  Some people find this difficult to do, because their tongue

action is already bound up with their blowing.  For them, breaking this

connection is perhaps the most powerful move they can make to improve

their playing, quite apart from their staccato.  In fact, with a little

practice, by changing the embouchure and tongue position and increasing

the air pressure, we can in this way play quite a strong note at the

pitch almost of an E flat.


Speaking technically, the reed is able to vibrate, despite extra

damping, but the vibration has to carry an added mass.  The elementary

theory of oscillations then tells us that the result will be a lower

frequency of vibration -- hence, a lower note. 


By contrast, and quite strikingly, in the upper register it is

impossible to touch the reed at all without immediately stopping the

note.  This can come as a great surprise to many players.  Those of us

who have had the misfortune to get a small particle of biscuit or other

material between the reed and the mouthpiece whilst playing will find

it, on reflection, less strange.  (You can almost tell which are the

reed players among other orchestral musicians by the fact that they

always finish their coffee break with several mouthfuls of coffee ™ or

even skip the biscuit entirely.)


Anyhow, we immediately become aware of a possible difference in the

action of the tongue, depending on the register of the passage.  Notice

that this discovery is the result of an experiment that we could not

have thought of making had we not been open to the idea that the job of

the tongue in "tonguing" may be to stop rather than to start a note.


It also becomes clear that in articulating a passage we must never blow

less.  In fact, if we don't blow strongly enough, so that there is

insufficient pressure difference between the inside of the mouth and the

inside of the mouthpiece, the reed is unlikely to start to vibrate again

in a smooth and well-behaved way (particularly in the high register)

when we 'stop stopping' it.


Metaphor 2 ™ A Pendulum


One way to think about the situation involves another metaphor.  The

idea is to imagine that the reed behaves like a pendulum of greater or

lesser length, according to whether it is vibrating to produce a low

note or a high note.  This mini-pendulum comes to an abrupt halt if we

stop blowing.  Real pendulums oscillate much more slowly, and also

gradually come to a standstill, unless their oscillation is maintained

by an applied force.  In a clock, this force is supplied either by a

spring or by an electromagnetic system.


The vibration of the reed is similarly maintained, in this case by the

pressure difference between the air in the mouth and the air inside the



We can imagine, then, that a high note, looked at in slow motion, is

like a fast-swinging, light and delicate pendulum, and a low note like a

long, slow-swinging and massive one.


Now imagine stopping each of these pendulums, just as we imagined

stopping the reed with the tongue.  We would clearly need a stronger

grip to stop the long and massive pendulum.  We might only use two

fingers for the small one.  Also, if we needed to release a pendulum

afterwards so that it went on swinging nicely as before, we would be

careful about precisely how we gripped it in stopping it.  Probably we

would hold the small one particularly carefully, so that it would begin

again by slipping between our two fingers as we opened them slightly.


All of these considerations have their analogues in how we touch the

reed with the tongue.  The simplest and most delicate action that

succeeds in stopping the reed is likely to be the most effective in

allowing it to start when we let it go again.  This is why we are often

recommended to touch the reed at the tip. But if we try to give more

specific details of how the tongue should touch the reed, we begin to be

in trouble.  Because players have very different physiques, including

differing lengths and shapes of tongue, what works well for one player

may be useless for another,  We have to be flexible in our approach.

Every player has the opportunity to find out personally what works best;

though there is more than one way of going about this, too, and not

every method has an equal chance of success.


Controlling the tongue


You can try out how much control you have over your tongue by sticking

it out at yourself in a mirror, and telling it to keep still.


If you can do this at all, it will be with great difficulty.  It seems

that the tongue can perform miraculous feats, but resists direct,

precise instruction.  Children beginning to talk learn to perform

incredibly subtle movements of the tongue, though they have no sense of

directing their own physical actions.  They can even talk and eat at the

same time. 


So if you are trying to instruct yourself or others in related skills,

such as articulation, a delicate approach is in order. It has rightly

been said that if it were possible for us to teach children to speak

directly, by telling them exactly how to do it, they would probably

never learn.


Of course, it is impossible for us to interfere, because children can

already deal with much of the mechanics of speaking by the time they can

understand any such instruction.  It's a sobering thought, though, that

if we could in some way offer direct instruction, we would not only rush

in to do it, but also probably have competing systems, and experts, and

lots of reasons why it wasn't working.  


As children, we learn skills like speaking or singing by imitation,

approximating more and more closely the sounds around us.  As adults, we

have the tendency to introduce an intermediate stage in this process:

we try to find out and then describe to ourselves what we should do to

achieve the required result, and then concentrate on doing that thing.

We try, in other words, to tell ourselves how to do it.


Sometimes this may be a sensible move, particularly if the time-scale we

are dealing with is long, as when we are planning a picnic; but it is

wise to moderate the process by trusting ourselves to learn even without

knowing how.  This is particularly true when the complication of what we

have to do is such that we cannot keep track of our actions.  In this

way we are also less likely to make the mistake of being so interested

in the intermediate stage that we lose sight of what we were trying to

do in the first place.


Several interesting and useful books have been written about the

possibilities of this approach, mostly as applied to sports.  (A famous

violin player is quoted as saying that 'The Inner Game of Tennis' by

Timothy Gallwey is the best book about playing the violin he knows.)

Essentially, the idea is to have a good model or notion of what you want

to achieve, and then perform the action whilst remaining as conscious or

aware as possible of one aspect of your experience, always in a

non-judgemental way.


This particular aspect might be a body sensation or behaviour, or

alternatively part of the actual result obtained.  After a while, it

becomes possible to make an intelligent choice of what to concentrate on

at any given moment.  Progress is often much more fluent and natural

than with a more traditional method of immediate error-correction.  What

happens is that we tie up our conscious mind with the job of describing

something useful for us to know in some sense, with the added advantage

that our intellect is disabled from delivering its customary

evaluations, instructions and fears, most of which would be too late to

be effective even if they were appropriate.


In many ways, these activities of our mind are our greatest enemy, and

constitute the opponent in Gallwey's metaphor of the 'inner game'.  They

also give rise to the vicious circle of the psychological block, as we

shall see, where the anxiety arising from our fear of failure is the

fuel of that very fear.  


It is easy to approach staccato on the clarinet with too rigid an

attitude to controlling the tongue.  In finding how the tongue can most

effectively stop the reed from vibrating, and move neatly away in order

to allow it to continue, we do best by indulging freely in experiment.


When we already have a problem, our experience of playing the instrument

tend to fix many of the variables we may want to alter, immediately we

put the instrument in our mouth.  This makes experiment difficult,

because though we may feel uncomfortable about the defects in our

playing we already know about, we feel even more uncomfortable about

ones that we are generating and observing for the first time.


The metaphors I have already described constitute a minimally

confronting context for such experiment.  Fundamentally, they move our

actions in the direction of using much less force, particularly in the

higher register, and encourage us to think of the action of the tongue

more like that of a switch than that of an impulse.  Here is a further

metaphor that may help.


Metaphor 3 -- Pickup and Turntable


Imagine we have a hi-fi gramophone with a powerful amplifier and speaker

at our disposal.  We have also a recording that includes a loud

sustained passage, and our job is to produce a loud, clear, short sound

(i.e. a staccato chord) from the equipment.  How would we go about it?


If we turn up the volume control, we can lower the stylus of the pickup

arm until it is just above the part of the rotating record that contains

the loud passage.  At this point we can delicately lower the stylus on

to the record for an instant, thereby producing the loud, abrupt chord.


But notice that there is nothing in our action that corresponds to the

abruptness or the energy of the result.  The powerful component of the

system is the amplifier, which is operating constantly at the same

level.  In fact, if we were to match the intended loudness with a

similarly violent action with the pickup arm, we would most likely

fail to achieve our objective.


The same situation obtains when we play a loud short note on the

clarinet.  The power comes from the air-stream, which is what causes the

note to begin as the tongue stops stopping it.


Compare the situation when we enunciate a very loud syllable, beginning

and ending with a 'd'.  Here it really does seem that the tongue is

working hard, especially just before and just afterwards.  But this is

because the tongue has to hold back the airstream, which indeed must be

forceful.  Admittedly it does also seem that a violent action of the

tongue is being performed when we hear a fortissimo staccato note on the

clarinet.  But as we have seen from our experiment, it takes very little

contact with the tongue to stop the reed, even when it is vibrating



The helpful analogy for the action of the tongue is the analogy with a

control system, rather than a power system.  Remember the light switch!

You can play a very loud short note with a very delicate and precise

tongue action, just as, in principle, you could turn on and off even an

atomic power station with your little finger.


This last analogy might seem ridiculously extreme.  But in the world of

our imagination, it may be really useful.  Many players are very

surprised to discover quite how much they habitually overestimate the

amount of tongue action required.  We really need practically no contact

between tongue and reed in the high register.  The area of contact can

be reduced almost to nothing and the effect still achieved, even in

fortissimo.  Nor is it necessary to specify exactly how the tongue



I personally find that in the higher register I tend to touch the reed

with the underside of the tip of my tongue, which seems to alter shape

rather than move bodily, especially in fast passages, whilst lower down

the action is larger.  (A student once said to me, "But, my teacher says

that's *wrong*!") Also the degree of tension in the tongue can vary.

Perhaps those with a very fast staccato have succeeded in controlling

the sort of oscillations that we sometimes get in flexed groups of

muscles, though in general, in my experience, less rather than more

tension is to be encouraged.


We are really lucky to have this flexibility of control with the reed.

