Sax on the Web Forum banner

Beginning Doubler Seeks Advice

3662 Views 26 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Gordon (NZ)
Dear Clarinet Players,

I'm a new clarinet player, having switched from sax. Right off the bat, I'd appreciate any and all advice you could give.

Yes, I need a teacher. Point taken :)

I play on a Jupiter 631 with a Vandoren B40, on a Vandoren 2½... with a fairly solid tone about 80% of the time. I'm breaking in a 3 for fun, but that's mostly for kicks until I get my clarinet chops up to standard...

I'm also quite flat on the upper register... 40 to 45 cents on my tuner, and easily perceptible to the human ear. (*shudder*) Are there any exercises that can compliment my semi-daily regiment of playing high notes and attempting to raise the pitch?

Secondly, how in God's name are you supposed to play a sixteenth-note A-B-A-B?! :)space2::line3:) :)

- Lost
1 - 20 of 27 Posts
Kareeser said:
Dear Clarinet Players,

Secondly, how in God's name are you supposed to play a sixteenth-note A-B-A-B?! :)space2::line3:) :)

- Lost
There are lots of alternate fingerings on clarinet. You answered your own question. Get with a good teacher. I know there are several in your area.
For flatness on high notes, may I suggest that you need significantly more air pressure, and the lip support to "contain" it - a lot more than for sax.

Also, be aware that playing in an extra cold or hot environment really plays havoc with clarinet tuning.

For the A-B, the short answer is practice, practice, practice. It is possibly the most clumsy of all clarinet fingerings, but we master it, because we have to!

If it is a trill, where tuning and getting to the next note after these is not too critical, then use one of the four side keys - i.e second down from the top, to change A to B.

Otherwise, there are several fingerings for A which leave most of the B fingers down, so it is easier to change from one to the other.

There are many other combinations of fingers left on for A that work. Some work for some clarinets better than for others. For example on my clarinet, for the A, I often leave down left middle and ring, and right index and middle fingers. This gives more resonance for the A, often a pitch I prefer (depending on volume and air temperature) and an easy transition to B. (I leave these down also for the throat G#)

(Likewise, for the throat Bb, I leave down left middle and ring, and right index, middle and ring.)
See less See more
What about the difference in embouchure?

I have also recently starting doubling on Clarinet and have been playing sax for a long time.

I think I'm using a sax type embouchure on clarinet and sometimes the upper register notes seem to "bark" out.
In other words, a microsecond of the lower harmonic before the correct note sounds.

Can someone describe the embouchure of Clarinet relative to sax?
Thanks Dan/Gordon for your replies. Back to practicing for me, then :)

Ooh, Bobby, that's a fun one...

"The Art of Saxophone Playing" says it quite plainly. The Saxophone embouchure is not transferable to the Clarinet :)

For me, also having just started, it took several days of trial-and-error (and probably some bad-habit formation) to figure out the correct embouchure for clarinet. You then have to learn to switch back and forth until it is of second nature to you (that last one is easier than it sounds).

However, any advice in that department wouldn't be turned down either :)
For me, the differences in embouchures are as follows:

Sax needs a significant section of reed in contact with the lower lip. Clarinet needs a much shorter section of the reed in contact with the lower lip.

Therefore for clarinet, the lower lip must have a lot less less bulk.


Sax: Bunch up the lips as in whistling (but the mouth open enough to accept the mouthpiece.) Sit the reed/mouthpiece on the thick cushion of lower lip. Then close the lower jaw until the upper teeth are on the mouthpiece, and close the lips around the mouthpiece like a rubber band.

Most of the lip tissue that the reed contacts is the red part that is normally wet (and soft) from being normally inside the mouth.

Clarinet: Smile (with teeth apart) sufficiently to take all wrinkles out of the lower lip, and stretch it thinner, and allow a small overflow of lip over the lower teeth. While the lip has been thus distorted, place reed/mouthpiece on the thin strip of lower lip that covers the lower teeth. Then close the lower jaw until the upper teeth are on the mouthpiece, and close the lips around the mouthpiece like a rubber band.

Most of the lip tissue that the reed contacts is the red part that is normally dry(and not quite so soft) from being normally outside the mouth.

Of course, there are many different approaches. And we each have differences in our teeth and lips.

I think that for clarinet I also have the back of my tongue raised a little more towards my hard palate.

Disclaimer: I am a mere analytical, experienced, self-taught amateur player. :)
See less See more
Yeah, that's the best way I've seen it put. Thanks!

I've always heard "smile when you play", for the clarinet, but now I see why...

My tone's getting better... on the 2½ ><

The thread below has some of my teaching ideas for switching from clarinet to sax. They can also apply to your question going the other direction. It is always best to work with a good teacher to get started on a new instrument. Good luck.

