Dr. Michael Dean performs as clarinet recitalist and master clinician across the USA and internationally. His clarinet blog features video and audio of his teaching and performing as well as information on his CD’s and other publications.
ClarinetMike says, “The E-Tips for E-Lips Embouchure Tips will make you and your students happy!”
I recently posted my 5-C Clarinet Embouchure (CLICK HERE). Below are 5 embouchure tips I strongly suggest using with the 5-C Embouchure. In addition to working GREAT with 5-C, I also think these tips will generally work well with pretty much any clarinet embouchure on any size of clarinet AND will also be very helpful on saxophone. Further, I think that these tips will help fix at least some of the problems in other clarinet and saxophone embouchures. Each tip below begins with the letter “E” and gives an important concept, thus “E-Tips.” The “E-Lips” refers to embouchure.
An Easy-To-Print-PDF of my basic ClarinetMike Clarinet Clinic Handouts (including 5-C Embouchure and E-Tips for E-Lips) is available HERE. I give permission to all readers of the ClarinetMike Blog to print, copy and distribute these handouts as desired. However, please remember they are copyrighted and must not be changed or altered in any way. Printing double-sided works great, fyi.
E-Tip #1: Engage.“Keep Lower Teeth Engaged.” Beneath the reed, keep the lower teeth right under the bottom lip – do not allow space between the lip and teeth. Think “Reed, Lip, Teeth.” You want to somewhat feel the reed through the lower lip with the bottom teeth. But, don’t push up too much. Think in terms of creating a good platform for the reed to vibrate upon. Keeping the lower teeth engaged allows for sensitive adjustments to the sound, as there is a close connection to the resonator (reed vibrating against the slot of the mouthpiece).
E-Tip #2: Edges. “Don’t Pinch the Edges of the Reed.” Be sure to keep the lower lip flat against the reed so as not to crimp the sides of the reed. Once past the reed, the lips need to seal to keep air from leaking out. Remember, clarinet sound is produced by the vibration of the reed. The more the reed vibrates, the more sound is produced.
E-Tip #3: Eee’s. “Use ‘Eee’ Syllables.” I’ve found it very helpful to voice[i] these syllables in the specified ranges when playing in different registers on the (Bb soprano) clarinet:
“Teu” low register (below Open G) with a French pronunciation[ii] (see video clip below)
“Tee” Open G up to third space C in the staff
“Dee” C# in the staff and higher
Notice above, that each syllable has a progressively higher “Air Position” than the next. By “Air Position,” I am referring to how high the air goes through the mouth. (I suggest trying this by whispering “Teu, Tee, and Dee” in succession. Notice that the air is higher on each one.) The basic idea is that the higher one plays on the clarinet, the higher the air should go through the mouth. I think it is easier to think “Air Position” than “Tongue Position.”
These voicings help not only with embouchure, but also help out greatly with tonguing. It was a big breakthrough for me to finally realize that embouchure and articulation are very closely related. [There is a video clip of me pronouncing and explaining these syllables available on my website – Click HERE and watch “Embouchure: Tongue Position = Air Position.”]
Another important and useful syllable is “Hee.” It has a very high air position and works really great for me for voicing Super High G (fourth ledger line above the staff). However, it is not usable in the same way as the others because it is not good for tonguing. (In warm-ups, I’ll whisper “Hee” a few times to set the voicing and then play a Super High G with a “Dee” articulation.) “Hee” is also very useful pedagogically in explaining to a student about voicing and “Air Position.” (Have the student whisper “Teu” or “Tee” and then have them whisper “Hee.”)
E-Tip #4: Ex. “Say syllable ‘Ex’ – Lower Teeth Give, Top Teeth Receive.” Don’t bite down hard on the mouthpiece with the top teeth – i.e. don’t push down with the head. Think in terms of top teeth “receiving” the mouthpiece from the lower teeth as when saying the syllable, “Ex.” As with all of these concepts, it is important to personalize this to a clarinetist’s unique physiology, equipment, etc. Also, be sure to say “Ex” and not “X.” They are very slightly different.
E-Tip #5: Eat. “Use ‘Chewing Muscles’ Up High.” Starting about High E (third ledger line above the staff) and higher, put molars and back teeth very slightly closer together as if chewing something. Be sure to use “Dee” voicing (see E-Tip #3). The higher the note, the more “chew” is needed. The key to playing up high is to find the best spot in your air position, embouchure, mechanism (i.e. your body), etc. for each note. Or, as Joe Allard used to say, “Every note has its own special feeling.” (This is true for all notes in all registers, actually.) As with the other E-Tips, this concept will take some experimentation.
