ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Improve Your Clarinet Tone with Better Ligature and Reed Placement

“Little Things Make Big Things Happen.”

Get CLARINET POWER! with Better Ligature and Reed Placement

ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Improve Your Clarinet Tone with Better Ligature and Reed Placement

Clarinet (and saxophone) sound is all about reed vibration. The more and better the reed vibrates, the better the sound. (In fact, the embouchure’s purpose is to create a great place for the reed to vibrate – see my Single Lip-Double Lip Embouchure.)

The placement of the ligature and the positioning of the reed are profoundly important to reed vibration. These are often overlooked by clarinet teachers, band directors, students, and even some professionals. Below is what works well for me and my students.*

Ligature. Put the ligature on close to the window of the mouthpiece by clamping the reed at the top of the stock just below the cut in the bark below the shoulders. (Illustration of reed parts.) Also, depending on the style of ligature, be sure to center the ligature on the reed squarely with equal clamping on both sides of reed. (NOTE: Every ligature I’ve seen has the screw on the right side.)

Reed.  Line up the reed on the table of the mouthpiece so that the tip and side rails (edges) of the reed are squarely on the tip rail and side rails of the mouthpiece. The reed should be almost to the tip of the mouthpiece with only the very, very smallest line of mouthpiece black visible above the reed.(Illustration of mouthpiece parts.)

Additionally, if a reed is a little soft, it can be “cheated,” i.e. moved up on the mouthpiece just a very little. This makes the reed a little stronger; however, it is only a “quick fix” and should not be routinely done. Conversely, if a reed is hard, it can be moved down a little – but I don’t do this much.

*NOTE:  Obviously, there’s a wide variety of possible mouthpiece, ligature and reed combinations – not to mention the personal tastes of a given musician.  Therefore, experimentation with ligatures and reeds is encouraged. The BIG ISSUE HERE is to make sure you, your students, etc. actually consider reed and ligature placement and not just “slap ‘em on” haphazardly.

ClarinetMike says, “Take just a little extra time to carefully put on your ligature and reed. You will love the results!”

(The above is a slightly revised version of a previous post.)

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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