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OUCH! Doubling on Clarinet from Sax

This week l would like to offer some tips for the saxophone player who wants to double on clarinet. The good news here is that the fingerings are going to be very easy, up to C6, our high C. After that it gets more challenging but first things first.


My comments are for the player who wants to play in a classical style, which is suitable for musical theater, chamber music, orchestra, concert band and big band section playing.


· Embouchure - a very pronounced pointed chin is required. In this post, I have a photo of my Northeastern University student, Seth Berman demonstrating an excellent clarinet chin. Your lips will feel more stretched with corners back. If you begin to experience pain in the lower lip from your teeth you can place any of the following to cover those center lower teeth to give you a little padding: Denture Guard (wax covered gauze), paper, medical tape, bandaid.


· Mouthpiece - We use a more closed facing with higher strength reeds. The harder reeds are going to allow you to play the high notes in tune and with focus. Seth was playing on a Selmer HS star and recently moved to a Vandoren M13Lyre and 3 to 3.5 sized Vandoren traditional reeds. He is getting a much more focused sound and the high notes are popping out more easily.


· Instrument brand - don't worry about this part initially. Just make sure that the clarinet is in good working order. Spend more money on getting a quality mouthpiece first.


· Air column is very focused and centered, not as wide as what you do on saxophone. Think colder air from what you do on saxophone. As you are playing imagine a bulls-eye target on your music stand and aim your air stream right for the center.


· Head position. Keep your head up. Bring the clarinet to you. The mouthpiece is in your mouth at a 45 degree angle.


· Fingers and the open holes of the clarinet are a particular challenge. I tell students to use the pads or fleshy part of their fingers to cover the holes. It will take some time to build a callous where the thumb rest sits on your right thumb. While you are holding the clarinet in place with your right hand, your fingers and thumb should form a backwards letter "C." Left hand will feel similar to saxophone.


· What to practice first? LONG TONES LONG TONE LONG TONES!!!


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NEU Freshman Saxophonist Seth Berman exhibiting a textbook clarinet embouchure!

Hope these tips are useful. Let me know if you have questions. Thanks to Seth Berman for allowing me to use his photo.

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