As wind instrumentalists, our most important tool is our air. I personally believe that air can solve about 90% of the problems we encounter on the clarinet (Note not speaking? More air. Can’t play high notes? Faster air.) Since this is a quick fix Friday post (key word being quick), I won’t go into great detail about the anatomical mechanics of taking a proper breath, but instead wish to address a common issue I see among my students: breathing from the nose or dropping the jaw to take a breath.
The most efficient way to take a breath when playing clarinet is through the corners of the mouth. This optimizes the amount of air intake in the shortest amount of time. The lower lip or jaw should not move because this will force you to reset your embouchure every time you take a breath, making it difficult to achieve consistent attacks.
Be sure that you and/or your students are not taking breaths through the nose (unless you are circular breathing, which is an entirely different story). You can not fill your lungs as quickly, making this impractical for taking quick breaths during music – not to mention the difficulties you’ll encounter with a stuffy nose.
Practice in front of a mirror or record yourself to ensure that you are breathing properly from the corners. Practice completely filling your lungs with air as quickly as possible – we do not always have the luxury of time in music to leisurely refuel.
Happy Friday and happy practicing this weekend!