Clarinet Realities: The fundamentals that may be holding your technique back – and how to fix them

You might agree that when you began to play the clarinet you were given only the most elementary instruction on how to play your first note.

I know it was certainly true for me.

The first thing we all want to do is to make a sound and then sort out how it is supposed to be done, later!

For many people, sorting out the fundamentals of playing a clarinet does not happen for a long time, if at all. If you leave them, you will always be frustrated by your sound. Sort them out and you will begin to discover the tone you are capable of making.

Download the full text of Clarinet Realities, Part 1

What is the most fundamental aspect of wind instrument technique?

In this series, Clarinet Realities, I am going to give you a deep understanding of all the fundamentals. But I want to start with the most important one first.


Get your breathing right and everything else will follow.

Ignore your breathing and you will be continually frustrated by the sound you are making.

Why are most people surprised when they discover how breathing really works?

I want you to try something – inhale deeply and hold your breath (with your mouth open).

What is stopping the breath from coming out of your mouth?

I really want you to think about this before looking at the answer, as it will make you aware of, or more correctly, feel the different tensions in your body.

Take another breath and see what you think.

Now release your breath.

What change is there in your body in order for the breath to be released?

Have a pause while you think about this – this could be a looking out of the window moment!

Feel what your body is doing: where are the tensions? what is preventing the air from coming out of your mouth?

You need to know where the tensions are in your body. Feel again where the tensions are, then write it down before you continue.

Why understanding this fact alone isn't enough

It takes practice and thought to transform understanding into playing technique. When I say practice I don't mean drill and repetition, but intelligent practice that will give you insights into how your mind, body and instrument work together when you play. That's why many of the exercises here are in two parts:

  1. Think it: think through the exercise first
  2. Do it: more than do it, make the exercise come alive

Now, answer this truthfully: are you the type of person who normally skips the “think it” and goes straight to “do it”? If so you may wish to save yourself some time and stop reading now because if you really want to improve your playing you need to take a different approach.

By taking a little time to think through what you are doing, before you play, you can transform your playing. You will not save time by skipping this step.

How can I use this to improve my playing?

The best way is to download the full text of the Clarinet Realities session. It contains the information and exercises you need to understand and unlock the fundamental techniques I am talking about. It's free for members of the community, follow the link below to sign up for your copy.

Download the full text of Clarinet Realities, Part 1

As you work through the exercises in the full text I promise you that there will be a remarkable change in your playing.

Notice that I say “work”, as it will not happen on its own. I am not asking for a lot of time, 10 – 20 minutes every day, or at least 3 times a week, that is all. It is the quality of the time you are dedicating to this that matters.

Here's the first exercise as a taster of what you can expect

Think it

Think through the preparatory exercise. Visualise yourself playing the exercise from start to finish. Imagine the action of your fingers on the keys and your diaphragm pushing the air out through the instrument.

Clarinet Realities Breathing Exercise

Do it

Now pick up your instrument and play through the preparatory exercise ensuring that the diaphragm is pushing the air through the instrument.

This is the first exercise specially composed by Sarah Rodgers for the Clarinet Realities series. The full text is available for free. Click the link below to get your copy. Further specially commissioned Creative Studies will be available soon.

Download the full text of Clarinet Realities, Part 1

© 2012 Geraldine Allen

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