by Dr. Michael Dean
[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!”