E-Tips for E-Lips
by Dr. Michael Dean
E-Tip #3: Eee’s. “Use ‘Eee’ Syllables.” I’ve found it very helpful to voice these syllables in the specified ranges when playing in different registers on the clarinet:
“Tew” in low register (below Open G) with a French pronunciation* (see video clip below)
“Tee” Open G up to second space C in the staff
“Dee” C# in the staff and higher
Notice in the above, that each syllable has a progressively higher “Air Position” than the next. By “Air Position” I am referring to how high the air goes through the mouth. (I suggest trying this by whispering “Tew, Tee, and Dee” in succession. Notice that the air is higher on each one.) The basic idea of this tip is that the higher one plays on the clarinet, the higher the air should go through the mouth. To me, it is easier and more useful to think in terms of “Air Position” than “Tongue Position.”
These voicings help not only with embouchure, but also help out greatly with tonguing. It was a big breakthrough for me to finally realize that embouchure and articulation are very closely related. [There is a video clip of me pronouncing and explaining these syllables available on my website. Go HERE and then click on the “Embouchure: Tongue Position = Air Position” video clip.]
Another important and useful syllable is “Hee.” It has a very high air position and works really great for me for voicing Super High G (fourth ledger line above the staff). However, it is not usable in the same way as the others because it is not good for tonguing. (In warm-ups, I’ll whisper “Hee” a few times to set the voicing and then play a Super High G with a “Dee” articulation.) “Hee” is also very useful pedagogically in explaining to a student about voicing and “Air Position.” (Have the student whisper “Tew” or “Tee” and then have them whisper “Hee.”)
The above syllables and ranges are what work for me. These will not necessarily work exactly the same for other clarinetists. What works for any one clarinetist depends on a variety of factors: embouchure, mouthpiece/ligature/reed, tip vs. anchor tongue, size of mouth/tongue, etc. (In fact, the ranges for the syllables changed a little when I changed mouthpieces a few years ago.) I encourage you to try different syllables in different registers and see what works for you and your students.
NOTE: “Voicings” such as those above are used to help with the position of the air, tongue, embouchure, mouth, etc. A clarinetist should be careful to not move the jaw the same amount s/he does when actually speaking these in normal conversation.
*On “Tew,” be sure to not drop the bottom teeth away from bottom lip (See Tip #1).
ClarinetMike says, “Whisper ‘Tew, Tee, Dee, Hee.'”