We can play a staccato that is more rapid than the speed at which we

could fully interrupt the word "mud" in reasonably loud speech.  To do

so, we must be able to touch the reed without interrupting the airstream

or compromising the embouchure, which is another reason why

experimenting with stopping the note whilst still blowing is so

important.  Sometimes players with long tongues find this difficult, but

they have all learned to talk acceptably, which required some gymnastic

lingual ability.  Playing staccato on the clarinet is a minor feat by



Some players have a phenomenally fast, "rattlesnake" staccato, and it is

probably hoping too much to think of developing such a special ability

from scratch; but a good medium-fast tongue action, fast enough for the

classical repertoire, and above all variable in its weight and area of

contact, should be accessible to most if not all players.


Metaphor 4 -- Half full or half empty?


The next metaphor is a sort of correction or complement to the first

three.  The metaphors so far have involved giving centre-stage in

consciousness to the airstream, reducing concern with the precise

details of the tongue action, even to the point of allowing these

details be unconscious.  Now I want to return to the business of

becoming aware of the tongue, but with the idea that we may be more

spectators than participants in its action.  We can switch between two

ways of looking at the situation, keeping the relative energies of the

airstream and tongue action as they were.  The only movement, as they

say in Zen, is in the mind.


We are all familiar with the figure/ground reversal whereby a white

goblet on a black background appears to turn into two faces in

silhouette against a white background. We know that we can also describe

the land as being the part of the seabed that is out of water, or

alternatively the bottom of the sea as the part of the land that is

underwater; or a glass of wine as half-full or half-empty.  A cousin of

these sorts of reversal of perception occurred when we changed the

organisation of the 'd' and the 'u' in Metaphor 1 from the grouping du-du-du

to the grouping ud-ud-ud.  The idea was to break the association of the

d with the beginning of the note so that we could experiment with the

idea that the tongue stops the note. 


Independently of the sound, though, we can look on the action of the

tongue in a sequence of staccato notes in two complementary ways: as

resting gently on the reed and leaving it momentarily, or as poised near

the reed and visiting it momentarily.


The first way of looking at the situation gives a clearer experience of

how lightly or firmly, and where, the tongue rests on the reed, and

mostly gives rise to a short staccato, whilst the other gives a clearer

experience of the distance the tongue withdraws from the reed, and

mostly gives a longer or mezzo-staccato.  It's worth trying both in turn

for a passage that is giving difficulty.  Sometimes I find that thinking

about the distance of my tongue from the reed (second point of view)

helps me to slow down and control a staccato that is suddenly moving too

fast for the context.


The sound in staccato


Anyone who has tried to emulate Danny Kaye doing his virtuoso

tongue-twisting prestissimo "patter" will know from personal experience

that one particular sort of voice works better than any other.  The

sound that gives clarity to his breakneck verbal delivery is quite light

and bright ™ there are lots of consonants, too.


(Danny Kaye, by the way, was a very good musician.  We can all learn

from his performances conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.)


But why is it that fast, dense passages seem to require this particular

timbre to sound at their best?


Before answering this question, we should convince ourselves that we

indeed are capable of producing a variety of basic sounds on the

clarinet, by varying, among other things, the embouchure and the

resonance of the cavity behind the reed, which includes the mouth, the

larynx and probably more.  When we speak of someone having a good sound,

it is not always realised that a really able player uses a number of

different sounds, or, more accurately changes the sound from moment to

moment, even if we as listeners perceive just one basic quality.


The reason why faster moving music needs a timbre with more higher

frequencies in it, in order to sound as clear as slower music for a

given acoustic, is this.  Lower frequencies persist longer, and muddy

the change from one note to the next, if they are predominant in the

sound.  We know (from listening to late-night parties next door) that

bass notes resist absorption more effectively than the higher partials.

If these higher partials are present, they die faster, and form a

non-overlapping sequence in a fast moving passage. The result is a

clarity of movement from one note to the next.  This is why we find we

need softer reeds, which produce more defined high partials, in a very

resonant acoustic.


It is also easier for us to stop a high frequency vibration than a lower

one. The effect of articulation is therefore more marked when the sound

is more brilliant.  Even when we have completely stopped the reed,

doubtless the tube vibrates for a moment longer, and the hall for longer

than that.  Again, the high frequencies dominate the perceived division

between one note and its successor, and so it makes sense to keep the

sound rich in upper partials.


A large resonating cavity behind the reed makes the sound richer in the

medium range harmonics, which doesn't help with this clarity.  Therefore

it may be better to choose a smaller mouth shape and an embouchure that

brightens the sound, as we might naturally do for fast legato



This is just a biasing of the sorts of movements of tongue and

embouchure we make when we play any passage.  In the end it is probable

that any passage, however articulated, requires a whole range of tongue

movements or techniques, modulated not consciously but after the manner

of speech, which is to say governed by the character of the executant's

intention or view of the music.


Beginnings and Phrasing


Till now, we have looked at articulation as something best thought of

not as an action that begins a note, but instead as an action mostly to

do with the end of the previous note.


But then, how do we deal with the awkward question of how we use the

tongue when there are no other notes?  In other words, what metaphor do

we use when we begin a smooth phrase, or just one note? 


Firstly, it's useful to clear aside the idea that there is one 'right'

way to do it.  If you speak to professional players, you will find a

variety of responses on the subject.  Some players almost always use the

tongue, others sometimes do and sometimes don't, depending on the

context.  We should have at our disposal metaphors that can embrace all

the techniques that successful players use. 


It is said: there was a famous magician who specialised in card tricks.

He was a renowned technician, but one trick in particular baffled his

colleagues.  It became an obsession with them to discover his secret.

Every time he performed it, they would watch closely, and from time to

time one of them was convinced he had solved the riddle.  But

immediately the master magician would smile, and do the trick again in

such a way that it was obvious that the proposed solution was not the



Finally, when he retired, he put his colleagues out of their misery.

There was no one trick.  He had three or four ways of producing the same

illusion, and when anyone thought they had him cornered, he would switch

to another method.


There is a moral in this story that has a wider application than the

present discussion.  When someone is expert at something that we find

difficult, we tend  to think that their playing contains some 'secret

ingredient'.  Perhaps it's the make of reeds, or mouthpiece, or the

shape of their mouth, or the strength of their embouchure and so on.

Students sometimes mob famous players after concerts in search of this

sort of information.  But like the 'good sound' which is in fact many

sounds, the answer is almost always more plural.  We may need to enrich

our own plurality and flexibility to succeed.


So, the metaphors are as follows.


Metaphors 5 and 6 -- The Bow and the Hosepipe


The diagram illustrates, again in schematic form, the beginning of a

note, supposed to be begun without the tongue.


<The diagram is a sharply rising curve, starting from nothing, that

reaches a maximum after a short time, and remains steady thereafter.>


There are a number of possible shapes, depending on the steepness of the

beginning of the curve, and the variety of these shapes is mediated by

the details of the muscular opposition abdominal/diaphragm which we

usually call support.  As I pointed out in "All that stuff about the

diaphragm", this process is mostly unconscious, occurs when we have the

opposition set up as we begin the note, and allows the result to follow

the sort of shape that we have imagined.  You can, for example, imagine

a shallower or a steeper curve to begin with, and continue the shape

after the high point, either maintaining the dynamic or making a gradual



As the opposition is set up, we can imagine a drawn bow, about to shoot

an arrow.  The abdominal muscles take the role of the bow, whilst the

diaphragm corresponds to the hand and arm, which provide the equal and

opposite force holding the system in equilibrium.  The more the support,

the more the bow is drawn and the greater are the forces involved.  More

support thus means a steeper initial curve in the diagram if the

diaphragm is suddenly relaxed, whilst very little support gives a more

gentle entry.  But this is as though we actually shoot the arrow.

Sometimes we will want to maintain control through the initial curve, as

though we simply allow the arrow to move forward as the force of the bow

overcomes the reduced pull of our arm.  If we maintain the support in

this way, we can often achieve a very focussed and precise entry, even

without the use of the tongue, and control of how the note subseqently

develops can give all the varieties of accent, fortepiano and

phrase-shaping which are the life-blood especially of slow and

expressive music.


The one thing we cannot do in this way is to completely eradicate the

initial upward curve. 


But we can do so using the tongue.  The effect is as though by very

delicately stroking the reed at the beginning of the note, we shave off

the initial curve, so that the note reaches the peak almost immediately.

Remember, the note begins when we imagine it beginning (see, 'All that

stuff about the diaphragm'), not when we experience doing something to

begin it -- so, here, we imagine it beginning and then simultaneously

perform the tongue stroke.  The duration of contact of the tongue with

the reed is very short, and the touch very gentle (imagine a feather).

Even if we want an explosive accent, the holding back of the attack is

done by the diaphragm.


The important point is that the action of the tongue can be cosmetic.

We can imagine the attack first and then clean it up with the tongue as

it begins.


The 'hosepipe' metaphor applies to the situation where it is just the

tongue that holds back the attack.  We play without support ™ and then

the action of the tongue takes longer, because it must remain on the

reed during the build up of air pressure from the abdominal muscles.

When the air pressure is at the level we require, we release the reed,

which begins to vibrate.  The analogy is with a garden hose, controlled

at the 'business end' by a valve (or a thumb).  The water pressure is

constant after the tap connecting the hose to the water supply is turned



Personally I usually find this less satisfactory, because I dislike the

artificial feeling of the air pushing against a non-vibrating reed for

such a long time.  Also it is possible to achieve effects of any

subtlety as we articulate notes in quiet dynamcs only by using a

combination of tongue and diaphragm, or diaphragm alone.  Still, using

the tongue alone can be useful, though it seems ironic that this less

flexible method is the one that is most commonly taught.  The 'hosepipe'

method is in fact the special case of the 'bow plus cleanup' method in

the limiting case where we don't use support.