[i] “Voicings” such as these are used to help with the position of the air, tongue, embouchure, mouth, etc. A clarinetist should be careful to not move the jaw the same amount s/he does when actually speaking these in normal conversation.
[ii] On “Teu,” do not drop the bottom teeth away from bottom lip (See Tip #1 above).
NOTE: The tips above are a shortened version of “E-Tips for E-Lips.” The complete version containing important acknowledgements (especially my heavy debt to master single reed teacher Joe Allard) can be found HERE.
ClarinetMike says, “The 5-C Clarinet Embouchure Below Works Great. Check It Out!”
Also, my basic ClarinetMike Clarinet Clinic Handouts (including 5-C Embouchure below) are available in an Easy-To-Print-PDF HERE. I give permission to all readers of the ClarinetMike Blog to print, copy and distribute these handouts as desired. However, please remember they are copyrighted and must not be changed or altered in any way. Printing double-sided works great, fyi.
What produces the sound on the clarinet? Clarinet sound is produced by the reed vibrating against the slot in the mouthpiece activated by the air (see E-Tip #3). Unlike brass players, the clarinet embouchure is not the sound maker (resonator).
What is the purpose of clarinet embouchure? The purpose of clarinet embouchure is to provide a great platform (or “Happy Place”) for the reed to vibrate. The 5-C embouchure below will help a clarinetist develop a great environment or “Happy Place” for the reed to vibrate.
The 5-C embouchure could be thought of as a single lip version of a double lip embouchure (aka “Single Lip-Double Lip”). 5-C allows the reed to vibrate freely as in double lip embouchure. However, since 5-C is a single lip embouchure with top teeth on the mouthpiece, it avoids the problems of double lip: hard to do, hurts for some, lack of stability for marching/standing, etc.
Corners to Cheekbones: Use “Smile Muscles” (Zygomaticus major muscles) to stretch lightly upwards from mouth corners to cheekbones. These muscles are the ones used when smiling. This should also help flatten out the chin.
Chin: Smooth out chin muscles, focusing the chin to a point. But, DO NOT hinge the jaw forward – use a normal face. NOTE: Steps 1 and 2 will likely flatten the chin just about right – this step could be called “Check Chin.”
Cover: Put some bottom lip over bottom teeth – “Not too much, not too little, just right.”
Click: Top teeth rest on mouthpiece. Think, “Click” (See E-Tip #4). Don’t bite down hard – think of top teeth “receiving” the mouthpiece. IMPORTANT: Upper lip also sits gently on top of mouthpiece and moves upward toward top teeth with no downward pressure.
NOTE: The embouchure above and embouchure tips elsewhere have been heavily influenced by the ideas of master single reed teacher Joe Allard. (This embouchure can be used on all clarinets and saxophones.) See HERE for important acknowledgements, etc.
ClarinetMike says, “Teach Your Students How to Count AND Make Them Do It!”
Inside ClarinetMike’s Studio: A couple years ago, one of my bright-eyed junior high students, Ian, came to a lesson and played his solo for me that he was preparing for a contest. He did an excellent performance of the notes; however, the rhythms on the solo were less than great [i.e. bad!]. He told me that he had not worked much (or any) on the rhythms during his practicing at home. This in spite of the fact that I always emphasize rhythm using clapping and other counting techniques during lessons. So, as seen in Ian’s own handwriting above, I went sorta Old School on him and made him write, “I will clap the music every day” five times.* The next week Ian came to his lesson and played his solo brilliantly! He told me he clapped his solo every day in his practicing at home!
International Woodwind Duo Symposium on April 13-14, 2018 at Sam Houston State University!
Duo 35 is ready to Rock The House! Todd Oxford and I will be performing Saturday afternoon, April 14 at 2 pm at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas as part of the International Woodwind Duo Symposium (IWDS) on April 13-14, 2018! Below are the complete IWDS conference schedule, our Duo 35 performance program and program notes, and a special treat: a cool video of IWDS Director, Masahito Sugihara, discussing his Awea Duo, the IWDS Symposium, and more! ClarinetMike says, “HEY! All Symposium Events are FREE and Open to the Public! CHECK IT OUT!!”
Symposium Schedule (website)
Gaertner Performing Arts Center Recital Hall
Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas.
