Archives heading
Archives Link

BiographyCreditsCD infoCurrent EventsMusicLinksContact Us


Woodwind Technique 1.1: Clarinet Study
November, 2002
Dan Higgins

CLARINET 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 to wane.
    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!


home / biography / credits / cd info / events / music / links / contact us / hot corner