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 “ClarinetMike” 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.” Dr. Dean’s career is headlined by appearances at Carnegie Hall, ClarinetFest, NACWPI, Royal Northern College of Music, and Eastman School of Music, with recent recitals and master classes in Italy, Spain, Canada, Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas. He recently returned for a fourth summer to the beautiful Italian Alps of Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at the international Orfeo Music Festival. He is featured on 6 commercial CD’s including his soon-to-be-released new CD, Postcards from Silver Lake. He is also prominent on New Media, such as YouTube. He was clarinetist with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra for 11 years and he’s also performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Southeast Chamber Players, Red Mesa Trio, and Duo 35. He has given more than 500 master classes, clinics and performances at universities, conservatories, conferences, festivals, high schools, junior high schools, and a diverse array of venues. As “ClarinetMike,” he writes for his noted and widely-read ClarinetMike Blog – viewed in 150 countries on 6 continents, clarinetmike.wordpress.com. His blog is the #1 clarinet blog on the Internet according to Google Search and a recent ranking on Feedspot. His articles also appear in professional journals such as the Southwestern Musician, The Bandmasters’ Review, WINDPLAYER, and NACWPI Journal. He is a past president and former officer on the National Board of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI). After a successful 20 years of teaching clarinet at the university level, he relocated to his native Texas due to family concerns. He is currently an active clarinet and woodwind performer, teacher, clinician, blogger, and consultant based in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Michael Dean studied clarinet performance at Texas Tech University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Colorado at Boulder, and University of Texas at Arlington. His teachers include Robert Walzel, Phil Aaholm, Carol Jessup, Bob Ackerman, and Jess Youngblood. He is a BG France Performing Artist and his professional website is clarinetmike.com. Mike and his family live in Hurst, Texas. His family’s new Golden Retriever, Nimbus, is a relative of Andy.
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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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