Clarinet Crimes You Might Be Unknowingly Committing

As the self-appointed clarinet police, it’s my job to keep the clarinet community safe from crime.

Here are some crimes many clarinetists are unknowingly committing:


  • Flipping from middle B to C. The “pinky keys” can be confusing, and you should avoid sliding from one key to the other on the same side. But why make extra work for yourself when you can play B with both pinkies and simply lift the left pinky to produce C?
  • Adding the Eb pinky key on high C#. The clarinet is not a perfect instrument. Some notes are atrociously out of tune, C# being one of them. Adding the pinky key just makes it worse.
  • Resting pinky fingers behind keys or the clarinet when they’re not in use. This will slow down your technique, so practice in front of a mirror to make sure you don’t do this! (For such a small finger, the pinky can commit a lot of crimes!)
  • Crossing your feet while you play. A no-no in any professional setting.


  • Swabbing your mouthpiece. For the love of Brahms, never swab your mouthpiece! It gradually alters the facing and interior dimensions. To remove spit, carefully shake it out before placing your mouthpiece back in the case (safely covered by the mouthpoiece cap, obvs).
  • Playing with your bell in your knees. Unless you like a stuffy, flat sound, avoid this poor posture.
  • Not taking breaks. Take regular breaks (at least one every hour) to avoid mental and physical fatigue. Use this time to swab your clarinet – except the mouthpiece!
  • Playing with a lowered head. The clarinet comes to you, not the other way around. Poor head position can negatively impact air flow, and clarinets, being woodWIND instruments, need air to function.
  • Using the same reed forever. Rotate your reeds! The lifespan of a reed can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, but don’t keep a reed past its prime. Not only will your sound suffer, but let’s not go into details about how gross reeds are! (If you don’t believe me, check out Michael Lowenstern’s video on reed mold here.)


  • Playing the Mozart Concerto on the B-flat clarinet. 

Crime prevention is a community effort, so join the clarinet police force and be on the lookout for these crimes! It’s our job to keep the clarinet world a (relatively) safe place!

Happy practicing!


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