Little Mistakes Make Big Problems Happen: Bridge Key Alignment!

Carefully line up the upper and lower bridge keys.

Little Mistakes Make Big Problems Happen: Bridge Key Alignment!
by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

Recently, I had an excellent student announce that her clarinet wasn’t working properly. After I did an inspection, I noticed that she had not lined up the bridge keys correctly. I lined it up for her and, Presto!, things were fixed! I’ve taken to inspecting this every time there is a similar issue. I’ve been surprised to find that a number of my students are careless in this small, but important issue.

Therefore, let us make sure our students follow the instruction of Dr. Westphal, “Pressing down the rings on the upper joint to raise the upper bridge key, add it to the lower joint with a slight twisting motion. Line up exactly the upper and lower bridge keys.” (Westphal, Guide to Teaching Woodwinds, 5th ed., p. 53)

ClarinetMike says, “Remember John Wooden’s words: ‘Little things make big things happen.’”

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 returned 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, 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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3 Responses to Little Mistakes Make Big Problems Happen: Bridge Key Alignment!

  1. Elliot Werner says:

    Sometimes despite the bridge key being properly aligned the pad associated with the first finger hole on the lower joint will leak. The solution is to turn the upper joint slightly clockwise.

  2. Lauire says:

    Mike – The alignment on my clarinet bridge key needs to be just slightly off center to work. If I align it as in your photo, the pads do not seal tightly when doing a one-on-on Bb. Should I get that checked out?

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