ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: ABC Exercise


ClarinetMike in sunny San Diego, California on tour.

The idea of having students recite the alphabet, “ABC’s,” to help embouchure/voicing comes from my research into the amazing ideas of master single reed teacher, Joe Allard (see NOTE below). I’ve experimented with this idea on and off for a number of years. I’ve lately been using it a lot with my students and in my own practicing with much success.  I’m still working on refining the ABC Exercise and welcome comments and suggestions.

ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: ABC Exercise

What? The ABC Exercise (or just ABC) is simply saying the alphabet a few times in normal voice. This very simple exercise always helps my embouchure and voicing.

When? I use ABC early in my daily Practice Routine as part of working on my embouchure and voicing. I often do ABC after going through the steps of the Single Lip Double Lip Embouchure and before or during my work on voicings from E-Tips for E-Lips.

Why does ABC help? To be honest, I’m not 100% sure. I think what is going on is that saying the alphabet gets me “in touch with things” with respect to my mouth, lips, tongue, teeth, face, etc. in embouchure/voicing.  For example, what do babies do when they learn to speak? They try to copy what they hear by experimenting with their voice using mouth, lips, tongue, teeth, face, etc. They start with “Dada” and end up smoothly using words to talk soft-touch Dad into buying them things….

A couple extra thoughts. Does this exercise work in other languages? I’ve tried it a little and I believe it does. Please give me feedback, non-English speaking readers!  Will it work with a clarinet section speaking in unison? I haven’t tested it with a group – let me know!

ClarinetMike says, “Try it!”

NOTE: Saying the Alphabet is mentioned in The Joe Allard Project website which features part of Debra McKim’s important dissertation on Joe Allard (see HERE). The ABC Exercise above features my own ideas and thoughts on a technique that Joe Allard taught. As was true on my previously published Single Lip Double Lip embouchure and E-Tips for E-Lips embouchure tips, I happily acknowledge a heavy debt to the great Joe Allard.


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 Canada, Italy, Spain, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas. In July, he will again return to Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at the international Orfeo Music Festival 2019. 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. Dr. Dean has given more than 500 clinics, master classes and performances at high schools, universities, conferences and other venues. For 11 years he was a clarinetist with the Paducah Symphony and he's also performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Southeast Chamber Players, Red Mesa Trio, and Duo 35. His articles appear in journals such as Southwestern Musician, WINDPLAYER, NACWPI Journal and The Bandmasters' Review. As "ClarinetMike," he writes for his widely-viewed ClarinetMike Blog, the Internet’s #1 clarinet blog read in 150 countries on 6 continents: After a successful 25 years of teaching clarinet at the university level, he relocated to his native Texas 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, and Bob Ackerman. 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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3 Responses to ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: ABC Exercise

  1. Pekka Pylkkänen says:

    Dear Mike,

    Thanks again for your post.

    You asked about comments from other language groups, so here you go… I’m a saxophonist (mostly, I do play still sometimes clarinet, but don’t really keep up with it, more flutes and piano, drums etc, since I’m a jazz musician) and have been teaching for quite long already. I have used the Joe Allard method or at least tried to tell the students to try these principles out. Maybe they don’t work with everybody, but for most they really do – and I try to remind myself every day these same things- E’- position and similar..

    My native language is Finnish, which is almost as far from English as one can get, especially by pronouncing. The ‘problem’ with Finnish is, that the vowels tend to be really low, and the general ‘tone’ of the language is quite dark in a way. Also because of this, I use the English ‘E’s and ‘A’s and different kinds of ‘D’s when I teach – the ones in Finnish just don’t work!

    Anyways, thanks again for your interesting posts, hope to keep in touch and looking forward to reading more stuff from you!

    All the best from Helsinki, Finland,

    Pekka Pylkkanen

    On Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 11:05 PM, ClarinetMike Blog wrote:

    > ClarinetMike posted: ” The idea of having students recite the alphabet, > “ABC’s,” to help embouchure/voicing comes from my research into the amazing > ideas of master single reed teacher, Joe Allard (see NOTE below). I’ve > experimented with this idea on and off for a number of ” >

  2. Pingback: The ABC Exercise! This EASY Clarinet Tone Improvement Trick Will Blow Your Mind! | ClarinetMike Blog

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