Hand Position

This post describes the best way to place your hands when playing clarinet. This is a great check-up for anyone who’s put the instrument down for a while, or if you’re just starting to play clarinet for the first time.

  • KEEP FINGERS CURVED: Hang your hand down to your side, let your fingers relax. Use that relaxed curve to place your fingers over the tone holes of the clarinet.
  • RIGHT ANGLES: First three fingers should make a right angle (slightly leaning so that you can hit the side keys easily – see the picture to the left).
  • EXTRA KEYS: There are many more keys on the clarinet than just the 6 holes we’ve covered. Make sure you have a good angle to hit these keys, such as the 2 keys above your left hand and the 4 above your right (see picture to the left).

Right Thumb Placement


This thumb is used to hold the instrument up in place. The correct spot to place the thumbrest is the line where the nail and finger meet. Work on keeping the thumbrest in this spot. Your fingers will bunch up and have trouble covering holes & other keys if your thumb isn’t in the right spot.

Left Thumb Placement


Place thumb at an angle so that you can cover the thumbhole and the register key at the same time. When you’re not using it, the thumb should float instead of resting below the tone hole. You won’t be able to play very fast and can develop uncomfortable habits if this is not done properly.

Special Notes:

Follow these suggestions! Incorrect hand positions can lead to serious injury! It may not be as comfortable at first, but remember that your hands are going to get bigger as you get older. The more you try to follow these guidelines, the better (and easier) your playing will be over time.

Evolution of the Clarinet 1600-1800

The so-called chalumeaux may be allowed to voice their somewhat howling symphony of an evening, perhaps in June or July and from a distance, but never in January at a serenade on the water.1

With the stream of negative comments like the one above found throughout writings of the 16th and 17th centuries, it is a wonder how the early clarinet, known as the chalumeau, survived to become the instrument we all know today. Surely Mozart would not have written his Concerto for Clarinet for an instrument described as having such a harsh and intolerable sound. While listening to the slow and tender second movement, it is evident that this version of the clarinet was not the instrument he had in mind to play that piece. It is also safe to assume that this early clarinet is not the same as the one chosen for the modern-day orchestra; it would most likely draw the wrong kind of attention to itself and not blend within the rest of the woodwind section. Continue reading “Evolution of the Clarinet 1600-1800”

Nielsen's Woodwind Quintet, Op. 43

Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) was a Danish composer known for his use of a wide range of styles. His music mimics the time period in which he lived, with some pieces containing movements that would easily belong in the Classical Period alongside contemporary sections very typical of 20th century writing. Though he is most well-known for his symphonies, Nielsen wrote many chamber works, of which his Woodwind Quintet being the most famous. Continue reading “Nielsen's Woodwind Quintet, Op. 43”

Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall

Recently posted by Carnegie Hall on Twitter, here are links to photos and videos from Benny Goodman’s premiere at Carnegie Hall, which took place today in 1938. View the photos here.
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Clarinet Quintet in A, K.581

Mozart was in love with the sound of the clarinet. He wasn’t able to fully express on paper his adoration for the instrument until the last few years of his life when he met and befriended Anton Stadler. A close friend of Mozart’s and fellow Freemason, Stadler was one of the great clarinetists of Mozart’s time. He was Mozart’s inspiration for this piece as well as the Clarinet Concerto (K. 622). Both this piece and the concerto were written originally for basset clarinet, an instrument whose design was mostly improvisations by Stadler himself. Continue reading “Clarinet Quintet in A, K.581”