Vendor Booths: 8:00am-4:00pm in Room 201
High School Duo Competition: 9:00-10:00am in Room 205
Young Artist Duo Competition: 9:00-10:40am in Room 202
IWDS Director Masahito Sugihara Interview:
Interview with Masahito Sugihara interview - YouTube
Michael Dean, clarinet
Todd Oxford, saxophone
Saturday, April 14, 2018, 2:00pm
Gaertner Performing Arts Center Recital Hall
Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas
Talking Pictures for clarinet & soprano saxophone (1984) – Amy Quate (b. 1953)
Timing: 20 minutes
Composer Amy Quate works in a wide variety of musical styles, forms, and media. Her career encompasses commissioned compositions, musical performing, computer music, computer graphics, audio and video technical work, and multi-media production. She has published both literary and musical compositions. For the Tenth World Saxophone Congress (September 1992, Pesaro, Italy), Professor Debra Richtmeyer, Vice President of the North American Saxophone Association, commissioned Ace of Swords, a work for alto saxophone, percussion and piano. Quate’s instrumental compositions include an alto saxophone sonata commissioned for the Seventh World Saxophone Congress, Light of Sothis (1982, Leduc), Laguna Madre (1988, Leduc) for soprano saxophone, and several tuba solos published by CCP/Belwin.
In 1984, Amy Quate received the Grand Prize of the American Chamber Music Composition Competition for her soprano saxophone and clarinet suite, Talking Pictures, a piece commissioned for the grand opening of the Dallas Museum of Art. Quate’s university degrees are a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, New York), and a Master of Music in Composition from the University of North Texas.
Duo 35 is a dynamic chamber ensemble featuring Michael Dean on clarinet and Todd Oxford on saxophone. The Texas-based duo engages and entertains audiences with a fresh and versatile repertoire of mostly new music. Duo 35 recently performed to enthusiastic audiences in a wildly successful tour of Alabama and Texas that included a featured performance at the NACWPI 2017 National Conference at the University of Montevallo.
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, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas. He is featured on five commercial CD’s and recently recorded a new CD, Postcards from Silver Lake, due in 2018. For 11 years he was a clarinetist with the Paducah Symphony and has given more than 300 clinics, master classes, and performances at high schools, universities, and conferences. As “ClarinetMike,” he writes for his widely-read ClarinetMike Blog – viewed in 150 countries on 6 continents, www.clarinetmike.wordpress.com. After a successful 20 years of teaching clarinet at the university level, Dr. Dean relocated to his native Texas in 2012 due to family concerns. He is currently an active clarinet performer, teacher, clinician, and blogger based in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. He is a BG France Performing Artist. His professional website is www.clarinetmike.com.
Todd Oxford has appeared as a concert artist, recording artist and on radio and television in Europe, Asia, Mexico, Canada, and across the USA. Recent engagements include Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, CAMI Hall in New York, and Texas Rangers Ballpark performing for 30,000 fans. International appearances include Europe, Mexico, Canada, People’s Republic of China, Thailand, and Indonesia. He has appeared on the artist rosters of Columbia Artists Management, Texas Commission on the Arts, and Arts Mid-West. His professional awards include two consecutive New York Debut Awards, six Global Music Awards, Grammy Award nomination, and a recent feature in Billboard Magazine. He appears on eighteen commercially available recordings on the Equilibrium, Mark, Navona, Kairoi, and JLG record labels with worldwide distribution via iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and major online retailers. He is an Artist Endorser for Eastman Saxophones and Associate Professor of Saxophone at Texas State University. His professional website is www.toddoxfordsaxophonist.com.
Spring Break is over here in Texas, but the weather is beautiful and mild – lots of sun and 70 degree temperatures! [Hang In There Northeast USA!] Nevertheless, there’s a lingering issue I must comment on.
It has come to my attention that many students do not swab their clarinets after every practice session. This is bad for a million gross reasons.
And I have come to understand that some clarinet teachers do not emphasize the importance of swabbing the clarinet. THIS IS REALLY BAD.
I have also come to understand that some clarinet teachers tell their students to NEVER swab their mouthpieces ever. THIS IS SUPER DUPER BAD!!!
So, here’s a small slice of clarinet instruction from ClarinetMike:
Common sense (the best tool in a teacher’s toolbox) clearly says you should swab out your clarinet, including the mouthpiece, after every practice or performance, etc. Also, swab your clarinet during these sessions as needed. Excessive water in the instrument, especially “Flooding Out,” damages good clarinet playing.
NOTE: The swab I’m holding up in the picture above is a GEM Swab. I recommend using “hanky” style swabs like this one. I do not recommend using the stubby little nylon cheapo ones that often come with new clarinets. These little demons can get stuck in your clarinet! And that is BAD!