Finally, on the subject of support in fast staccato passages, we should

note that very often sub-phrasing needs to be shown.  Playing with

support is the ideal way to do this, as then we have a natural control

of the dynamic envelope, as we would in legato.  Yet there is no

interruption of the airstream, so the reed still behaves well.




It is not my purpose here to provide exercises for staccato, which can

be found in many books, methods and tutors.  Moreover, exercises

divorced from music have the disadvantage that they lead to the habit of

regarding articulation as a monochrome technique.  I want to hear a

staccato that makes it clear to me why it is being used.  There is

brilliant staccato; and also staccato to make notes light, staccato to

make notes heavy, staccato to make audible, bubbly staccato,

'travelling' staccato and many more.  I could have said virtuoso

staccato instead of brilliant staccato and not been misunderstood, but

this is a detestable use of the word 'virtuoso'.  True virtuosity

consists of the ability to make a piece sound necessary in its own

terms, so that the response of the public might well be to say, "What

wonderful music!" more than, "What a wonderful player!"  Thus staccato

should always be studied relative to a musical context.


However, it's worthwhile mentioning one small exercise that is

sufficiently effective and innocent to be worth recommendation. 


I said before that it's often advantageous to get one's mind out of the

way to allow one's body to learn more fluently and naturally (the 'inner

game' techniques).  If we tie our minds up with another difficulty than

the one of articulating, our minds can't interfere.


Now, one of the abilities we sometimes need when we play music is the

ability to change between semiquavers and triplets, say, or between

straight quavers and quintuplets, whilst the beat itself remains

constant.  This can be made into an exercise in staccato, using a

metronome.  We switch at random between groupings of two, three, four,

five and even six to a beat, against a constant pulse.  The mental

difficulty of imagining the shift accurately and adjusting when we prove

mistaken I find an excellent context in which to develop basic

articulation skills.


© Antony Pay 1993/1997





Finger movements


Many Clarinet Tutors speak of finger movement as something we should try

to minimise.  On the principle that economy is in general a good thing,

and having seen players failing to play accurately whilst moving their

fingers a lot, most of us would tend to agree.  I remember designing and

making a gadget out of a coathanger to encourage myself to play with my

fingers closer to the keys.  A length of wire ran from the barrel of the

instrument to the bell, about an inch and a half above the holes.

Whenever my fingers moved further than this distance from the keys, they

struck the wire and brought the matter to my attention.  I recommended

the system to my students, but found that I used it little myself.


However, I have since come to think that the instruction to minimise

finger movement can be misguided.  It's true that there are

clarinettists of great ability who move their fingers only a small

distance, but equally there are others just as fluent who use larger

movements.  Sometimes it seems as though the concentration on small

finger actions in some way inhibits the expressivity of yet a third

group -- they may be able to play the passages, but somehow they seem to

lack character, as though they are too distanced from what they are



I think the problem is that the instruction is a negative one.  Clearly,

we want to avoid the desperate thrashing of fingers that we sometimes

observe with inexpert players, but perhaps we can do better than the

usual approach.  I would like to recommend an alternative way of

thinking about the situation which leads to our playing with small

movements when it's really necessary, but allows us to use larger

movements without deleterious effect when it's not.


What moves fast?


If we play a one-octave ascending F major scale in the chalumeau

register of the clarinet, first slowly and then quite substantially

faster, a question we can ask, either of a student or of ourselves, is:

supposing the second version of the scale to be, say, three times faster

than the first, how many times faster do we have to move our fingers in

order to play it?


I have found that people react in different ways to this question.  Some

find it trivially easy to answer correctly, whilst others find it

confusing.  A careful consideration of the answer (that the speed of the

run is in fact independent of the speed of our fingers) and subsequent

experiment is nevertheless enabling for any player, firstly because we

tend to forget these things, and secondly because information that know

intellectually may not impact our performance.  We need to experience

the situation directly.


Reflection shows that clearly nothing physical need move fast.  All that

is required is that each successive finger begin to move away from the

corresponding key or hole sufficiently soon after its predecessor.  In

this situation, therefore, neither fast nor small finger movements are

demanded.  To put it technically, the high speed of the run is

guaranteed if there is a high phase velocity associated with the finger

movements.  What is required is *precision* of movement.


Of course, I have chosen an extreme case.  Here, once a finger has

moved, it does not participate further in the run.  Not all fast

passages are like this, though I suspect that most players will be

surprised by how large a proportion of any particular passage does turn

out to be of this type. 


It's instructive to examine the opposite extreme, which is that of a

trill.  In this situation faster finger movement is required, because

the same finger must continually change direction to produce each and

every sub-element of the trill.  In practising a trill, moreover, it's

useful to notice that we can produce a different musical effect by

assigning differing lengths to the two notes.  (The trill is either 'on,

coming off' or 'off, going on'.)  So the perceived proportion of the two

notes in the 'mixture' of the trill is a variable we have at our

disposal.  As we experiment with this variety, we may notice that the

distance we are moving our finger, though generally small in order to

achieve the required trill speed, nevertheless changes to produce the

effect.  Perhaps we might create a metaphor to generate the notion that

the same amplitude of 'waggle' when the finger is closer to the

instrument produces more of the lower note than when the finger is

higher up, thus:  if you imagine contact with the instrument to be like

putting your finger into water, you can think of the longer time you are

on the lower note to be associated with going deeper under the water,

and therefore being there longer, even though in reality the finger

cannot move further once it's has touched the instrument. (The opposite

is the case if we are higher above the surface; then we are out of water

for the greater part of the cycle.)  At any rate, the variety of finger

distance occurs naturally, is a variation of something small, and this

smallness occurs naturally instead of being imposed.


Varying finger speed


For me the important part of all of this is that it leads to a natural

classification of the various parts of a passage of fast music as either

requiring fast finger movements, or not.  In general it's best to begin

by regarding all of a passage as a candidate for slow finger movement,

as it seems that faster movements occur more naturally in the context of

slow ones than the reverse, and anyway we are likely to be erring in the

opposite direction out of our natural response to the speed of the

passage.  We need not experience slow movement as a negative instruction

if we think of it as a 'relaxing' one.  Perhaps the advantage of the

instruction to move slowly over the instruction to move less is that the

latter can result in greater tension.  Also slower movements take longer

to execute, even if the run itself is still fast.  One of the noticeable

characteristics of expert playing is the elegance of it; there seems to

be more time available to a master player than we experience.  To engage

with our own mastery, we mostly need to create for ourselves the

illusion that we have more time. 


It's often advantageous to isolate the parts of a passage which give us

difficulty.  One of the traps into which we can fall is that of

generalisation; as when we say, "this passage is difficult" when it

would be more accurate to say, "I find these three notes awkwardнеуклюжими", or

even better, "I tend to play an extra note between these two", or,

finally, "that time, I played a rather flat G natural between the A and

the F."  If we know the moments that require fast finger movement, we

can practise them intelligently. 


In addition, we need an overall view of a passage in order to master it,

both technically and stylistically; what we might want to call some

altitude with respect to it.  This overall view needs to be a complete

one, or at least the sketch of a complete one -- it's no use practising

a passage that will need to be light and delicate with a technique

appropriate to energy and drama, unless this is a deliberate and

consciously undergone attempt to enlarge our musical conception.  Any

mode of study which reminds us of the overall view, or which requires us

to consider the passage in its totality with regard to some system of

classification, contributes to this quality of our response to it.

(This is part of the reason why looking at the harmonic structure of a

passage can help us to play it.) 


We may recognise the process as an example of the phenomenon called

chunking, which is what we do when we group a large quantity of

information into smaller, more manageable 'chunks'.  We then learn to

handle these chunks as though they were the basic units.  When we learn

a skill, we repeat this process several times, each step chunking the

previously created chunks, and ending up with an action which has the

unity that we have imagined from the beginning, with its qualities

reflected in each stage of the hierarchy.


It's amusing and instructive to try playing the ascending F major scale,

always with slower and slower fingers, faster and faster until the notes

fly out at a dizzying speed!  The experience is exhilarating.  Be

careful to keep the dynamic strong and the sound bright even though the

fingers are much more relaxed. Try following it up with selected

passages from Weber, who nearly always writes so that we can play, if we

wish, really fast without major difficulty (except that of being heard

clearly).  The result is hardly musical, but it's an indication of how

easy it can feel if we let it.


As always, we need to make some remarks about the subtleties that should

still be available after we have made the initial move towards slow

fingers.  There are some circumstances where it's advantageous to move

our fingers almost fast enough for the actual closing of a hole to be

audible as a sound in its own right.  'Brilliant' passagework sometimes

has this quality.  It can be advantageous to regard a passage as having

a structure consisting of smaller movements as submovements of larger

ones, with the larger ones slower than the smaller.  (Some passages

around the break, as well as those using the thumb keys in the extreme

low register of the larger clarinets, respond well to this approach.)

Also, although we will mostly find ourselves making the most economical

movement consistent with the execution of a passage, sometimes we will

also find ourselves wanting to add further movement, even of the

fingers, in order to be congruent with the other expressive

characteristics of the music.  Sometimes this sort of physical

expression can become exaggerated, but it's unwise to react by reducing

it to an absolute minimum.  Almost all expressive players indulge in

some degree of movement, though with the best this stops short of being

a distraction to the audience and does not interfere with their ability

to play.






audition nerves


Is this the standard beta blocker?