I find it a lot easier to develop an embouchure that is somewhere between the typical sax and clarinet ones and to use it for both but simply adjust the angle of the mouthpiece and the way you are voicing the air for each instrument. Successful Philly area doublers have conveyed this sensibility to me so I tried to put it into practice and my clarinet playing improved tremendously. Worth a shot. Whatever you wind up doing remember that the embouchure is a CONCEPT more than anything. Once you have mastered a working concept for your instrument, you no longer need to worry about it.
A good way to get the right feel for clarinet embouchure is to spend some time playing the instrument with "double embouchure" ie lips cover upper and lower teeth. To play up to pitch even in the mid-range you'll have to engage the muscles surrounding the m/p much more than most people do when they're playing sax. This will give you the feel for what's meant when they say "smile" or "firm but relaxed" for the clarinet embouchure. Good luck. It's a tricky double, I find.
Pick up "The Art of Clarinet Playing." The embouchure descriptions are very clear and useful.
Who is the author?

Keith Stein or David Pino ?
BobbyC said:
Who is the author?

Keith Stein or David Pino ?
Keith Stein. From the same series as the Teal "Art of Sax..."
Not meaning to complicate matters, but I've become a convert to a double-lip embouchure on clarinet, bass clarinet, and (most recently) saxophone. Over the past five years I had been progressing gradually toward a double-lip embouchure and the article below inspired me to take the final steps.

The benefits I've found with a double-lip include: more resonant sound, thicker sound in the high range, easier high range articulation, much easier in making quick embouchure changes between clarinet and bass clarinet/tenor sax, and FAR LESS embouchure fatigue. I cannot think of any negatives...other than other reed players thinking you're strange (doesn't bother me).

It can be helpful to listen to recordings of some of the great clarinetists mentioned in the article who used a double-lip embouchure.

Roger Aldridge said:
Not meaning to complicate matters, but I've become a convert to a double-lip embouchure on clarinet, bass clarinet, and (most recently) saxophone.
On sax, does it effect your ability to sub-tone and growl? How about the altissimo?
I read the double lip article.

I'm going to give it serious go as I too have damaged teeth due to an accident long ago.
I want to see if it will help me or not.

Sometimes I wear a night guard on my top teeth to play tenor.
It's very uncomfortable but keeps my mouth in place.

The smaller mouthpieces of the soprano and clarinet don't cause me too much trouble.

I'll try the double lip and report back.

No problems with any of these things.

After getting used a double-lip I've found it to be very comfortable and natural-feeling. For the past 5 or so years I've played saxophone without having my teeth on the mouthpiece beak. I stumbled upon this as a way to take more of the mouthpiece into the mouth and not have the chops quickly fatigue. I got a bigger sound with it than with the traditional embouchure I used for so many years. This put me, in effect, half way toward a double-lip. It was then a matter of curling my lip under my teeth for a real double-lip. That said, I don't curl a lot of lip under my top teeth. The example given in the double-lip article about the position of one's lips in using a drinking straw is a good one. This is very close to the amount of lip I have over my teeth.

Not to be argumentative here folks, but look at the title of the original post asking for help.

Beginning Doubler Seeks Advice

Note the word "Beginning". To advise any beginning player on clarinet to adopt a "double lip" embouchure right from the start is not helpful advice in my opinion. True the "double lip" is used successfully by a small minority of accomplished players on both sax and clarinet, but most of those players switched to that embouchure after years of playing and mastering their instrument. From what I have read, most of them describe how hard they had to work in order to make the change. Getz tried it and then went back to his original embouchure.

If the "double lip" embouchure is so easy and advantageous, why then aren't those players in the majority instead of the other way around. I have heard it said that John Coltrane was not a great player because of his "double lip" embouchure, but in spite of it. For any experienced player to "grow into" the "double lip" embouchure is great if it works for them, put please don't suggest that for a player who is just learning to play the instrument.

See less See more
Surprisingly, the double-lip technique seems particularly appropriate for beginners as it discourages biting and seems to keep the throat open. The "Art of Clarinet Playing" book others have mentioned gives a full and, I think, convincing account of the benefits. Whether the technique is good as one's "mainstay" for clarinet or sax I couldn't say. I have always placed my teeth on top of both until relatively recently so i find it hard to seriously consider a permanent shift of technique. Maybe I should? What really surprised me is how easy it is to switch back and forth between double lip and teeth on top.
I have a doubler friend who started on oboe and not surprisingly carried a double-lip over to saxophone. She's now starting to learn clarinet and the double-lip is working well for her on that instrument as well. Interestingly, her clarinet teacher is not insisting that she begin clarinet with a single-lip embouchure; rather, he's being open minded about a double-lip.

If I didn't think a double-lip would have advantages for a beginning doubler on clarinet I would not have suggested it.

Never the less, there is no substitute for having a good clarinet teacher in order to build a good foundation on the instrument.

1 - 20 of 27 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.