Hello World! My name is Michael Dean (aka ClarinetMike) and this is my new blog. I will be posting on all things clarinet (and saxophone, too). To stay updated you may want to subscribe to my blog by email or RSS – see the buttons to the right. Thanks! Mike
CONTEST: To celebrate the 7th Anniversary of the ClarinetMike Blog and to encourage people to subscribe by email (FREE!), I’ve decided to run a contest as in years past. (Note: Subscribing by email for free helps ensure you don’t miss a ClarinetMike Blog Post. Facebook is now heavily filtering what it puts out on News Feed, Groups, etc.)
Who? The contest is open to all. FIVE lucky winners will be randomly selected after Friday, March 23. (Note: Some prizes below have travel restrictions.*) Winners will be notified privately and not announced.
What? Possible Prizes include (but not limited to):
ClarinetMike Skype Lesson
Clarinet CD Download Card
ClarinetMike One-Day Residency with Clinics, etc.*
Restaurant Gift Card (at one of ClarinetMike’s Favorites!)
When? Contest begins immediately (right now!) and ends Friday, March 23, 2018 at NOON Central Time USA (5 pm UTC or GMT).
How? To enter the contest, you must subscribe to the ClarinetMike Blog. Go to Email Subscription under the Archives at the bottom right side of this blog post. Just enter your email address in the box and then click “Sign me up!” If you’ve already subscribed by email and want to enter the contest, comment on this post or send me an email (email@example.com).
THANKS! Hey, thanks for making the ClarinetMike Blog the #1 clarinet blog in the world according to Google Search.
It is Spring Break time here in Texas and I know many of you are looking for a job (or a better one!). Some of you are soon to be spending lots of quality time at the TMEA Job Vacancy Search page – click here. Therefore, I am reposting the below.
“LinkedIn, Lumpy and Me” by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”
Scene: ClarinetMike is chatting with Lumpy, an assistant band director, between lessons outside a practice room in a large band hall.
ClarinetMike: I recently set up my own LinkedIn page, why don’t you connect to me?
Lumpy: WAIT! WHAT THE HECK IS LINKEDIN?
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 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 better 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, correct. And, 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 recent YouTube video that has information on setting up a profile.
How To Use LinkedIn For Beginners - 7 LinkedIn Profile Tips 2018 - YouTube
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.”
Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike” after an orchestra concert.
ClarinetMike says, “The granddaddy and best of all clarinet tone quick fixes is ‘More Air.’ Here’s 7 more.”
7 Ways to Improve Clarinet Tone Immediately! (or almost immediately) by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”
1. Show Me Your Reed! I suggest band directors and private teachers personally inspect the reed of each and every student. Don’t let the students play on reeds that are super old (soft) or badly chipped (however, sometimes slightly chipped reeds will play ok). This leads to:
2. Get a Good Reed! Do what it takes to have high quality reeds to practice and perform on. Check out the newer reeds from Vandoren and D’Addario. Remember, the best clarinet player in the world sounds bad on a bad reed.
3. Don’t Pinch The Corners of the Reed. Be sure to keep the lower lip flat against the reed so as not to crimp the sides of the reed. Once past the reed, the lips can seal to keep air from leaking out. Remember, clarinet sound is produced by the vibration of the reed. The more the reed vibrates, the more sound is produced. (This is E-Tip #2 from my 5 E-Tips for E-Lips Clarinet Embouchure Tips. For more on this tip and the other embouchure E-Tips, go HERE.)
4. Voice Eee’s. I’ve found it very helpful to use different “Eee” syllables when playing in different registers on the clarinet. Go HERE to check out the syllables. (This is E-Tip #3 from my 5 E-Tips for E-Lips Clarinet Embouchure Tips. For more on this tip and the other embouchure E-Tips, go HERE.)
5. Sit Up Tall. Noted clarinetist Julian Bliss said something similar at a clinic I recently attended at TMEA. Check out a couple related ClarinetMike Blog posts HERE and HERE.
6. Project Your Sound. Think about it, work on it, and DO IT! Check out my article on sound projection HERE.
7. THINK! Pay Attention to Tone. Students: Don’t just mindlessly blow. Listen! Teachers: Don’t put up with bad clarinet sounds – work on them! You will find my 5-C Clarinet Embouchure helpful: check it out HERE.
NOTE: The above is a revised and enhanced version of a previous post.
DOG! Our beloved family Golden Retriever, Andy, was a creature of constant habit, just like people!