> Perhaps I'm opening a can of worms, but does anyone have experience -

> personal or hearsay - with propranolol (commonest trade name is

> Inderal) for performance anxiety? It was recommended to me before my

> music school auditions - recommended by my doctor, actually, as I was

> undergoing extensive thyroid hormone therapy at the time and subject

> to physical and emotional swings I couldn't control. It helped

> greatly, and I have used it on and off since under performance-type

> stress. For the uninitiated, it's a blood-pressure and heartbeat

> regulator that does not dope you but helps calm the physical symptoms

> accompanying stage fright - the shaking hands, trembling voice, etc.

> The better educated among us can certainly provide a more

> scientifically accurate description of its function. Another thing I

> have been told my MD is that Prozac has a similar effect on

> performance anxiety and can be used symptomatically when one is under

> stress of this sort.


> Another thing I have wondered about is the use of psychological

> technique (perhaps in conjunction with drugs, perhaps not) to control

> performance/audition anxiety. A friend of mine was doing a master's in

> sport psychology, and I attended a class with her and bought the

> textbook on a lark. The subject was the use of imagery and the like to

> project a strong belief in your own success onto the situation in

> question - in the case of this class, the situation was the elite

> athlete trying to optimize his or her performance. It occurred to me

> then that performance anxiety is really an interdisciplinary problem

> and that performance psychology can be an interdisciplinary form of

> treatment. It even occurred to me to design a college degree program

> in performance psychology for performing artists, but I never did. I

> was much more interested in the clarinet itself.


> But the question behind this digression is whether anyone knows of

> such a non-pharmaceutical approach - or combination of approaches - to

> performance and/or audition anxiety.


> Gott hop. Children beating each other up on their day off school.


> Anna


> PS: Yes, it is pretty here in Iceland (which is greener than

> Greenland, by the way).  The people are doing their dag-nab blue-eyed

> best to crud it up, but they haven't won yet. Nancy, if you make it

> here again, let me know.





Hi Anna.


I suffer from extreme performance/audition anxiety,

which for years strangled me through college and

professionally. Recently at a Clarinet workshop, beta

blockers were recommended to me and I did research on

them. For me personally, I realized it wasn't the best

approach. However Tom Martin, Principal Cl. of the

Boston Pops recommended the book "The Inner Game of

Music" (ISBN 0-385-23126-1) written by Barry Green a

string bassist I absolutely loved the book.  I was

able to apply various techniques to help control my

anxiety.  Yes I still have it, but its manageable so

my performance doesn't suffer.  Another thing I do is

eat a couple of bananas prior to playing, it is

supposedly a natural beta blocker. Honestly, I don't

know if the banana thing works, or maybe I just

psyched myself into believing it does...LOL   Anyway,

good luck with whatever method works for you.









Basic Principles

Skills practice incorporates tone production (or "long tones"), scales, and other exercises designed to build and

 maintain your clarinet-playing ability independent of specific music. This should be your first practice session of

the day, possibly your only practice session of the day. Make sure you follow the proper technique from the very

 first note you play; the following checklists might help:



Setting Up

Teeth on top of mouthpiece.

Chin flat.

Left thumb on ring, pointing at 2 o'clock.

Right first finger over bottom trill key, NOT ON THE ROD!

Both little fingers on long keys, NOT BEHIND THE CLARINET!


While Playing

Decide on a tempo before you start. Mentally count yourself off.

Always start with the tongue on the reed.

Feeling of blowing through the front of the mouthpiece, NOT down the horn.

Support: Breathe from the diaphragm. Keep pushing out as you play.

Plan your breaths. Anticipate the feeling of the upcoming breath.

Try to hear the upcoming note before you play it.

Trouble over the break? Keep blowing. Make sure your left thumb isn't late, and that it stays on the ring.

Trouble moving to the altissimo register? Imagine supporting those notes while you're still in the lower registers.





Using your Time

Divide your practice time as follows. For younger students who cannot practice for a long time, I've included time

 to work on assigned music or band music. More advanced students should add another practice session after an hour

 of skills practice to work on repertoire, orchestral excerpts, or special projects.



30 Minutes

10 minutes: Tone production

10 minutes: Scales

10 minutes: Assigned music


45 Minutes

15 minutes: Tone production

15 minutes: Scales and Arpeggios

15 minutes: Assigned music


1 Hour

15 minutes: Tone production

15 minutes: Scales and Arpeggios

15 minutes: Etudes

15 minutes: Assigned music 


More? Practice skills for an hour as below, take a break, and practice repertoire or excerpts in another




20 minutes: Tone production

25 minutes: Scales and Arpeggios

15 minutes: Technical Etudes, Tonguing Practice, etc.






Tone Production

Long tones and similar exercises are the "push-ups" in the sport of clarinet playing. They teach you true legato and

develop the muscles in your embouchure and air-support column. Twelfths, octaves and fifths are helpful to train your

 ear. Concentrate on support and airflow. Listen; keep the tone color consistent throughout the range. Keep perfect

posture, hand position, and embouchure. Practice relaxing.

Try this exercise: Pick any note in the lowest octave. Play a major scale starting on that note in this pattern:

1st note-2nd note-1st note (rest, breathe) 1st note-3rd note-1st note (etc.). Continue for two octaves. Play very, very

slowly; every note should be quite long. Tongue to begin the first note, slur up, tongue lightly to return. Listen carefully.

 Imagine the second note of each set before you play it, then move to it. Is it in tune? Was the slur smooth? Did you

continue blowing as you changed notes? Is the tone color the same? Did you return to the exact same pitch you



Start each practice session with some "perfect" sounds. Hopefully it will become a habit.




If you learn all your scales and arpeggios, you have 95% of the technique of music under your fingers. Start with C

 major, then add sharps and flats until you can play all your major scales from memory. Then learn the minors, both

 harmonic and melodic forms. Play at least two octaves; three octaves as high as you can. Keep the sound consistent

 from bottom to top and back. Make sure the register breaks are smooth. Practice slurred and tongued. Practice slow




This site contains all major and minor scales that you can read or print (low resolution, unfortunately).

For daily scale practice, try the Klose set, all your majors and melodic minors in two minutes (very good to warm up

 before a performance). Also, Baermann Book 3 will help extend your range. Try extending the Baermann scales even

 higher than written, you have to learn to play up there sometime.

Remember in scale practice it's not enough to just play the right notes. The sound has to be even and every note has to

 be in tune. When slurred, work for absolute legato. When tongued, work for the same attack on every note.







Phrasing--Speaking in Musical Sentences

John Cipolla

"Play musically!" "Play with feeling!" "Play with expression!" How many times have we been told these things by

 our teachers and conductors? The words musicality, feeling and expression have often had a mysteriousness attached

 to them. It is frequently said that one either has musical talent or not. Unfortunately students are not always told

 specifically how to produce these effects to stir the emotions of the listener. 


In music, as in speech, these expressive gestures are produced by "phrasing" the musical line. In order to remove

 the mysteriousness from musical phrasing, it might be helpful to compare a musician to a craftsman. The craftsman

 has a tool box with which she or he selects tools to perform their craft. They select the proper tools for the proper

job-a hammer to bang a nail, a screw driver to drive a screw or a wrench to loosen a bolt. When executing a musical

 phrase the musician also has a tool box which helps them perform their job well.


This tool box has two trays. The top tray is the Analysis Tray and the bottom tray is the Execution Tray. Each tray

 has tools in it.





Shape and Contour of the Musical Line

Important Structural Notes

Melodic and Motivic Material

Context and Stylistic Tendencies





Tempo Variation

Articulation and Legato



Like a craftsman sizing up the job before beginning, the musician must first study the music before performing it.

 The first tool from the Analysis Tray is the Harmony. When examining and playing a piece of music we must always

 be aware of the harmonies that are spelled out or implied by the melodic line.


The harmony will help create the tensions and releases in the musical line. This is because non chord tones in a phrase

 sound like they need to resolve to more stable chord tones. If they do resolve, the tension in the line is then released.

If they don't then tension is created. An example might be the minor 7th in a dominant 7th chord. The unstable sound

 of the 7th becomes more stable if the 7th were to resolve to the 3rd of the I (one) chord.


The Shape and Contour of the musical line often give clues as to where the climax is-which might be (but not always)

 the highest point in the line. It also can help the performer pace his/her dynamics throughout the phrase so they don't

 reach the high point of the phrase too soon.


By looking at the shape and contour of the line and harmony that go along with the melodic line, one can determine

 the Important Structural Notes of a phrase. An example might be a line that has the shape of an arc where the

 beginning and end of the phrase are both stable chords beneath the melody (such as a I chord). The high point in the

middle of the arc has a V7 chord. The chords are then (I-V7-I). Therefore the middle of the phrase (the V7 chord) has

 the most tension. The important notes are the ones in the beginning, middle and end which imply the I-V7-I chords.

 The other notes in between are not as crucial and the composer probably used them to help approach the important

structural notes in a smooth or unique way.


The Melodic Motives in a musical line give clues usually through their repetition or development. If a melody or

fragment of a melody is repeated or developed later in the phrase there is often a chance for the performer to do

 something with the repeated or developed material to create interest for the listener, such as play the repetition

softer or louder.


An understanding of the Context and Stylistic Tendencies of the period of music being played will give the performer

clues as to how to approach the music in a literate fashion. For instance, when playing Mozart, a dot over a note does

 not mean to play the note extremely staccato. In that period of music the dots meant to play the note separated but

not in a pecky extremely short fashion.


