ClarinetMike’s 5-C Clarinet Embouchure

Performing in Madrid, Spain Using My 5-C Clarinet Embouchure

ClarinetMike Performing in Madrid, Spain Using The 5-C Clarinet Embouchure

With school starting for many in the USA and elsewhere, I thought it might be a good time to post on clarinet embouchure. Most of the below was originally posted HERE — the original post also contains important acknowledgements, info on further study, etc.

NOTE: Many in the clarinet world use double lip embouchure, even with beginners. The embouchure below can be thought of as a “Single Lip Version of a Double Lip Embouchure.” I think the 5-C Embouchure features some of the best aspects of both the Double Lip and Single Lip embouchures.

ClarinetMike’s 5-C Clarinet Embouchure

What produces the sound on the clarinet? Clarinet sound is produced by the reed vibrating against the slot in the mouthpiece activated by the air (see E-Tip #3). Unlike brass players, the clarinet embouchure is not the sound maker (resonator).

So, what is the purpose of clarinet embouchure? The purpose of clarinet embouchure is to provide a great environment (or “Happy Place”) for the reed to vibrate. My 5-C Embouchure below will help a clarinetist develop a good platform or “Happy Place” for the reed to vibrate.

5-C Embouchure Steps:

1. Circumference
2. Corners to Cheekbones
3. Chin
4. Cover
5. Click

5-C Embouchure Details:

  1. Circumference: Lightly stretch bottom lip flat around lower teeth circumference.
  2. Corners to Cheekbones: Use “Smile Muscles” (Zygomaticus major muscles) to stretch lightly upwards from mouth corners to cheekbones. These muscles are the ones used when smiling. This should also help flatten out the chin.
  3. Chin: Smooth out chin muscles, focusing the chin to a point. But, DO NOT hinge the jaw forward – use a normal face. NOTE: Steps 1 and 2 will likely flatten the chin just about right – this step could be called “Check Chin.”
  4. Cover: Put some bottom lip over bottom teeth – “Not too much, not too little, just right.”
  5. Click: Top teeth rest on mouthpiece. Think, “Click” (See E-Tip #4).  Don’t bite down hard – think of top teeth “receiving” the mouthpiece. IMPORTANT: Upper lip also sits gently on top of mouthpiece and moves upwards toward top teeth with no downward pressure.

ClarinetMike says, “Try it!”

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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14 Responses to ClarinetMike’s 5-C Clarinet Embouchure

  1. Bonnie Isbey Sholl -- Clarinet Faculty of The Mannes College of Music - The New School University says:

    Hi ! Leon Russianoff used to tell us to “CHONK” the upper teeth against the top part of Mouthpiece (Tapping upper teeth against the top part of mouthpiece to secure less upper lip, sorta of like a marker or pathfinder) …….. like Bugs Bunny with a carrot. And, more Mouthpiece rests on the lower lip…………What Do You Think – ClarinetMike

    • ClarinetMike says:

      Hey! Great to hear from you! An excellent question. I will think about it and get back to you! best, Mike

    • ClarinetMike says:

      I’ll have to try it on Monday or as soon as I can. We are taking my son to GWU in DC to attend college and are leaving next Tuesday and things are CRAZY here! I will try it when I can and get back to you, best, mike

    • ClarinetMike says:

      OK, tried it finally and it had a positive effect on positioning my top teeth in an excellent way. However, I do worry that the long term of “CHONKING” would lead me or (especially) my students to bite. Will have to keep pondering.Thanks so much! Mike

  2. Tammy Peterson says:

    Hello! I am a high school clarinet student, and I have recently developed a problem with air leaks. When I re-learned my embouchure, the corners of my mouth would make a frowny face (but with a flat and pointed chin and no air leaks). Now when I try to lift the corners of my mouth, I get an air leak (usually on the left side), and no matter how hard I try, I cannot fix it. Is it possible that I’m raising the corners of my mouth too much? Thank you.

  3. Pingback: ClarinetMike’s “E-Tips for E-Lips” | ClarinetMike Blog

  4. ClarinetMike says:

    don’t raise corners too much, only a little smile

  5. Pingback: ClarinetMike’s Music Preparation Kit | ClarinetMike Blog

  6. Pingback: ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Ligature and Reed Placement | ClarinetMike Blog

  7. Pingback: ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: “Single Lip Double Lip” Embouchure | ClarinetMike Blog

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