ClarinetMike’s “E-Tips for E-Lips”

ClarinetMike's "E-Tips for E-Lips" will free you to express music!

ClarinetMike says,  “My ‘E-Tips for E-Lips’ will free you to express music!”

I recently reposted my 5-C clarinet embouchure (see HERE). Below are some related embouchure tips that work great with the 5-C. I think these tips will generally work well with any clarinet embouchure on any clarinet AND also will be helpful on saxophone. Each tip below begins with the letter “E” and gives an important concept, thus “E-Tips.” The “E-Lips” refers to embouchure.

NOTE: The tips below are a shortened version of E-Tips for E-Lips. The complete version containing important acknowledgements (especially my debt to the legendary Joe Allard) can be found HERE.

Clarinet Embouchure: E-Tips for E-Lips SHORT VERSION
by Dr. Michael Dean

E-Tip #1Engage. “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).

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.

E-Tip #3: Eee’s. “Use ‘Eee’ Syllables.”  I’ve found it very helpful to voice[i] these syllables in the specified ranges when playing in different registers on the (Bb soprano) clarinet:

“Tew” low register (below Open G)  with a French pronunciation[ii] (see video clip below)
“Tee” Open G up to second space C in the staff
“Dee” C# in the staff and higher

Notice 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 is that the higher one plays on the clarinet, the higher the air should go through the mouth. I think it is easier to think “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 – Click HERE and watch “Embouchure: Tongue Position = Air Position.”]

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.”)

E-Tip #4: Ex. “Say syllable ‘Ex’ – Lower Teeth Give, Top Teeth Receive.”  Don’t bite down hard on the mouthpiece with the top teeth – i.e. don’t push down with head. Think in terms of top teeth “receiving” the mouthpiece from the lower teeth as when saying the syllable, “Ex.” As with all of these concepts, it is important to personalize this to a clarinetist’s unique physiology, equipment, etc.

E-Tip #5: Eat. “Use ‘Chewing Muscles’ Up High.” Starting about High E (third ledger line above the staff) and higher, put molars and back teeth very slightly closer together as if chewing something. Be sure to use “Dee” voicing (see E-Tip #3). The higher the note, the more “chew” is needed. The key to playing up high is to find the best spot in your air position, embouchure, mechanism (i.e. your body), etc. for each note. Or, as Joe Allard used to say, “Every note has its own special feeling.” (This is true for all notes in all registers, actually.) As with the other E-Tips, this concept will take some experimentation.

[i] “Voicings” such as these 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.

[ii] On “Tew,” be sure to not drop the bottom teeth away from bottom lip (See Tip #1 above).

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 2017. 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, clarinetmike.wordpress.com-viewed 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, clarinetmike.com, 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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7 Responses to ClarinetMike’s “E-Tips for E-Lips”

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