Another Mozart example is the interpretation of dynamics. Mozart's dynamics are somewhat terraced. There are

crescendos and diminuendos but they are not of the extended dramatic type that we find later in the Romantic period.

So by understanding this, we might tend to exaggerate the contrast in dynamic markings like "piano" and "forte",

 rather than phrasing with "swells" of crescendos and diminuendos.


After our analysis is complete, we are much better prepared to "execute" the phrases convincingly. There is a

fundamental difference though between a craftsman and a musician. The musician produces sounds, which can be

 helpful in our analysis. So don't become too bogged down with the analysis before playing a note. Sometimes first

 playing through a piece slowly and hearing it will help us to understand it's construction better.


Reaching into the Execution tray of our tool box we pull out our Dynamics tool. This can be one of the most effective

tools in capturing the listener's attention. Simply by playing a phrase louder or softer or by using a diminuendo or

 crescendo the listener is immediately captured for a moment. When a motive is repeated a number of times, changing

 the dynamic may help add interest to the line.


Next we find our Tempo Variation tool. By using accellerandos and ritards, tension and intensity are created. The

 listener hears that something fundamental is changing and is captured for the moment. Taking liberties with the

tempo by slowing down or speeding up is a common technique in vocal music, especially opera. Nineteenth century

 French, Italian and German music all employed this technique freely. Since singing is probably the most natural and

organic form of musical expression, it is helpful for instrumentalists to listen to singers.


Our next tool, Articulation and Legato, (the connection or separation of notes ) is crucial to phrasing properly.

This tool will allow the performer to group together specific groups of notes so they sound as if they are part of the

 same phrase. Without the separation or the smooth connection of notes one wouldn't be able to tell where one phrase

 ends and the next begins.


At first one may not think of Vibrato as a tool to help phrase music convincingly. But realize that anything which stirs

 the listener and captures their attention for a moment is an effective phrasing tool. As small a tool as vibrato is, it has

 its merits. The fast or slow speed of the vibrato can help intensify or relax a note. This, coupled with a crescendo

(our dynamic tool), can make a listener sit on the edge of his/her chair.


Though some may be more inately talented than others, one can "learn" how to play with musicality, feeling and

 expression. As we learned to speak and write in school by studying nouns, vowels and sentence structure, we learn

the analogous tools when speaking the language of music. With study and practice, we tend to forget the "rules," and

speak and write naturally without thinking about what we are doing. In a sense we pass over the process of "thinking"

 and simply do it. This "natural ability" in music will improve with consistent study, practice and performance using

the tools in our phrasing tool box. We will then be able to "speak in musical sentences."





Clarinet Lesson: Practicing a Technical Passage


You know the drill. The piece is full of sixteenth-note passages, it's fast, and your teacher tells you "Go home and learn it." The following suggestions relate to practicing these sorts of technical passages. Though geared towards sixteenth notes in 4/4 time, these techniques can be adapted for other sorts of passages.

The following example is a sample measure from the middle of a lot of measures of sixteenth-notes:

Kind of hard, and a little confusing, right? The first thing you should do is to mark in some things that might help: some cautionary accidentals and a reminder to use the alternate low B-natural fingering:

Technique 1: Practice Slowly and Increase Speed

There's really not much to say about this. Put a metronome on a slow click, like quarter note=50. In fact, it's better to set the metronome to double that (100) and use that as the eighth-note beat. Work until you can play it evenly and comfortably. Try to notice if you have a technical problem that is making things harder. For example, it might be the move from the 2nd to the 3rd note: G to E-flat. A lot of students will be late with the left-hand thumb and the E-flat will speak late. Work those two notes only until that is smooth. Once you get it right, REPEAT IT IMMEDIATELY! You want to ingrain doing it correctly, and wipe out the memory of all the times you did it wrong before it finally clicked. I sometimes use the "penny game." Start with 5 pennies (or reeds, or other counters) on one side of your stand. When you play the passage with no mistakes, move one over and try again. If you make even one mistake, all the pennies go back to the other side and you start over. This will force you to play the passage five times correctly in a row. This brings us to the first "carved-in-stone" law of practicing:

Thou shalt immediately repeat a passage oncest thou gettest it right.

Now that you have it, increase the metronome a couple of clicks and repeat the process. You will eventually get to a point where you want to make the metronome beat a quarter-note instead of an eighth-note and keep increasing that. For the best possible results, practice the passage up to a tempo a few clicks faster that you intend to play it.

You notice the word "metronome" has been used a lot. This brings us to the second law of practicing:

Thou shalt ALWAYS practice technical passages with thy metronome.

The metronome has several advantages. It helps you to play evenly. It trains you to keep a steady rhythm. It will eventually give you a sense of tempos (many professional musicians can read something like "quarter-note=96" and instantly give you the right tempo within a click or two). The metronome is also like a stopwatch to a runner; it allows you to chart your progress and slowly strive to increase it.

Practicing slowly and increasing speed will work, but it is deadly dull. It's best to combine it with a technique such as:

Technique 2: Practice Smaller Groupings

Set the metronome to a speed perhaps a little slower than marked, but not really slow. Then practice the first five notes like so:

Play until it is even and comfortable. You might use the "penny game" as described above. When you have it (and have repeated it many times...), start with the second beat and play five notes:

"Why five notes?" I hear you ask, "it's in four-note groups." If you just practice the four-note groups, you will never practice the connections between them. You will also not be as aware of the "anchor notes"- the notes that fall on the beats of the measure. This is extremely important, so we will make it another law:

Thou shalt practice small groups from STRONG BEAT to STRONG BEAT.

Once you have the groups of five worked out, try them like this:

Now try groups of (not eight but) nine:

Repeat for the next few groups. You're probably ready now to try the whole passage, and you're a lot closer to the target tempo than you would be if you were simply working it up one click at a time from "dead slow."

Another technique that is especially good for things like scales is:

Technique 3: Add-a-Note

Just start, at full tempo, with the smallest grouping you can play, and go one note further. Once you can play that, go one more note:







Repeat until done. This technique does not ground you rhythmically as well as the previous, and it is a bit tedious, but it works.

Now that you have the notes, you can work on playing the passage evenly:

Technique 4: For Evenness, Use Rhythms

For each group of four notes, change the rhythm to:

For a metronome marking, use the fast tempo, but for the eighth-note (you really can't do this at full tempo). Now for the harder part, reverse the above rhythm to read:

As always, if a particular interval is a problem, try to figure out what you are doing wrong physically to cause trouble. Is a finger late? Are you not blowing/supporting between the notes? Do you need to concentrate on one particular motion?

Now we re-write the passage in triple time with two long notes and two short notes (there are three different combinations (that don't involve syncopation)):

You can try this with the metronome set to something like 72 to the dotted-quarter-note or, if that's a little too hard, set to something like 120 to the eighth-note. As above, don't try to work this up to the marked tempo - this practice version doesn't really compare beat-for-beat with the original.


In practicing technical passages you really have two goals: to teach your fingers to play the passage evenly and correctly, and to partially memorize the passage so that your reading of it doesn't slow you down. The techniques above will help to do that, and have always worked for me. Let's end by re-stating the three laws of technical practice:

1.     Thou shalt immediately repeat a passage oncest thou gettest it right.

2.     Thou shalt ALWAYS practice technical passages with thy metronome.

3.     Thou shalt practice small groups from STRONG BEAT to STRONG BEAT.

Now, go learn the opening to Daphnis and Chloé!





Effective Slow Practice
Stanley Geidel

At some point in our musical lives, each of us has certainly heard the following from our teachers when attempting to perform fast, technical passages...

   "Try it again... slowly."
   "If you practice it fast, and you miss a few notes, you are only practicing your mistakes."

In addition to the above, we've all surely also heard the following... "Don't just play through it... practice it." Therefore, the full message seems to be: the slow practice of fast, technical passages has a great value, but just playing through something slowly is not the complete answer. We have to somehow practice correctly while playing slowly. How do we accomplish this? The answer - and it is truly a very beneficial answer - appears when we examine the nature of what our fingers actually do when we play fast.

When we play fast passages, our fingers move quickly from one position on the instrument to the next. I know what you are thinking... "of course they do!" But that's not quite the full story. During fast passages, our fingers not only move quickly from one note to the next, but they do so without stopping; they do so without any pause between the various intervals.

Let's consider a group of sixteenth notes in the left hand: C-D-E-F-G. To play this passage rapidly, we begin by quickly lifting the fourth finger. Then, without pause, we quickly lift the middle finger. Again without pause, we rapidly lift the index finger. Similarly, and again without pause, we quickly lift the thumb. So what we have here are are series of rapid finger motions, all in quick succession. It is the phrase "all in quick succession" that is of interest here.

Of course, the above example is quite easy to play rapidly. But imagine some sequence of notes that is not quite so easy. Any one will do. A close analysis reveals that the problem is not actually getting from note 1 to note 2 quickly. Nor is it a problem to rapidly get from note 2 to note 3, or from note 3 to note 4, etc. We can rapidly play any one of the intervals, in isolation. It is the rapid sequence of intervals that causes problems... stringing all the rapid intervals together is what actually creates difficulty.

This is where slow practice can be helpful, if it is done correctly. What constitutes the correct slow practice of fast, technical passages? The key concept is to practice at a very slow tempo, while moving the fingers rapidly and precisely when changing notes. I call this "practicing fast, slowly." It is not a contradiction!

