DON’T LOOK NOW! This Easy Trick Will Have Your Clarinet Performing Looking Up!

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike” after a concert.

ClarinetMike says, “Don’t Look Down!”

I have noticed that many young clarinetists, especially beginners, at times have a tendency to look down their clarinets while playing. Looking down the clarinet while playing can create bad habits and problems:  embouchure, head position, posture, etc. can be impacted.

This tendency to look down is especially common when students are having difficulty on a fingering. Also, some young students have small fingers and can have trouble covering the open holes.

Therefore, make sure you teach your students to look straight ahead at the music and trust their fingers.

NOTE: The above is a very slightly revised version of a previous post.

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Duo 35 In Concert at IBCA! ClarinetMike and Saxophonist Todd Oxford Perform Friday, June 9 In Arlington, Texas

ClarinetMike says, “Hey Dallas-Fort Worth! Come to our FREE concert! What a Deal!”

Hey! My buddy Todd Oxford and I will be performing at IBCA again this June!  Come hear a virtuosic and FUN performance of cool solo and chamber music for clarinet and saxophone by Mark Carlson, Charles Rochester Young, James Grant, Amy Quate, Olivier Messiaen, and Scott Joplin. We will be joined on the concert by pianist Michael Schneider and clarinetist Sean Reed. Join our Facebook Event Page HERE.

Friday, June 9, 2017, 7:30 p.m. FREE ADMISSION
International Baptist Church of Arlington
1013 West Park Row, Arlington, Texas 76013
Reception Following
CD’s for Sale – Meet the Artists

Duo 35 Concert at IBCA
Michael Dean, clarinet
Todd Oxford, saxophone
with Michael Schneider, piano
and special guest, Sean Reed, clarinet


Postcards from Silver Lake (2010) (clarinet, alto saxophone & piano) by Mark Carlson
Full Moon over Mt. Baldy
Late at Night
The Good Life

Concerto (2003) (alto saxophone and piano) by Charles Rochester Young

Chocolates (2010) (clarinet & piano) by James Grant
Triple Mocha Indulgence

Brief Intermission

Talking Pictures (1984) (clarinet & soprano saxophone) by Amy Quate
Water Dance

“Abyss of the Birds” (Quartet for the End of Time) (1941) (solo clarinet) Olivier Messiaen
Sean Reed, clarinet

The Easy Winners (1901) (clarinet & soprano saxophone) Scott Joplin/Terry Kenny

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This Simple Clarinet Posture Trick Will Put You Head and Shoulders Above The Rest!

Proportions of the Head (c. 1488 – 1489) is a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.

In a recent post, I considered the importance of not leaning over too much when playing the clarinet. A related issue is that of head position/weight. Leaning over when playing the clarinet can lead to biting down too much on the mouthpiece because of the weight of the head. FYI, the average adult head weighs about 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms). Imagine a 10-pound bowling ball on your neck!

So, if I have a student who is leaning over too much when playing the clarinet, in addition to telling them to not lean over, I also often tell them to have more of the weight of their head resting on the neck. Sometimes I’ll mention this head weight issue by itself if I get the feeling they are biting down too much on the mouthpiece. This posture adjustment almost always benefits the student; it usually produces a better clarinet tone as the reed is allowed to vibrate more freely. (See E-Tip #4: Ex)

Try it out for yourself and with your students.

ClarinetMike says, “Good posture is always good idea!”

NOTE: The above is a very slight revision of a previously published ClarinetMike Blog post with a cool Beatles reference in the title.

NOTE: Image above is in Public Domain and can be found HERE.  This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.

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Upgrade Your Clarinet Sound FAST With This Easy and Powerful Technique: Clarinet Sound Projection!

Sound Projection works great whether you are performing in a dilapidated gym or Carnegie Hall.

ClarinetMike says “Below is one of the best and easiest tricks I know. Check it out!”

Clarinet Sound Projection
Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

“Andy! Pretend I’m on the back row of the hall and I’m half-deaf
from going to a loud concert. I want to hear your clarinet solo.
So play that solo straight to me.”

We’ve all heard and said similar things about sound projection to our students. We realize the importance of getting the sound out to the audience. Unfortunately, in the mad dash of preparing our students to perform we often neglect or under-emphasize this important concept.

Many of the important things I work on with my students (such as relaxation, articulation, etc.) can be tricky to explain and take a long time to achieve significant results. However, sound projection is much easier to teach and gets results much more quickly.

The following is a look at some ideas on sound projection and some suggestions on teaching them to clarinetists as a section and/or soloist. Most of these ideas will be useful to other instruments as well.

