ClarinetMike’s 101 Clarinet Tips: #3 Ligature and Reed Placement

Reed and Emb

#3 Ligature and Reed Placement.  Clarinet (and saxophone) sound is all about reed vibration. The more and better it vibrates, the better the sound. (In fact, embouchure’s purpose is to create a good place for the reed to vibrate -but that’s for another tip on another day….)

The placement of the ligature and the positioning of the reed are profoundly important in reed vibration. These are often overlooked by teachers, band directors, students, and even some professionals. Below is what works well for me and my students.* 

Ligature. Put the ligature close to the window of the mouthpiece by clamping the reed at the top of the stock just below the cut in the bark below the shoulders. (Illustration of reed parts.) Also, depending on the style of ligature, be sure to put the ligature on the reed squarely with equal clamping on both sides of reed.

Reed. The reed should be almost to the tip of the mouthpiece with only a very, very small line of mouthpiece black visible above the reed.  Also, line up the reed on the mouthpiece so that the tip and side rails of the reed are squarely on the tip rail and side rails of the mouthpiece. (Illustration of mouthpiece parts.)

Additionally, if a reed is a little soft, it can be “cheated,” i.e. moved up on the mouthpiece just a little. This makes the reed a little stronger; however, it is only a “quick fix” and should not be routinely done. Conversely, if a reed is hard, it can be moved down a little – but I don’t do this much.

*NOTE:  Obviously, there’s a wide variety of possible mouthpiece, ligature and reed combinations – not to mention the personal tastes of a given musician.  Therefore, experimentation with ligatures and reeds is encouraged. The BIG ISSUE is to make sure you, your students, etc. actually consider reed and ligature placement and not just “slap ’em on” haphazardly.

ClarinetMike says, “Take just a little extra time to carefully put on your ligature and reed. You will love the results!” 


About ClarinetMike

American clarinetist MICHAEL DEAN performs and teaches internationally and across the USA to consistent praise such as "world-class clarinetist and pedagogue," "consummate performer," "inspirational," "outstanding teacher," "super," "brilliant performer," and "one of the best clinicians I have ever seen." His career is headlined by appearances at Carnegie Hall, ClarinetFest, NACWPI, Eastman School of Music, and Royal Northern College of Music with recent recitals and master classes in Canada, Italy, Spain, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas. In July, he will again return to Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at the international Orfeo Music Festival 2019. He is featured on 5 commercial CD's and on New Media, such as YouTube. He is currently preparing another new clarinet CD, Postcards from Silver Lake. Dr. Dean has given more than 500 clinics, master classes and performances at high schools, universities, conferences and other venues. For 11 years he was a clarinetist with the Paducah Symphony and he's also performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Southeast Chamber Players, Red Mesa Trio, and Duo 35. His articles appear in journals such as Southwestern Musician, WINDPLAYER, NACWPI Journal and The Bandmasters' Review. As "ClarinetMike," he writes for his widely-viewed ClarinetMike Blog, the Internet’s #1 clarinet blog read in 150 countries on 6 continents: After a successful 25 years of teaching clarinet at the university level, he relocated to his native Texas due to family concerns. He is a past president and former National Board officer of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI). Dr. Michael Dean studied clarinet performance at Texas Tech University, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas at Arlington. His teachers include Robert Walzel, Phil Aaholm, Carol Jessup, Jess Youngblood, and Bob Ackerman. His web page,, features video of his teaching and performing as well as information on his CD's and other publications. He is a BG France Performing Artist.
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7 Responses to ClarinetMike’s 101 Clarinet Tips: #3 Ligature and Reed Placement

  1. Well, I quit playing clarinet long ago, but my experience with playing saxophone professionally for more than 50 years taught me that there is no real rule about placing ligature, it depends on the mouthpiece, reed, ligature and how much of the mouthpiece goes into the mouth.

    Regarding reeds – depending on the read I would move it a little bit up and down depending on the feel of the reed. But – that’s my experience, and mostly not in classics.

  2. ClarinetMike says:

    Thanks for your comment. I added an additional comment in an updated version of the post. thanks! Mike

  3. Pingback: ClarinetMike’s 101 Clarinet Tips: #1-10 | ClarinetMike Blog

  4. Pingback: ClarinetMike’s All-State Preparation Kit | ClarinetMike Blog

  5. seo says:

    I do accept as true with all of the ideas you have offered in your post.
    They’re really convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are too short for beginners.
    Could you please lengthen them a little from next time?
    Thanks for the post.

  6. Pingback: ClarinetMike’s All-State Preparation Tips: Ligature and Reed Placement | ClarinetMike Blog

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