Woodwind Technique 1.1: Clarinet Study
was my first instrument and in some ways still my favorite. As a saxophone
and woodwind player, the clarinet can seem like the toughest instrument
of all. When I was practicing mostly saxophone and allowing my clarinet
chops to slide downhill, I didn't realize the amount of strength the clarinet
required. It wasn't until I needed to play the clarinet on recording sessions
that I realized I had made a mistake by allowing my clarinet performance
The discipline of the clarinet embouchure must be dealt
with on a daily basis. Now I practice long tones and slow even scales
as part of my daily warm-up routine. Slow etudes which aren't written
too high in range are also great for building up the endurance needed
for clarinet performance. After practicing these exercises for a short
period you will notice the reed strength going up, allowing for a bigger,
fatter tone with improved pitch. It's very difficult to play the clarinet
in tune with a soft reed. Pitch and tone are among the top concerns for
woodwind players. Generally, studio clarinet music does not require technique
of concerto level, but just a simple, beautiful melody played in tune
with a lovely sound.
Finger technique on the clarinet can be achieved
by more intense practice but serves little purpose if accompanied by a
weak sound. Practicing long tones in the low register is a great place
to start, giving the player a chance to focus on the tone and build up
the muscles required for long phrases. Try to avoid the upper register
until the embouchure is solid and can support the higher notes.
The clarinet is no doubt the most physical of
the reed instrument family and without good muscles the tone and critical
tuning suffer. There is a certain amount of "weight lifting" involved
before long, soft, beautiful phrases can be played in a musically controlled
manner. As with all instruments, studying with a teacher is of paramount
importance. The insights and problem-solving from an expert can save much
time and energy in the quest to become proficient on many instruments.
Find a great teacher and dig in!