Know Your Place (Solo vs. Ensemble Sound)

We have all been to a junior high band festival and heard the 1st chair clarinet (or trumpet, etc.) play a solo that didn’t get off the stage – it had that “young band solo sound.” The main problem (other than possibly performance anxiety – a topic for another day) is that the student has likely not been consistently taught to get the sound out to the audience (i.e. the judges). He or she is not playing with a “Solo” sound.

My band director in graduate school, Allan McMurray, used to speak about the difference between performing with a “Solo” sound vs. an “Ensemble” sound. A “Solo” sound is a tone that zips right off the stage and straight to the audience. An “Ensemble” sound is one that blends and appropriately fits into the whole group. (The ensemble should project its sound, but it does so as a unit in support of the solos, etc.)

We can expand the concept of “Solo” sound to include a “Soli” sound. This is where a small group (a clarinet section, for example) blends their sound together and then projects it out to the audience – like one huge clarinet soloist.

Using the 4 (or 8!) Laws to Teach Sound Projection

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said,

“The four laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition. The   goal is to create a correct habit that can be produced instinctively under great pressure. To make sure this goal was achieved, I created eight laws of learning; namely, explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition and repetition.” (Wooden, p. 144. Check out Wooden’s books – they are a life-changing treasure trove of genuine wisdom.)


As per the above, explain to the students about the importance of good sound projection and the “Solo vs. Ensemble” sound distinction. Also, instruct them about how this relates to playing an ensemble soli with a “Soli” sound.

Also, I believe that it is much better to teach students to project the sound out to a specific point in the hall and NOT just a generalized “fill up the room with sound.”


You can demonstrate this easily with your voice or use an instrument.  Speak to the students in a non-projecting voice and then speak straight to a percussionist in the back row. Ask the students which one sounds better. If you could show them this in a large auditorium it would be even more effective.


Have the students copy you with their voices. Have the clarinet section sing a prominent soli section of a work with a “Soli” sound. Be sure to have them blend their voices together and then project out together as “one big clarinet soloist.” I like to say, “lock arms mentally.” (FYI, I have found that having students sing the music, rhythm, etc. is a great way for them to learn.)

After they get the idea with singing, have them try it on their instruments. You may need to make corrections to improve this. (“Correction” is included in this law of learning, FYI.) Work to get them to sense how it sounds and even “feels” when they are projecting as a blended section soli or soloist.


Talk about and work on sound projection often in rehearsals and lessons – I work on it a little in every one of my own practice sessions. (See

Also, when practicing in a small room, have the students pretend they are in a familiar large hall and play to a specific spot in the back.


In conclusion, I want to remind you that teaching students to project their sounds is really not difficult. However, I strongly urge you to mention this early and often in rehearsals, lessons, etc.  as you cannot just mention it at the “last minute” before a concert or contest.

I encourage you to think of new and creative ways to convey this information to your students. I would enjoy hearing about how you teach sound projection and I welcome any feedback on this topic (or anything else). I may be contacted at my professional website:

NOTE: Thanks to the Texas Bandmasters Association for kind permission to reprint this article. The original article can be found HERE and appeared in the Bandmasters Review, Vol. 11. Issue 1 in September 2009.

NOTE: Photo above is Isaac Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall. The photo is in public domain and can be found at

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NACWPI National Conference 2017: The University of Montevallo

NACWPI Rolls On!  As a past president and former officer on the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI) National Board, I want to encourage you to apply to perform and present at the upcoming NACWPI National Conference 2017! The DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION has been extended to April 15, TAX DAY. Below the brief blurb on the conference are links on how to apply to perform or present as well as a link to the Richard Weerts Composition Contest.

ClarinetMike says, “By April 15, pay your taxes and apply to perform and/or present at NACWPI National Conference 2017!”

The NACWPI National Conference 2017 will be held October 6-8, 2017, on the historic campus of the University of Montevallo. Nestled at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the quaint City of Montevallo is conveniently located in the heart of the American Southeast near Birmingham, AL, a dynamic city with a metropolitan population of more than one million residents.

NACWPI National Conference 2017 General Information: CLICK HERE.

NACWPI National Conference 2017 Clinic Proposals: CLICK HERE.

NACWPI National Conference 2017 Performance Proposals: CLICK HERE.

Richard Weerts Composition Contest (Due May 1, 2017): CLICK HERE.

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IMPROVE CLARINET ARTICULATION WITH THIS HACK! Check Out ClarinetMike’s Basic Tonguing Exercise a.k.a. “Betty”

ClarinetMike says, “Spend Quality Time With Your New Best Friend, Betty!”

One of the most important (and tricky) aspects of playing the clarinet is tonguing. Below is a repost of an articulation exercise I’ve found very helpful in my students and my own playing. When working on Betty, don’t forget to use the voicings from E-Tip #3: Eee’s from my E-Tips for E-Lips embouchure tips.

