This post contains basics for forming a successful clarinet embouchure.

  1. BOTTOM LIP: Stretch your lower lip against (and a little bit over) your lower teeth and make your chin “long”. EASIER: Try making an “ee” noise as in “Winnie”).
  2. Pull the corners of your mouth in (not out) and form a very small aperture (hole) at the center of your lips. AVOID SMILING (a smile is too wide and too tense for playing clarinet). EASIER: Keep the position from above, and try making an “oo” noise as in “Pooh”.
  3. TOP LIP & TEETH: Maybe you’ve noticed, but your top lip does some work too! Let your top lip push down against the top of the mouthpiece. This will help with relaxing your jaw and will give the reed some freedom.
  4. AVOID: Bottom teeth cutting into your top lip (ouch!); remember to relax and let the reed vibrate (it might tickle your lip a little bit, but that is the correct way). Also, your top teeth should set on the top of the mouthpiece; don’t roll your top lip in.
  5. Your embouchure should form a seal around the mouthpiece. Try playing with just the mouthpiece and barrel first. Yes it’s squeaky, yes it’ll annoy your little brother, but it’s great fun!
  6. The “Tickle” Factor: Your bottom lip should be low on the reed so that the reed can vibrate. You will know when your bottom lip is loose enough because the reed will tickle just a little bit. Also, your top teeth should rest firmly on the tip of the mouthpiece.

Special Notes:

  • DON’T QUIT. Just because you get frustrated doesn’t mean you should quit. Remember, even your teachers still practice this stuff!
  • PERFECT YOUR PRACTICE TIME. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but watching yourself and paying attention to what’s happening when you play will help you to be a much better player.
  • For now, this may seem easy to form. But, when you get around to playing a sound, you may find it hard to keep this position (use a mirror and see what happens).

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for the post. I remember being told that I was miovng up to a 3 or a 3 1/2. That’s why when I entered college I was playing on a strength 4 reed on a Rascher mouthpiece. It took my college professor telling me that there was no such thing as miovng up. I wish more band directors would stop using the term miovng up so their students don’t get the wrong impression of better player = stronger reed. I am by no means an expert but I am just fine playing on my strength 3 reeds on my optimum mouthpiece. I felt like it was a little soft so I tried the new Rico Reserve 3+ but even those were too hard, so I will keep my wonderful strength 3.

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