BASEBALL! When I was a kid, I played little league baseball. While fielding a position, my coaches taught me to keep my right thumb between my first two fingers when the pitcher started to make his pitch. This way, if a ball was hit to me, my fingers would go to the ball in my glove with perfect hand position for throwing a baseball (see pictures below).
I’ve noticed lately that when I’m walking around that my right thumb is often between my first two fingers! I haven’t played baseball in little league for decades, but the finger position habit I developed as a kid is still with me! [I just stopped typing, looked down, and there was my right thumb between my first two fingers!]
CLARINET! The above is a small, but significant, illustration of the power of habit to shape our lives. In view of this, I believe it is vital that we constantly work to ingrain great habits (physical and mental) in our own clarinet playing and that of our students. This is true not only for the rhythms, notes and dynamics of a specific work one is working on, but with fundamentals such as relaxation, posture, confidence, embouchure, tone, tonguing, voicing, etc.
Here’s an example of how this often works out in the clarinet (and saxophone, etc.) world. In late April, music majors at colleges and universities in the USA will be feverishly preparing scales, etudes, solos and such for upcoming music juries in May. Some will be in a panic because they did not spend enough time earlier in the semester learning their music slowly and carefully – they rushed through the music playing it too fast for accurate learning. They made habits of no dynamics, poor rhythms, and even wrong notes. Then in late April, they’ll spend lots and lots and lots of time frantically trying to fix the jury music and “unlearn” all the ingrained (or habitualized) crummy playing. (For help on practicing – GO HERE.)
ClarinetMike says, “Constantly Load GREAT HABITS!”
NOTE: The above is modified version of a previous post.
I will be offering FREE clarinet advice and good cheer at the Texas Music Educators Association [TMEA] Clinic/Convention 2018 on February 14-17 in beautiful downtown San Antonio. I’ll be at the BG Franck Bichon Booth (#353) in the Exhibits offering free clarinet consultation on the below days/times. Also, below is a list of other great clarinet events during TMEA 2018 (please let me know if I missed any). Special thanks to Franck Bichon, Juan Garijo, Tim Elvy and all the great folks at BG!
ClarinetMike says, “Please feel free to text me at 682-888-7639 if you want to chat about clarinet at a different time during TMEA. I arrive in San Antonio on Wednesday at noon and leave Saturday in the early afternoon.”
ClarinetMike at TMEA 2018: Free Clarinet Consulting! BG Franck Bichon Booth #353 in Exhibits, Hall 1 & 2
Thursday, February 15: 9-11 am and 4-5 pm (I can keep going after 5 pm)
Friday, February 16: 10 am-NOON and 4-6 pm
Clarinet Events at TMEA 2018
Thursday, February 15
9 am-5 pm: Exhibits Open
9-11 am: ClarinetMike at TMEA: Free Clarinet Consulting! BG Franck Bichon Booth #353 in Exhibits, Hall 1 & 2
11:30 am-12:30 pm: David Shea (Texas Tech) Clinic “Clarinet Fundamentals Toolkit – Fix Your Clarinet Section,” CC Stars at Night Ballroom 1
2-2:30 pm: Texas Tech University Clarinet Choir Concert, CC West Registration Music Showcase
3:30-4 pm: all about 5: A Woodwind Quintet Concert, CC West Lobby Music Showcase
4-5 pm: ClarinetMike at TMEA: Free Clarinet Consulting! BG Franck Bichon Booth #353 in Exhibits, Hall 1 & 2 [NOTE: I can keep going with consulting after 5 pm.]
Clarinet Events at TMEA 2018
Friday, February 16
9:30 am-10 am: Texas Woman’s University Clarinet Quartet Concert, CC West Lobby Music Showcase
10 am-8 pm: Exhibits Open
10 am-Noon: ClarinetMike at TMEA: Free Clarinet Consulting! BG Franck Bichon Booth #353 in Exhibits, Hall 1 & 2
2:30-3:30 pm: all about 5: A Woodwind Quintet Clinic, “Using the Woodwind Quintet as a Teaching Tool,” CC Stars at Night Ballroom 1
4 pm-6 pm: ClarinetMike at TMEA: Free Clarinet Consulting! BG Franck Bichon Booth #353 in Exhibits, Hall 1 & 2
6:30-7:30 pm: Julian Bliss Clarinet Clinic: “Improve Your Clarinet Section” CC 221
Clarinet Events at TMEA 2018
Saturday, February 17
9 am-NOON: Exhibits Open
Noon-12:30 pm: Neo Trio Clarinet Concert, CC West Lobby Music Showcase
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