5 Steps to Beautiful Clarinet Tone: The 5-C Clarinet Embouchure!

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

The embouchure below and related “E-Tips for E-Lips” Embouchure Tips (to be reposted soon) have been heavily influenced by the ideas of master single reed teacher Joe Allard. The embouchure and tips reflect years of careful refinements on an embouchure that was originally passed down to me from Joe Allard through one of his students (see NOTE below). FYI, this embouchure can be used on all clarinets and saxophones.

ClarinetMike says, “The 5-C Clarinet Embouchure works great! Check It Out!”

The 5-C Clarinet Embouchure
Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”
“Building Great Clarinetists”
Clarinet Performing, Teaching and Consulting
Hurst, Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas USA
clarinetmiketexas@yahoo.com * 682-888-7639
clarinetmike.com * clarinetmike.wordpress.com

What produces the sound on the clarinet? Clarinet sound is produced by the reed vibrating against the slot in the mouthpiece activated by the air (see E-Tip #3). Unlike brass players, the clarinet embouchure is not the sound maker (resonator).

What is the purpose of clarinet embouchure? The purpose of clarinet embouchure is to provide a great platform (or “Happy Place”) for the reed to vibrate. The 5-C embouchure below will help a clarinetist develop a great environment or “Happy Place” for the reed to vibrate.

The 5-C embouchure could be thought of as a single lip version of a double lip embouchure (aka “Single Lip-Double Lip”).  5-C allows the reed to vibrate freely as in double lip embouchure. However, since 5-C is a single lip embouchure with top teeth on the mouthpiece, it avoids the problems of double lip: hard to do, hurts for some, lack of stability for marching/standing, etc.

5-C Embouchure Steps

1.  Circumference (or Circle)
2. Corners to Cheekbones
3. Chin
4. Cover
5. Click

5-C Embouchure Details

  1. Circumference (or Circle): Lightly stretch bottom lip flat around lower teeth circumference (or circle).
  2. Corners to Cheekbones: Use “Smile Muscles” (Zygomaticus major muscles) to stretch lightly upwards from mouth corners to cheekbones. These muscles are the ones used when smiling. This should also help flatten out the chin.
  3. Chin: Smooth out chin muscles, focusing the chin to a point. But, DO NOT hinge the jaw forward – use a normal face. NOTE: Steps 1 and 2 will likely flatten the chin just about right – this step could be called “Check Chin.”
  4. Cover: Put some bottom lip over bottom teeth – “Not too much, not too little, just right.”
  5. Click: Top teeth rest on mouthpiece. Think, “Click” (See E-Tip #4).  Don’t bite down hard – think of top teeth “receiving” the mouthpiece. IMPORTANT: Upper lip also sits gently on top of mouthpiece and moves upward toward top teeth with no downward pressure.

NOTE: See HERE for important acknowledgements, etc.

About ClarinetMike

American Clarinetist Michael Dean “ClarinetMike” performs and teaches internationally and across the USA to consistent praise and acclaim 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. Michael 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, Canada, Spain, Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas. He is currently planning an international recital and master class tour of Israel for spring 2022. He is on the faculty of the international Orfeo Music Festival in Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence. Michael Dean performs as principal clarinetist with the Dallas Chamber Wind Ensemble and Duo 35 with saxophonist Todd Oxford. He performed with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra for 11 years and has also performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Abilene Opera, Southeast Chamber Players, and Red Mesa Trio. As a clarinet performing and recording artist, he has commissioned, premiered, edited, toured with, and recorded new and lesser-known clarinet works. He is featured on 6 commercial CDs, including the soon-to-be-released Postcards from Silver Lake CD. He is also prominent on New Media, such as YouTube and Facebook. He has given more than 500 master classes, clinics and performances at universities, colleges, conservatories, festivals, conferences, and high schools. His ClarinetMike Blog and ClarinetMike QuickTips are widely read on the internet and social media and viewed in more than 150 countries on 6 continents. His articles also appear in professional journals such as Southwestern Musician, WINDPLAYER, The Bandmasters’ Review, and NACWPI Journal. He is a past president and former National Board Officer of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI). A committed teacher and noted pedagogue, Dr. Dean’s students enjoy successful careers as professional performers, educators, and administrators and are consistently accepted into prestigious university music schools. They consistently win awards and distinctions at competitions and festivals including solo & ensemble, all-region, all-state, and various concerto and other competitions. After a successful 20 years of teaching the clarinet and music 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, 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, Philip Aaholm, Carol Jessup, and Jesse 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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9 Responses to 5 Steps to Beautiful Clarinet Tone: The 5-C Clarinet Embouchure!

  1. Thomas J Frasca says:

    always a pleasure hearing from you CM. Thx for all the helpful advice.. Much appreciated . Tom F.

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