• Quick Fix Friday: Play with a slurred sound

    Happy Friday! One of the most common queries I receive is how to improve clarinet articulation. Many people focus so much on the tongue that they neglect the air. I truly believe that 90% of clarinet problems can be traced back to air, and articulation is no exception. (Don’t get me wrong – there are certainly issues that can arise with the tongue and other factors, but we’ll save those for another blog post. You can also check out my complete guide to clarinet articulation to learn more about improving your tonguing.) On to this week’s quick fix – play with a slurred sound! When I tell my students to…

  • Overcoming clarinet undertones

    Clarinet players everywhere are quite familiar with the dreaded squeak. But what about the squeak’s distant cousin, the undertone? Squeaks are easily identifiable – shrill, piercing, and distressing to any dogs in the nearby vicinity. An undertone is more subtle – it is the grunting, hollow sound that is literally under the tone you are trying to play. Undertones can happen in any register, but they are most common in the clarion and altissimo register. Just like squeaks, undertones are a completely normal part of being a clarinetist. However, if you notice that undertones are a recurring issue in the practice room, here are a few causes and how you…

  • Quick Fix Friday: No squishy lower lip

    Happy Friday! Do you ever feel like your tone is lackluster, unfocused, or just a bit blah? If so, your lower lip could be the culprit. Away from the clarinet, hold your mouth in a relaxed position, as if you were sleeping. Now gently touch your lower lip. It should feel squishy. This is fine most of the time, but not when playing clarinet. If your lower lip is squishy like this when playing clarinet, it can absorb some of the vibrations and create a duller sound. The quick fix? Make sure your lower lip is firm (but not tense!) by imitating a grimace. This will create a smoother sound,…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Follow the beam

    Happy Friday! You might be a bit confused about the title (no, I’m not referring to the beams in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, although this is a great series). I’m referring to beams in regard to rhythm. A beam is the horizontal line which groups certain notes together, such as two eighth notes or four sixteenth notes. Now, on to our quick fix: If you’re facing a tricky rhythmic passage and don’t know where to start, look at how the notes are beamed together. Most of the time, rhythms are beamed together by beat. Once you’ve found each beat, you can further break down individual beats to understand the…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Breathe from the corners

    Happy Friday, and welcome to another installment of my Quick Fix Friday! This week, I have a simple fix to allow you to take fast breaths without disrupting your embouchure. When you take a breath, make sure you breathe from the corners of your mouth and avoid moving your jaws. I commonly see students remove their jaws from the mouthpiece when they take a breath, and this creates a few issues: It causes you to have to completely reset your embouchure every time you take a breath, which means that you have a higher risk of squeaks and popped attacks. It also takes you longer to reform a proper embouchure,…

  • What piece should you practice next based on your coffee order?

    It’s no secret by now that I’m a big fan of coffee and other caffeinated beverages. One day recently, I was waiting in line at a café trying to decide what drink I was going to order when I began to assign clarinet repertoire to coffee orders. (You can take the clarinet away from the clarinetist, but you can’t take the clarinetists away from the clarinet.) Here are a few suggestions I came up with for repertoire to practice next based on your coffee order (with a few cheeky comments for each suggestion): Espresso – Nielsen Concerto, Op. 57 – You’ll probably need a few espressos to power through this…

  • Trill and Tremolo Tips for Clarinetists

    Confession time: I’m not a big fan of trills and tremolos. Something about seeing them brings me right back to middle school, when it was often a competition to see who could fit the most notes into the designated amount of time. Thankfully, my technique today is much better than it was in middle school, and I’ve also developed a few tips to help make trills and tremolos easier and dare I say…fun? First things first – what’s the difference between a trill and a tremolo? A trill moves between two stepwise notes (half or whole steps), and a tremolo moves between any two notes (not stepwise). Now that we’ve…

  • 21-Day Clarinet Discovery Challenge

    If you’re like many clarinetists this past year, your motivation to practice probably experienced its fair share of ups and downs. While this is certainly understandable, it can be difficult to become motivated and inspired to begin practicing and trying to achieve your musical goals. This is why I’ve decided to create a 21-day clarinet discovery challenge – to help you discover (or rediscover) your favorite pieces, players, and other sources of musical inspiration. Each day, you’ll be given a new prompt to explore and research so you can learn more about the clarinet. Many of these challenges take place outside the practice room, but some challenges invite you to…

  • How to make your own clarinet thumb cushion

    Sometimes clarinet can be a pain in the…thumb! If your right thumb is sore from playing clarinet, you can use a thumb cushion on the thumb rest to alleviate some of the pain. (Note: If the weight of the instrument is causing pain or discomfort, you should consider using a neck strap). Although clarinet thumb rests are inexpensive and can be found online and in most music stores, you probably already have the materials to make your own! Here are a few options you can use to cushion your thumb: pencil grip – choose between foam and rubber grips, select your favorite color, and cut to size rubber tubing –…