Slow fingers... fast fingers... do you see the difference? "Slow fingers" move with a languid, flowing motion. The fingers seem to help blend the notes together, enhancing the legato effect. "Fast fingers" change notes quickly, deliberately, precisely, and immediately, helping to clearly enunciate each note.

Practicing slowly with "slow fingers" does little to improve fast passage work when the correct tempo is later taken up. However, practicing slowly with "fast fingers" can work wonders for improving rapid, technical passages. To "practice fast, slowly," select a very slow tempo with long note values substituted for short values. Move the fingers quickly and precisely at the exact moment the notes change. It may feel as if you are "suddenly jerking" the fingers from one note to the next.

During slow practice with "fast fingers," your fingers are actually moving through the intervals just as rapidly as they will when you later speed up the tempo. However, since the tempo is slow, you have removed the obstacle of rapid succession. In reality, the fingers move through the notes quickly, but since they move one interval at a time, the passage is now completely manageable. Most important of all, you are practicing the very motions - the rapid changes of finger position - that you need to make at the fast tempo. What you now have is effective slow practice of rapid, technical passages.

As you can see, there is a great deal of difference between simply practicing slowly and practicing slowly with "fast fingers." There is still a bit more to say; in fact, there are two more items of importance. First, as you "practice fast, slowly," pay very careful attention to eliminating all extraneous motion of the fingers as you change pitches. Any extraneous motion will be magnified when you later increase the tempo, causing unevenness or even resulting in missed notes. Precise, immediate motions are the goal. Focus your ear on listening for clean intervals. If it feels (and sounds) a bit mechanical, that's fine... you are training the fingers to "remember" how to play these passages.

Secondly, don't overdo it. There is no need to repeat each passage dozens of times at one sitting. You are training the fingers, and an important part of the training concept is rest (or recovery). Play the passage in question "fast, but slowly" four to eight times; pause a moment, then go on to another passage. Come back to the passage the next day and again play it "fast, slowly" four to eight times. There is immensely more value (i.e., more beneficial "training" occurs) in playing a passage eight times a day, every day, for one week, than there is in playing a passage fifty-six times in one sitting. The body learns things over the course of time; don't let your mind - and your desire for quick results - get in the way of true progress.

The patient application of the method outlined above will do much to solve even the knottiest technical difficulties, and I commend it to you with great confidence. As you apply this method you, too, will gain confidence in it, because you will see results. These results will breathe a new vitality into your approach to practicing. All this because of a seeming contradition... we learn to play fast by practicing fast...slowly!

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A Common Sense, Practical Timeline for Teaching First Year Clarinetists
Roger Garrett

It seems every time I think of putting together my thoughts regarding a subject surrounding clarinet pedagogy, those thoughts are nurtured by a recent lesson with a student. This one is no exception.

This past week, I asked one of my university clarinet students, a music education major, how soon she would move a beginning clarinetist in the public school band program from the chalumeau register to the clarion and altissimo registers. We discussed the idea that the upper clarion and, perhaps more often than not, the lower altissimo registers were more in line with a students' natural use of the aural cavity. In other words, the way a youngster uses their mouth and tongue to speak may be more akin to a position used to play in the clarion and altissimo registers than the chalumeau. Despite this fact, neither of us could find any reasons that would support movement away from the chalumeau until students were "ready." As it turned out, the student was unsure of when "ready" might be, and we entered into a fun and spirited exchange of when that might be. Several things came out of that dialogue that might be important for the beginning teacher or the non-clarinetist band teacher to know about a "correct" timetable for beginning clarinets.

First of all, as a disclaimer, I want to state at the outset that this timetable is designed for the greatest success with all teachers - clarinetists and non-clarinetists. In the hands of a clarinet specialist, a young student may move more quickly or naturally in a particular direction. This article is not written with that kind of student in mind - although this approach will work for anyone.

My feeling is that young students are most excited and ready to work hard at the very beginning of their experience. Regardless of the task, students want to achieve, and they want to do well. Learning a musical instrument is no exception. Luckily the clarinet, it is not a particularly difficult instrument to produce a good, characteristic sound on. Unlike the french horn, tuba, oboe, or bassoon, the clarinet requires very little beyond the ability to form the embouchure and blow air in a specific way. However, there are some very important fundamental concepts that are absolutely required in order to proceed to the more "advanced" areas of playing, and making use of a student's excitement at the very beginning can help form these concepts early. This article focuses on a basic time table for the beginning band clarinetist. For the purposes of clarity, this article defines a beginning band clarinetist as a 5th grade student within the first 8 months of playing clarinet for the first time.

Develop Students' Awareness of a Beautiful Sound

Everyone means well when they begin a student. Sadly, once the embouchure is formed and playing begins, students change their embouchure to eliminate the accidental overblown harmonic (squeak). Demonstrate a beautiful tone in your playing for the student, or have characteristic examples for students to hear and see. Without these things, students can't possibly imitate and produce a great tone. In order of importance during the first lesson:

1.      Have students form the embouchure without the clarinet (there are lots of terrific articles and items written about embouchure formation - this article is more about the timetable and what to teach when than the "how to" approach).

2.      Have students form the embouchure with the clarinet in hand and the mouthpiece in the mouth - but without blowing.

3.      Using a correct embouchure, have the students blow an air stream without the clarinet.

4.      Using a correct embouchure, have students blow another airstream, but this time ask them to blow warm air and cold air on their hand.

5.      Have students sing a first space F as you play it on the clarinet or piano.

6.      Have students play an open G (concert pitch of F) with the correct embouchure -using "warm" air. If successful, ask them to repeat with "cold" air.

7.      Explain why students may experience the overblown altissimo D when they try to play an open G, and work with those students briefly. If squeaking continues, have students reduce the amount of mouthpiece they take until the G sounds. Gradually increase amount of mouthpiece until the correct amount is being used.

8.      Rotate the instrument at the barrel so that the keys are facing the student. Individually, have each student hold the barrel of the instrument and play an open G as you (the teacher) finger the notes on the instrument for them. They will be very surprised at the nice sound they get as they blow with a correct embouchure and you finger the notes G, F, E, D, C and back up. Stress that they didn't have to move embouchure or change air stream to get those notes.

9.      Repeat number 8 by extending the range from Open G down to Low F and back.
Experiment with the student trying it with their own fingers.

10.  If successful, have the student attempt starting on a lower note in the range - a low G or low F. If they overblow the harmonic, have them take less mouthpiece until they are able to "feel" (in the mouth, throat, tongue position) where the position is correct for the low notes. Then gradually have them increase the amount of mouthpiece taken on repeated tries. Some students may have problems covering the holes with their fingers or bump other keys that open - thus causing squeaks. Identify and correct as much as possible.

In this area of instruction, it is not enough to, as one young teacher has stated, "teach the clarinet down to low E and make sure that the student has a good understanding of what it takes to produce a good sound on the clarinet," before moving to another register. Understanding can only be demonstrated by the students' exhibit of a good tone throughout the chalumeau - and that takes weeks, sometimes months to solidify before the embouchure is ready to handle the issues associated with the clarion. The embouchure will most certainly not be able to play well in the altissimo during this time, although an occasional game or two in that area won't hurt anything. It is actually very easy to play around in the altissimo register - as evidenced by the frequent squeak experienced by trying to play in the chalumeau. Experimentation in this area will allow students to see what notes they are actually able to play with almost no effort. It also helps focus them back into producing a good sound in the lowest register. However, embouchure strength, endurance, and, above all, consistency, is a must before moving into any other register. When in doubt, wait!

Test students' understanding of what a good tone is by expecting them to play with a full, reedy, clear, and controlled resonant tone with a centered pitch. This is the test for a "good understanding" of what is involved with playing a characteristically good tone on the instrument. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of providing a model for the student to hear on a regular basis.

Focus on tone quality and air support first and worry about tonguing issues later

An often overlooked factor amongst beginning clarinetists (or any wind instrument for that matter) is training students to get plenty of air in, and then training them to blow the air out. There are many techniques for doing this well, and the best "how to" approach is not a primary focus of this article. My point in mentioning use of air is that this needs to be as important a focus of sound production - primarily because air is sound production. Whatever techniques you use to develop good breathing habits, make sure the students spend the first week or two playing everything at MF or F - with the correct embouchure. Don't allow them to breathe every measure; rather, ask them to make it through four measures at quarter note = 80. For some this will be a difficult task - so this is a good time to review cold air and warm air concepts. Playing at the louder volumes requires students to flex the embouchure and grip the mouthpiece correctly, so they will tire quickly in the beginning. Plan rest periods and instruct to other students during this time. By monitoring pitch and/or tonal colors (baggy, saggy, buzzy, fuzzy for the negative, and firm, clear and big for the positive), it is easy to tell if a student has the mouthpiece firmly against the upper teeth, is biting too much or not enough, and is blowing the right amount of air. The flex of the embouchure works the muscles around the corners and upper lip, and students will gain strength and endurance quickly by holding longer notes at louder volumes.

When in doubt, Stay in the Chalumeau

The temptation to move into the clarion is always great. Moving into the clarion or the altissimo too soon can be akin to trying to get a toddler to walk sooner than he should, or, better, putting a beginning driver on the freeway too soon. Once he's there, you've got a lot more on your hands than you did before. Many band method books put the clarinet students into the Clarion register much too soon. And, perhaps most often, teachers allow embouchures to move and stray from the initially taught embouchure at the same time as the move to the Clarion; this causes awful problems later. In most cases, it's best to wait and be sure that hand position, embouchure, use of air, and ability to maneuver around the chalumeau register is working well prior to the big move. Frankly, this is a good time to focus seriously on articulation - beginning with legato and moving to more separated sounds. Stress interruption of the reed for only brief nanoseconds - always reminding students that the tip of the tongue flicks the top of the reed. Avoid allowing students to anchor tongue (leaving the tip of the tongue behind the lower teeth while using the middle of the tongue to interrupt the top of the reed). While this is an acceptable form of tonguing, it also causes issues later with regard to flexibility that are much more difficult to deal with than tip to tip tonguing.