The Basic Tonguing Exercise – a.k.a. BTE  or “Betty.”

Scene: Cyrille, one of ClarinetMike’s fabulous students, is just starting a clarinet lesson.


ClarinetMike: “Great to see you today, Cyrille. Let’s work on your tonguing today.”

Cyrille: “My tonguing needs help! Sounds great ClarinetMike!”

ClarinetMike: “One of best exercises I know for working on tonguing is the Basic Tonguing Exercise – a.k.a. BTE or ‘Betty.’ It is designed to improve the basic tongue stroke on the reed – sort of like adjusting the ‘default setting’ on a computer program.”

Cyrille: “Will it teach me to double and triple tongue?”

ClarinetMike: “No, but it does prepare you for advanced articulation studies. Before you work on double and triple tonguing, you need to have a great basic single tongue. In fact, I like to think of teaching tonguing in three steps: 1. Basic (BTE – ‘Betty’) 2. Advanced Single Tonguing – staccato, legato and other shadings 3. Double and Triple Tonguing…”

Cyrille [interrupts]: “Tell me about Betty!”

ClarinetMike: “I like your enthusiasm Cyrille! BTE or ‘Betty’ is done by playing a scale with four tongued quarters on each note of the scale. (For example, on a C major scale it would be C, C, C, C, D, D, D, D, E, E, E, E, etc.) The idea is to experiment with the stroke and position of the tongue (i.e. less tongue, more tongue, etc. ) to discover how it feels when the sound of the articulation is just right. It is important to work on this exercise in all scales in all registers – not just the low register! Betty can also be done on a short passage from an etude, solo, or ensemble work.”

Cyrille: “Sounds easy! How often and how much do I need to work on it?”

ClarinetMike: “Work on it every day you practice at least 5 minutes or so along with other articulation studies/exercises. Even when you start working on staccato and double/triple tonguing, you should keep working on this exercise. Tonguing takes time to improve – so be patient and keep working.  Ok Cyrille, let’s try it….”


NOTE: Cyrille is a “pointy-headed” clarinet  reference to the great Cyrille Rose of Rose 32 Etudes fame. Rose was known to have had a sluggish tongue.

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HERE’S SOME HELP ON YOUR JOB SEARCH! ClarinetMike’s “LinkedIn, Lumpy, and Me”

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

It is Spring Break time here in Texas and I know many of you are looking for a job (or a better one!).  Therefore, I am reposting the below. (FYI, I spruced up my own LinkedIn Profile with an updated bio and my 44 page Resume/Curriculum Vitae. Check it out!)

LinkedIn, Lumpy and Me

Scene: ClarinetMike is chatting with Lumpy, another private lesson teacher, between lessons outside a practice room in a large bandhall.

ClarinetMike: I recently set up my own LinkedIn page, why don’t you connect to me? [Click HERE and add me.]


ClarinetMike: It is a business-oriented social networking service. [See Wikipedia on it.]

Lumpy:  I don’t need more to do – I never even post on Facebook! Why should I care about LinkedIn?

ClarinetMike: Excellent question, Lumpy. LinkedIn is hot in the business world and there seems to be a lot of musicians and music organizations getting on it.  The key thing about LinkedIn is that it is focused entirely on job-related stuff. I’ve noticed that many music people who are not on Facebook have profiles on LinkedIn.

Lumpy: I know that Wally, the head band director here, is not on Facebook. Is he on LinkedIn?

ClarinetMike: Yes. I just connected with Wally on there yesterday.

Lumpy: He’s on there? Wow! What does LinkedIn offer? Will it help me get a new job?

ClarinetMike: Perceptive question, Lumpy! My brother-in-law, Ward, is a Human Resources director at a large company. He told me that in the business world,  “if you are looking for a job,  you need to have a profile on LinkedIn.”

Lumpy: So, a LinkedIn Profile is like an online resume for those looking for a job. Correct?

ClarinetMike: Yes, but there’s more. LinkedIn also has discipline-specific professional groups where people post and discuss various issues in a way similar to Facebook. However, it is all related to business – no pictures of June’s lovely new dress or Beav and Larry playing baseball, etc.

Lumpy: Sounds interesting. Tell me more….

ClarinetMike: I’m still new to it myself and learning about it. I also think that LinkedIn is evolving and changing much as Facebook did. I’ll send you a YouTube video that has more info and a 2017 video update:

YouTube Video: 

2017 Video Update:

Lumpy: Thanks! I’ll check out LinkedIn. I’ll also have to connect to our friend Eddie, the horn teacher. I’m sure he’s on there!


ClarinetMike says, “Get a LinkedIn profile and connect to me HERE.”

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