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“The tongue only touches the reed during silence, and it releases the reed to allow sound to occur.”


I recommend one particularly helpful exercise involving only the mouthpiece and barrel with a reed/ligature attached. First, with the mouthpiece outside the mouth, instruct the student to touch the tongue tip to the reed tip. Then bring the mouthpiece into the mouth while maintaining the tongue-to-reed contact. Next, have the student blow air through the mouthpiece with the tongue still touching the reed tip. The student should


use adequate air as if playing, but the reed cannot vibrate because the tongue is lightly touching it. Assuming the students isn’t biting the reed shut, air should audibly hiss through the mouthpiece/barrel. Finally, instruct the student to lift the tongue from the reed. Sound should burst out of the mouthpiece. The student can experiment further with various rhythmic patterns of “tongue touching the reed” and “tongue releasing the reed” - thus producing silence and sound respectively. The trick is to keep the air moving freely throughout the exercise. When executed correctly, the air flow actually does most of the work,


and the tongue merely acts as a “doorstop” for the reed.


These changes in mouthpiece selection, embouchure, and tonguing are simple to teach and will yield improved results for your clarinetists. If you have additional questions or comments, please see my contact information at the end of this article.


Eric Hansen is the clarinet professor at UW-Green Bay. Email: hansene@uwgb.edu


Wisconsin School Musician


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