ClarinetMike’s 101 Clarinet Tips: #16 Clarinet Embouchure, E-Tips for E-Lips 2

Reed and EmbClarinet Embouchure:
E-Tips for E-Lips

by Dr. Michael Dean

E-Tip #2

[This is the second of five embouchure tips. The Introduction and Tip #1 can be found HERE.]

E-Tip #2: Edges. “Don’t Pinch the Edges of the Reed.” Be sure to keep the lower lip flat against the reed so as not to crimp the sides of the reed.  Once past the reed, the lips need to seal to keep air from leaking out. Remember, clarinet sound is produced by the vibration of the reed. The more the reed vibrates, the more sound is produced.

Many teachers recommend using the “Embouchure Wheel” – lips circling “the mouthpiece with an equal pressure toward the center,” much like a rubber band around the mouthpiece (Larry Teal, Art of Saxophone Playing, p. 41).  As useful as this embouchure concept has been for many clarinetists and saxophonists over the years, it has a major flaw. It will almost certainly produce a pinching of the edges of the reed. This will cut off some of the reed vibration and thus limit the quality and quantity of sound.

This tip may be controversial to some. Before dismissing this tip, I suggest a clarinetist test his/her embouchure to see if s/he pinches the reed corners. A way to test this is to play an Open G holding the clarinet with your left hand at the barrel and the bell with your legs. Then reach up with your right hand, putting your first finger and thumb on opposite sides of the lower lip beside the mouthpiece. While continuing to play the Open G, stretch the lip away from the mouthpiece on both sides and see if more sound is produced. If so, then you are pinching the reed corners. (Note: In the more than fifteen years I have been teaching this concept, I have only had a couple students who did not pinch the sides of the reed at least a little.)

ClarinetMike says, “This Joe Allard concept blew my mind when I learned it 15 years ago. CHECK IT OUT!”

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 Italy, Spain, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas. In July, he will return to Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at Orfeo Music Festival 2018. 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. He's performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Southeast Chamber Players, Red Mesa Trio, and Duo 35. He performed for 11 years with the Paducah Symphony. His articles appear in journals such as Southwestern Musician, WINDPLAYER, NACWPI Journal and The Bandmasters' Review. As "ClarinetMike," he writes for his widely-read ClarinetMike Blog, in 150 countries on 6 continents. He was recently a tenured Associate Professor of Clarinet for 11 years at Southeast Missouri State University. He returned to his native Texas in 2012 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, Bob Ackerman, and Pam Youngblood. 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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5 Responses to ClarinetMike’s 101 Clarinet Tips: #16 Clarinet Embouchure, E-Tips for E-Lips 2

  1. Adam Hughes says:

    A very interesting Article. I will definitely be giving it a go. One of the problems I have is,I keep cutting my lip. I know I should use my teeth at the top of the mouthpiece,but I don’t like doing that. So I tend to curl my top lip over my teeth,meaning I cut my lip. I should have listened more to my teacher I think. She always said,one should place ones teeth gently on the top of the mouthpiece and only curl the bottom lip over ones teeth. Your advice would be much apreciated. Thanks for such a useful article.

  2. ClarinetMike says:

    Hey. Sorry slow to respond. In the next couple weeks I will be posting the remaing tips. Let me know if these other tips help with you situation. m

  3. Pingback: ClarinetMike’s 101 Clarinet Tips: #17 Clarinet Embouchure, E-Tips for E-Lips 3 | ClarinetMike Blog

  4. Pingback: “Clarinet Embouchure: E-Tips for E-Lips” Complete Article Now Available Online | ClarinetMike Blog

  5. Pingback: ClarinetMike’s 101 Clarinet Tips: #11-20 | ClarinetMike Blog

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