7 Woodwind Doubling Tips

ClarinetMike testing flutes at TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association Clinic/Convention).

These tips are generally pointed toward doubling on clarinet, saxophone, and flute [my doubles]; however, I believe they also will be useful on double reeds. Further, I think the principles in the tips will generally be helpful on any instrument.

7 Woodwind Doubling Tips by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

  1. Think Like a […….]. For example, if you are learning to double on the saxophone, “Think Like a Saxophonist.” This is the most important concept in learning to perform well on a new instrument. It is critical to learn how good performers on an instrument “think,” i.e. approach technical (and musical) issues, especially basics such as embouchure, posture, tonguing, etc. ClarinetMike says, “There’s nothing worse than hearing a clarinetist trying to play the saxophone like a clarinet!”
  2. Have a Goal. Having some kind of doubling goal (even if it’s flexible) will help you make decisions on how to spend your time practicing and studying a new instrument.
  3. Embouchure is Everything. It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of good embouchure and voicing. Check out my clarinet embouchure and related clarinet embouchure tips. (The embouchure and related tips owe a heavy debt to master woodwind doubler and teacher Joe Allard.)
  4. Basics are Fundamental. Along with embouchure, focus lots of time on important fundamentals such as relaxation, posture, air/breathing, hand position, tonguing, sound projection, etc. Even though some of these concepts may be similar on your main instrument, make sure you use versions that address the particular needs of your new instrument.
  5. Learn Instrument Specifics. This refers to things like brands of instruments, mouthpieces, ligatures, neckstraps, headjoints, instrument care, music, etc. An area of special consideration should be reeds (this goes double for double reeds!).
  6. Seek out Good Instruction. Find a good teacher (or a good book/video) to guide you. Take some private lessons. [During this time of pandemic, I suggest taking some Skype lessons with a good private teacher. If you can’t find someone or aren’t sure who to ask, sent me an email or text and I’ll help you find someone.]
  7. Listen. Listen to various great performers to give you a sense of how you’d like to sound.

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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7 Responses to 7 Woodwind Doubling Tips

  1. Roger Keller says:

    I disagree with the statement that there’s nothing worse than a clarinetist playing the saxophone like a clarinet. In my opinion, the opposite is much worse.

  2. mikemikevacarocom says:

    I agree with most of what you say as I have been a doubler, including oboe for 50 years. I think that it is imperative the doubler study with a symphonic quality teacher on each instrument. That way they can call themselves multi-instrumentalists. A great teacher teaches us the literature too. In the case of sax, I don’t know if there is a huge market for classical sax so I would study that with a jazz teacher that knows harmony well too. Though I have studied sax both ways. You can listen to my recordings on all the instruments at http://www.mikevaccaro.com/adcrecordings.httml
    Your tips are good. I just wonder if woodwind players understand how much work, with a great teacher, it takes to bring a new instrument up to the quality of their first instrument. Doublers are those that play one instrument great and can get around on the other instruments. Multi=-instrumentalists are those that have taken the many years to really own a new instrument.

    • ClarinetMike says:

      Hello! Thanks for the excellent response. I tried to write the tips to cover a wide range of needs/interests. I always especially try to think
      of band directors/teachers in remote areas of the country who don’t have easy access to top notch teachers. Thanks! Mike

      • mikemikevacarocom says:

        Yes, it is important to aim the articles where they are really needed. Sometimes I forget that living in LA.

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