As an aside, while some people believe the clarion and altissimo are a natural area to play in, these are also cause the most difficulty by virtue of disguising articulation problems. The Chalumeau is a great register for dealing with both of these skills - if problems are going to occur; they will be more easily diagnosed in this range. Let's not forget that we are developing ears as well as playing ability. Young students take time to develop good habits that remain. I have heard one person state that, while students should have an understanding and be able to demonstrate the understanding of good mechanics and architecture in embouchure formation, there does not need to be a more mature tonal center established before addressing the altissimo register playing. I would submit that a student who demonstrates an understanding of good mechanics and architecture in embouchure "formation" does not necessarily play with a good (mature or otherwise) tone quality. The word "mature" is a somewhat elusive term to me, although it is not unusual to have a four-week beginner producing chalumeau sounds as good as many seasoned pros! I prefer to think of the tone as being characteristic, consistent, and in tune before moving to the clarion. A consistent tone is one that does not waver, one that usually sounds the same each time the student plays, and one that does not let much embouchure or jaw move around. Lots of students can form the embouchure, but it takes time - more than a few weeks - to maintain and make sure the embouchure isn't going to change. The altissimo leap has a high risk factor with regard to movement of embouchure - and with very few positive results if successful. I would prefer to err on the side of caution and be sure that all the hard work the student has made towards the next level will not deteriorate in an effort to demonstrate an awareness of how tongue position and voicing can allow them to play in a register they won't be using for awhile.

Use the time in the Chalumeau to teach the five step process for starting a tone with the tongue:

1.      Air in

2.      Set the embouchure

3.      Tip of tongue at the top of the reed

4.      Blow air

5.      Release the tongue

With normal, everyday playing, numbers 2-4 occur only nanoseconds apart. In practice, it is often a good idea to have the beginning clarinetist practice by the numbers a couple of times. The teacher can best help by monitoring and listening to the responses. This is a time when that pesky overblown harmonic (squeak) can come back. Make sure students know that excessive movement of the entire tongue can cause this instability. Have them move just the front of the tongue. In this way, the Chalumeau register has quite an advantage over learning articulation in both the clarion and altissimo registers. It is much easier to diagnose articulation issues when the student is playing in the Chalumeau. While learning articulation skill in the lowest register, if the back of the tongue or the soft palate is too active, it can often result in an overblown harmonic or "squeak.." In the altissimo, the tongue can be very active in all ways and often no squeak will occur; this is the same for the clarion register. For those students who move too quickly to the clarion and altissimo, there will be articulation problems in the chalumeau - bank on it!

You might be amazed at how students will move their entire jaw or allow the embouchure to "slip" when approaching tonguing. This is the best time to watch for these kinds of things - when you are teaching articulation in the low register.

Hand Position is a Major Concern

There is no better time to focus on hand position than during the first two or three months of playing. Stress the importance of straight third fingers, monitor the right hand forefinger and do not allow it to become hooked under the trill keys (holding the instrument up). Be sure that the right hand thumb is not extended too far beneath the thumb rest. If the fingers/hands are large enough, the pinky fingers should lightly touch pinky keys. If not, at least make sure that they are up and ready to move to the pinky keys rather than curled below the keys. Double check the left hand to make sure that the thumb is at about a 45 degree angle and is lightly touching the register key. This is critical for later use of the register key. Be sure to check the left forefinger to see it is over the Ab key - ready to rock onto it when necessary.

Rate of finger motion and Moving from the Proper Knuckle

I can't begin to tell you how many technical issues can be solved simply by having students move from the major knuckle rather than the first or second digit knuckle. Without playing, have students "pop" sounds on each tone hole - this will be especially difficult for third fingers. Make sure their fingers remain ever so slightly curved rather than buckled at the first digit knuckle. This approach will lead to faster, clearer finger articulation down the road.

Know When to Teach by Rote and When Not To

Teach by rote, but don't ignore students' need to learn to read notation. Have students say the note names as they finger the note. Have them read and play as much as they imitate and play. Design rhythm games on the board, and expect all students to achieve a rhythmic reading proficiency. Rhythmic reading skill is a much more difficult task than knowing note names, and it requires a teacher's attention for every class taught.

After the student has been playing long enough to get to the low E without major squeaks due to pulling fingers off of the holes, it is time to give them their first major technical challenge. One of the great rote patterns is the first five notes of the chromatic scale starting on low E. Unlike asking students to memorize what seem like unorganized fingerings in the altissimo, the chromatic scale is immediately useful in daily applications. Stress a pick-up-put-down approach whereby the left hand pinky will finger the low E and the right hand pinky is simultaneously on the F key. Simply pick up the left pinky, resulting in a sounding F, (Eb Concert Pitch) and put it down on the F# key - never moving the right pinky. This gives the first three notes of the chromatic scale. Proceed by having students go back and forth between these three notes - only moving the the left pinky. When it is smooth, the next step is, from the F# fingering of both pinkies down, to pick up both pinkies from the F#/F keys leaving a sounding G (F Concert Pitch). Put the right pinky down on G# and then pick it up again to sound G. Both pinkies go back down on their respective keys for F# (as on the way up), and pick up the left pinky for sounding F. Put the left pinky down on E without lifting the right hand pinky from the F key, and you have the first five note pattern of the low octave. Once students have this pattern learned with a good tone and good finger movement, start with G# and work up the next five notes to C natural. Don't forget to use the fork B natural for B. The final five note pattern is from C to E. Do not use side Eb; rather - have the students use the fork Eb fingering on the way up and down. Once these three, five-note groupings are learned, have students connect them for one full octave of chromatic beginning on low E. Don't forget, when the register key is added later, they will be able to play a long B to high B chromatic scale with the same fingerings. The idea that they have two octaves of chromatic ability (more than any other section except flutes and saxophones) is enough motivation to get even more focused practice from them in the ensuing weeks!

The chalumeau chromatic is always my first major technical goal for the beginning clarinetist - often best to teach right after students have demonstrated the ability to slur from Open G to Low E and back without problems. It's a great combination of blowing, forming embouchure, getting a good sound, demonstrating good hand position, and developing technical skills They should be able to start a note on the Low E before attempting the chromatic patterns. This worthy goal of chromaticizing allows the student to play with security in a register that most band music will require of them for the next four years, and it encourages them to blow through then entire length of the horn. By virtue of the necessity to use many different keys beyond the tone holes themselves, it can reinforce good teaching of hand position, and the embouchure is not tempted to move around much in this register. Beyond that, it pre-teaches notes/fingerings that a student will encounter within the next year. I use it as the "mid-term" (fourth month) grade I used to give my public school clarinet students, and it is the primary reason that the junior high and senior high clarinet sections played with advanced technique and good, fundamental tones. Regarding private students - they often reach this point within the first 2 months of studying (8 lessons) if all is going extremely well. By the way - you don't ever have to have them see the chromatic in order for them to develop it. But it never hurts to give them a copy of the patterns.

Once students have learned the chromatic scale down low (by rote) and are progressing with articulation in the chalumeau, it is time to move them up to the clarion. However, I have some additional thoughts regarding the idea that the clarion should be skipped over in favor of the altissimo. I have heard of at least one approach that stresses this timetable.

Some additional thoughts about skipping from the Clarion and moving to the Altissimo

The philosophy that suggests moving to the altissimo (as high as a G) immediately following the learning of a low E on the clarinet also stresses the process of getting students to "visualize"concepts that include but are not limited to teaching students about breath support via control of what the philosophy labels "the propulsion and delivery systems." This labeling method is coupled with the idea that students will be less successful if teaching is centered in the chalumeau (eg. fixing things dealing with tone production in the lowest register) than if they play in the altissimo within the first several weeks. This approach then uses the altissimo register as a point of departure to work back down to the clarion. The idea that playing in the altissimo register is more about voicing physically in the mind (through visualization) and then proceeding to apply concepts of good tone after the fact is definitely one I have never seen applied successfully in any school district - for good reason. While there are merits to the idea that students can visualize well and that they can work in the upper registers more easily (we've all had them "squeak" constantly), the physical act of playing and listening to a characteristic clarinet sound during these beginning stages is much more important. Foreseeable problems with moving students up too soon might include but not be limited to poor sound production in the chalumeau, poor articulation skills, relatively weak control of pitch, and a tendency to overblow (volume) the clarion and altissimo registers. Of course, with the right teacher, any method at the private instruction level can work (see my disclaimer at the beginning of the article). But in terms of class or mixed band instruction, I believe this approach risks too much in the way of muscle development of the embouchure required for endurance and depth of sound that comes from learning to play in the chalumeau. Beyond that, the move to the clarion from the chalumeau is very easy if done in a way that allows students not to move their embouchures, change their air stream, or adjust their aural cavity.

I don't buy into the notion that asking a student to remain in the chalumeau as a platform for helping them to create "fast air, flatten the chin," and to "make the lower lip firm," creates a natural restricted palate to playing in the altissimo later on. I haven't experienced that problem myself, have not observed that problem with the hundreds of beginning clarinetists I have taught, and I have had to fix enough embouchures and articulation issues at the secondary and university level to know that students need to remain in the lowest register longer.

