A clarinet embouchure in simple terms is the way you place your mouth on the clarinet while playing it. Here is everything you need to know about the clarinet embouchure.
There are many aspects that play an important role when it comes to the playing of a clarinet. Aspects such as clarinet embouchure, how to hold a clarinet and posture play a significant role in the producing of sound even before blowing into the clarinet. It is for this reason that music teachers encourage on the practice of doing the mentioned skills. Clarinet embouchure is a skill that takes practice to perfect. Practice in this case may take a long time as even the best clarinet players confess to encountering challenges with the skill.
Clarinet embouchure is more than just placing your mouth on the mouthpiece, the lips, teeth, chin and the muscles of the cheeks all play a role. There are a couple of do’s and don’ts when it comes to getting the embouchure right. When you form the embouchure the wrong way it will affect the sound you produce. Getting it right might take a lot of practice but it will take you a long way. For a beginner all this may sound intimidating or overwhelming but with practice with a mirror in front of you, you’ll be able to form embouchure at optimal level.
What is clarinet embouchure?
Embouchure is a term used when it comes to wind instruments such as saxophone or clarinet. It means how the mouth is positioned on the instrument while playing it. In this case the clarinet embouchure is how lips, teeth, chin, facial muscles are positioned and used to forming the clarinet embouchure.
The history of clarinet embouchure can be traced back in the 1800’s where it evolved. There are two ways of forming the embouchure: single lip and double lip. During that period clarinetists used to use double lip until German players evolved it to using single lip.
The single lip has since gained popularity and is mainly used by clarinetists. It is preferred since it is easier to play due to how securely the mouthpiece is held. Also while standing it is much more comfortable to play while using the single lip. The grip of the teeth on the mouthpiece makes a whole lot of difference.
How to form clarinet embouchure
While practicing you should use some parts of the clarinet which are the reed, mouthpiece, ligature and barrel. Although it is not a must it is recommended so as to have full concentration on just practicing how to form the embouchure. Also you should do this in front of a mirror or record yourself using a camera. This way you get to see what you are doing right or wrong.
There are certain steps and guide you can use that can help you form the clarinet embouchure. They are as follows:
- Corners of the mouth
The corners of your mouth should be firm. They should be firmly secured to allow no leakage of air. You can do this while imitating how you form your mouth while you drink from a straw. Then blow through the mouthpiece while doing this put hands in front of your mouth to check whether there is leakage of air.
- Bottom lip
Curve your bottom lip inwards and it should cover your bottom teeth. However, it shouldn’t go as deep. Allow some pink to show. The purpose of this is to cushion the mouthpiece and prevent from being damaged by the bottom teeth.
- Upper lip
After checking with the bottom lip, the upper lip naturally takes shape. What you should check is that it is firmly secured on the mouthpiece to prevent air from escaping.
With the lower and upper lip in position it is easy for the chin to take shape. It should be flat and should move downwards. If the corners of the mouth are firm enough then the chin will also take shape.
Lastly the upper teeth should be well positioned. They should grip the mouthpiece but not too tightly, enough to bite into it as this will damage the mouthpiece.
The errors while forming clarinet embouchure
Constricted and bunched chin muscles
The chin should be pulled downwards. Forcing the chin muscles to support the mouthpiece by pushing upwards affects the blowing into the clarinet.
This might seem as the right thing but it will only work against the tone of sound.
Biting the mouthpiece
The teeth should be rightly positioned. The lower teeth should be covered by the lower lip. The upper teeth should hold the mouthpiece but not bite into it since this will damage the mouthpiece
You should not hold the clarinet in a wide angle it should be held at 30-40°. Holding it too wide will affect the embouchure which will affect the sound.
Bottom lip wrongly placed
The bottom lip should not curve too much inwards, parts of the pink part should be visible.
|Summary of the dos and don’ts of clarinet embouchure|
|Firm seal of corners of mouth||Loose seal of corners of mouth.|
|Chin pushed downwards||Chin muscles pushed upwards.|
|Bottom lip moves inwards||Bottom lip fails to move inwards or moves too much inwards.|
|Upper teeth hold the mouthpiece||Upper teeth bite hard into the mouthpiece.|
|Holding clarinet at 30-40°||Holding the clarinet with a wide angle|
Clarinet embouchure may seem as a complicated skill but having a simple guide as the one above will make it an easier practice. The common mistakes that people do when doing the clarinet embouchure costs the quality of sound they make. As a clarinetist, you should know the dos and don’ts of the clarinet embouchure. With this in mind, you should practice as often as possible while using a mirror or have a camera record you during the practice session. Slowly with practice you’ll be forming embouchure more comfortably.
Is clarinet embouchure the same as saxophone?
Not quite. The angle at which the instruments are held are different. And the size of mouthpieces are different.
Does clarinet embouchure use double lip technique?
Yes. It is one of the two ways of forming the embouchure. However, it is not famously used.