E-Tips for E-Lips
by Dr. Michael Dean
Introduction and E-Tip #1
[The following embouchure tips have been heavily influenced by the ideas of master single reed teacher Joe Allard. The reader is especially directed to Debra McKim’s important dissertation on Joe Allard and the little booklet accompanying the Joe Allard DVD.]
In a recent important article on teaching a master class, clarinet professor Kelly Burke stated that the problems students have in performing works are often related to either “a technical/mechanical aspect of playing related to a core concept,” or “an underdeveloped understanding of musical phrasing.” (The Clarinet, March 2009, p 40)
One of the most important core concepts is that of embouchure. Below are some embouchure tips that I have found helpful in improving my students and my own playing. Also, most of these tips work great on the saxophone, too.
E-Tip #1: Engage. “Keep Lower Teeth Engaged.” Beneath the reed, keep the lower teeth right under the bottom lip – do not allow space between the lip and teeth. Think “Reed, Lip, Teeth.” You want to somewhat feel the reed through the lower lip with the bottom teeth. But, don’t push up too much. Think in terms of creating a good platform for the reed to vibrate upon. Keeping the lower teeth engaged allows for sensitive adjustments to the sound, as there is a close connection to the resonator (reed vibrating against the slot of the mouthpiece).
ClarinetMike says, “Watch for E-Tips #2-5 coming soon!”