Can You Play Vibrato on a Clarinet? (All you need to know)

Playing the vibrato on a clarinet is possible, however it needs a certain skillset and lots of practice. Here we get to discuss everything you need to know on clarinet vibrato.

Clarinet vibrato is a very controversial topic amongst clarinetists and anyone who may have interest with the clarinet. In fact there have been very many discussions on this topic. Many people being against the idea of playing the vibrato on a clarinet. It all comes down to personal preference and choice. For those who love the overly toned sound of the clarinet they dislike the effect vibrato has on the clarinet sound. When it comes to jazz players, they find it easy to carry on the skill of playing vibrato on a clarinet.

As for players who only do the clarinet, they find it difficult to make the vibrato sound. Clarinetists from way back then used to play vibrato but overtime this has been overlooked. The biggest names in clarinet history like Reginald Kell, Stanley Drucker, and Harold Wright have all played the vibrato. While playing the clarinet vibrato there are techniques one can use to achieve that sound. We are going to cover all there is to know about the clarinet vibrato.

Techniques of how to play the vibrato on a clarinet

Amongst clarinet players who agree with and do the clarinet vibrato, another big debate is on how the vibrato should be achieved. There are many theories on how this should be done. While others have been supported many have been opposed intensely. Despite all this discussions there is no distinct way of achieving the clarinet vibrato. This is why all of this techniques are just borrowed from how other instrumentalists play their vibrato.

Another issue that has propelled the lack of uniqueness in how the vibrato is played on a clarinet is because those who do play other instruments. They are mainly jazz players. Those who play the saxophone find it easy to borrow and carry that technique and use it while playing on a clarinet. When it comes to playing the saxophone, they use jaw movements to achieve the vibrato.

Some of the techniques that are used to achieve the vibrato include:


It is done through pushing of air while relaxation at the same time. You close your mouth while push the air and relax. The push is achieved through the chest wall muscles and that of the abdomen. Vocalists, brass, flute and saxophone players use this technique.


This is done through open throat technique. It is used by vocalists. They combine this with manipulating air and oral cavity.

Undulating lip and jaw movements

Saxophone and flute players apply this technique. They do this by moving the jaw up and down. Given the size of the mouthpiece it becomes easy to achieve this. There are clarinetists that use this style and there are those that are totally against this.

For those against this, they argue that in no way should the jaw be moved when doing this as it will affect the sound produced. It may cause pitch and tone instability. Those for it claim it is easy to borrow this technique as the jaws are easy to manipulate.


Again, another debated technique. It is done through moving the diaphragm up and done. People argue that this cannot be achieved as it is not the diaphragm that moves but rather the chest muscles. When this is forced it changes the sound produced and may come out fake.

Theories surrounding the clarinet vibrato

As you can already see, there are too many theories, myths and overall opinions on the clarinet vibrato. There are people who are for it and those who are against it. Well it seems that teachers of the clarinet do not bother on teaching this technique. A preference on a more un-embellished tone has been made over the years. Some of these theories are:

The clarinet sound should be straight and uninterrupted.

This is one of the reasons why many are against the clarinet vibrato. The most preferred tone is an unembellished one. The vibrato just as the name suggests has some effect on the tone.

The vibrato played on a clarinet should be used minimally, selectively and upon request.

There are times when the vibrato can be played as some argue. This depends on who composer wrote the song for, who is the audience, the theme of performance and how often it appears.

The clarinet vibrato is difficult to produce.

Some argue that unlike string players who produce the vibrato from the movement of their fingers, the clarinet vibrato is produced through hard technique. However, string players claim this technique takes years to get it right.

The clarinet vibrato is unique.

Unlike other wind and other instruments, playing vibrato on a clarinet is not vital. Therefore, whenever it is played it sounds unique.

The double lip technique is easier to achieve the clarinet vibrato.

The double lip is argued to achieve vibrato easiest on a clarinet. This is because it is easy to move the mouthpiece since in this case the teeth have not held the clarinet’s mouthpiece.

  • In early 20th century jazz players who were double instrumentalists had an influence on playing the vibrato on the clarinet.
  • Richard Muhlfeld and Reginald Kell are among the players who played vibrato on the clarinet.
  • Air
  • Throat
  • Undulating lips and jaw movements
  • Diaphragm


The whole debate on the clarinet vibrato is far from over. There is a chance that in some years to come that playing the vibrato on the clarinet might be prohibited r taught against as is already. With the above discussion you can have an idea on playing the vibrato on a clarinet. The techniques mentioned might be applicable and hard to you or vice versa. You should have in mind that despite the clarinet vibrato is contradicted it is still beautiful and unique to play and listen to.


Is playing clarinet vibrato hard?

This entirely depends on technique, mindset and practice.

Is playing the vibrato on a saxophone the same as on a clarinet?

Depends on whether you will use the jaw movement technique. However, these instruments have a difference in how they are played so it is impossible to rule out the existence of a difference.

Charlotte Moore is a Clarinetist by profession and has over time offered lessons on how to play the clarinet among other musical instruments. And while a majority of clarinet players are well versed with the process of settling with a good clarinet among other accompanying features. There is little information about clarinets. The reason why Charlotte prepared comprehensive experts touching on the various facets of the clarinet. The consolidated information will offer more insight on everything clarinets including the best stand to use, and the best plastic clarinet that you can invest in, among other information. Charlotte Moore is a devoted mother of two and a professional clarinet player.

Leave a Comment