Students develop "subtones" in the altissimo and/or clarion because of poor embouchure development and a lack of awareness of how the tongue and aural cavity can positively affect register changes. Keep in mind that subtones, the small "thuddy" sound heard when trying to play in the clarion or altissimo - usually when articulating, can occur for reasons other than voicing issues. Two prominent reasons for subtones occurring frequently are not enough mouthpiece, or the embouchure squeezing the reed. The latter is often from a bunched chin or strange embouchure - not simply from biting or squeezing too hard.

Further, there are many ways of teaching correct embouchure and air speed at this early level without requiring students to move to the altissimo register before the clarion. The lack of awareness of how the tongue and aural cavity affects register changes does not come from staying in the chalumeau too long; frankly, it happens because teachers do not often teach the concept of overblowing a fundamental pitch to achieve a clarion or altissimo note - at any time! These are more advanced concepts that students can begin to explore after they have developed a good awareness of playing in the lowest register. The time period for learning these techniques that typically provide the best reward for the student is the second or third year of study. However, exploration and experimentation of the altissimo can occur within the first year if done properly. As soon as the requirement is made to memorize fingerings in the altissimo (during the first year), the teacher has moved out of what may be the most beneficial timetable for teaching beginning clarinet and into an ego-bursting area that has little or no value to the student. To recap then, without the fast and slow air concepts, a good embouchure that includes strength in the upper lip (which is what allows the chin to be flat and muscularly flexed), and without a firm lower lip that is slightly rolled over the lower teeth, work in the altissimo may damage a beginning students' demonstrated understanding of how to play in tune and form an embouchure well. Again, there are always exceptions, and those exceptions should study privately or spend time after school individually with the teacher.

Move to the Clarion

Patience is a virtue! There will be plenty of time to learn control - both with the air, the tongue placement, and the embouchure as required by the altissimo, when the time comes. At this point in a youngster's development, the less movement in the tongue, throat, mouth, embouchure, air stream, the better. This is best developed in the chalumeau with a direct link to the clarion when the student demonstrates readiness.

An activity that has always worked for me:

Have students count off by twos. Have the "ones" play a low A in the chalumea with their eyes closed while the two's wait for your cue. On your cue, the "twos" should lightly press and hold the register key of the "ones'" instrument. If all is well and you have done your job with the low register, the fourth space E in the clarion will pop out - perfectly clear and right in tune. Reverse the activity for the "ones," and then have students practice the rock of the thumb onto the register key without actually playing. This is a good time to review hand position. Once they have it right, have them add the register key themselves while they play the low A. It is extremely important that you monitor their embouchures, jaw movement (there should be none), and the way they blow air or bite down. Watch for any excessive head movement - dipping of the head or raising the head up. Be sure the angle of the clarinet is closer in than farther out. Finally - review pressure of the mouthpiece against the upper teeth for support. If all is well and the sounds are reasonably clear, it is time to review starting notes with the tongue from a point of departure in the clarion. I recommend fourth line D. Review the five step process on that note. Once successful, have them slur up and down the clarion to explore what notes speak well with a minimum of movement in the embouchure and back/middle tongue position.

Keep in mind, there are several philosophies of "how to" in clarinet pedagogy. I have observed beginning band teachers who focus on the idea that young clarinetists must be able to produce a particular note on the mouthpiece and, subsequently the mouthpiece and barrel combination before moving to the entire clarinet. While there are very practical reasons to start out this way, remember that it is simply a single tool or activity of many tools and activities for helping students successfully realize what it feels and sounds like when they correctly play in a particular register with a particular embouchure. Use it if you feel comfortable using it - do so. But don't use it if you have trouble with it. It isn't required in order to produce a great sound. Also, there is a possible negative outcome from this approach - playing with the mouthpiece and barrel, or just the mouthpiece, can create a problem of perception for which register the student should begin in. This happened with me when I first started. I was asked to play on the mouthpiece only as a means for teaching embouchure and grip of the embouchure. When I was able to play the correct pitch on the mouthpiece (high C), I was moved to the clarinet. The first half hour was spent trying to find an Open G in the chalumeau register. When the open G finally sounded, I was surprised at how "low" the pitch sounded and felt in the resonating chamber of my mouth and throat compared to what I had been playing with just the mouthpiece. What a change from the sounding high C on the piano! As a result of that experience, I never used the technique of mouthpiece and/or mouthpiece/barrel combination for starting my beginners. I do use the technique as a test for embouchure formation and the amount of pressure used around the mouthpiece and against the upper teeth after the student has successfully sounded the first notes.

It is always preferable to have defined student learning objectives (SLOs) for everything you teach. Beginning Band/Beginning Clarinet is no exception. This is a good General Timetable in a Nutshell (based on two to three class meetings a week for 50 minute classes - mixed instruments):

Week 1: Instrument assembly and disassembly
Form Embouchure - with/without instrument
Warm Air/Cold Air Concept
How to breath in
Hand Position
Open G - Low C and Back

Week 2: Review Week 1
Extend range down to low F
Teach the concept of increasing air as the tube is lengthened (descending scales)
Introduce starting the note with the tongue (5-step process)

Week 3: Review Weeks 1 and 2
Reinforce teaching with notes and rhythms
Introduce Warm Up Approach
Discuss and demonstrate how to tune the instrument
Introduce a counting method

Week 4: Review Weeks 1-3
Teach Articulation - legato approach
Begin introducing low pinky keys (little finger exercises)
Begin speed studies on notes learned - scale pattern as well as skips and jumps
Test each student individually on what they have been taught so far

Week 5-6: Review Weeks 1-4x and include a Possible Playing Test and Multiple Answer Quiz
Introduce sharps and flats and fingerings to go with them
Introduce two and three part harmony
Begin the five note chromatic scale pattern on Low E

Week 7-8: Add the second five note chromatic scale pattern on Low G#
Test the little finger pattern - be sure it is pickup/putdown - for grade
Discuss moving from a Rico Royal size 2 to a size 2 « or 3

Week 9-10: Add the third five note chromatic scale pattern on Low Fork B Natural
Connect the first and second chromatic scale patterns
Chromatic speed contest on first two connected patterns
Test for grade on fingering accuracy

Week 11-12: Thirds, arpeggios and unusual sequences introduced that test finger ability and
reading ability - all in chalumeau
Begin working on interrupted staccato - tip to tip tonguing
Connect first and second chromatic patterns with the third pattern
Have the students play the chromatic with their eyes closed - once on their own
and once with you holding the register key down to pre-teach the move to clarion.

There is usually a Holiday break near this time. I always liked to use the time prior to break to reinforce all fundamental skills - embouchure, air, articulation, hand position, and practice habits. Some schools may also have a Holiday Concert, which may postpone some of the skills learned in Weeks 6-12. Therefore, the timetable is somewhat dependent upon each school district and the learning objectives that have been developed for each level.

After the return from Holiday Break:

Week 13: Review all work and spend the week getting chops back from a long rest off.
Lots of continuous playing and reinforcement of Fundamental Skills

Week 14-15: Begin Clarion Register
Learn five note chromatic pattern from E to throat G# - using side F# fingering.

Week 16-17: Review Embouchure and Air issues with the mouthpiece barrel combination
Apply above to what it feels like to play in the clarion
Monitor excessive movement of embouchure and or jaw and correct
Ask students to increase or sustain air to the high C
Ask students to increase air as they descend from high C to Long B
Monitor pitch - adjust in embouchure and pressure against top teeth.
Return to mouthpiece/barrel combination if pitch is excessively low - check reed
Teach over the break playing with simple scale - G, A, B, C
Teach concept of right hand down on G and B
Connect all chromatic patterns learned thus far - one breath at Forte up and down!

Week 18-19: If over the break playing is good, teach five note chromatic pattern beginning on Throat G# and ascending to Long B in the clarion. This is the link between the two learned chromatic patterns!
Extend scale, third, and arpeggio studies

The rest of the timetable is determined by the level that the students have achieved thus far. Generally, a few ensemble concerts may have interrupted this "ideal" schedule, and students will be at the 18-19 week point near the end of their first year. They should have a solid, clear, resonant tone from Low E to High C, good over-the-break skills, good tonguing skills - especially in the low register, rock solid embouchures, demonstrated good air support skills, good hand position, and a fluent chromatic skills to high C. Their reading/rhythm skills should be at the whole note, half note, dotted half note, quarter, eighth, dotted quarter, off-beat entrance, and triplet level by the end of the fifth grade year. Introduction of Cut Time and 6/8 at the end of the first year can be fun.

To review - some approaches for teaching clarinet at the beginning level follow along the lines of a band method. A band method is a system designed for an entire beginning band. Most of these methods move clarinet students up into the clarion too soon. Resist the temptation. My advice for the use of band methods is to edit the notes, slurs, articulations, and registers frequently. Do not play everything in the book - rather, pick and choose what best suits your students for the timetable you have selected. Always know where they are headed and where they actually are in relationship to the SLOs (goals) you have set for them. And above all else, enjoy the beginning students - for no other students are as readily moldable as a beginner!

Finally, while my thoughts and musings reflect what I feel works best for beginning clarinetists, always do what is best for your students. Don't be afraid to try ideas. I'm still learning - as are most of my colleagues. I never fail to be surprised when a student comes up with an idea or approach to teaching that I hadn't thought of before - or at least a new variation of an old, worn out trick I've been using. I don't know why I'm ever surprised though - students are clever, bright, intuitive, and fresh! If nurtured correctly, they will outplay us all! And isn't that our goal?


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