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Sax to Clarinet

Discussion in 'Teachers' Chat' started by AltoRuth, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. I've been reading with interest the clarinet-to-sax thread. However, I'm in the opposite situation--a sax player who returned happily and successfully to sax after a VERY long hiatus and who has been struggling recently to learn clarinet. Unlike many sax players, I was not started on clarinet, so am starting from ground zero. Any advice will be appreciated. J
  2. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    I'd ask, first, what part are you struggling with?

    IMO, and going from clarinet to sax, is that the sax is much, much more forgiving. One of the most obvious things would be that the sax has these big plates that close on the tone holes and your fingers don't have to be perfectly placed on the pearls to play the note. Unless you have a plateau clarinet, you have to place your fingers perfectly on the clarinet or you're not going to hit the note.

    Then there's the "break." That trips up a lot of folks because going from :TrebleClef::Space2: to :TrebleClef::Line3:, you feel like you have to take a big breath to hit that B. You don't have to.

    There's also embochure and posture.

    Lots of stuff!

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Push comes to shove...

    ...the greatest difference for a conscientious musician is going to be the embouchure. The finger location can be addressed quickly enough just by paying attention, but those different facial muscles can't be "told" what to do, and can only learn from…surprise!…practice.

    Embouchure is the hardest element to master well. Many sax players try to get by with the same one that they use for sax, and that's just not going to work.

    About the best advice to give here is to get a clarinet player to coach you on the basics. Do not trust this process to a sax player - I'd even go so far here as to say that getting help from a "clarinet-playing" sax player would be an error.

    I realize that we all come to music from different starting positions, and that it's chancy to generalize these sort of things. But, self-taught sax players usually haven't been through the classic steps of clarinet playing pedagogy, and an important part of that is training in the embouchure.

    I tried to make the leap to flute from clarinet, but had zero success until I spent some time with a real flute player. (She was a living doll, which made it all the better.) She taught me more in forty-five minutes than I learned in hours of reading on the topic.

    Sometimes, one on one is the quickest solution.
  4. jbtsax

    jbtsax Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    The best description of the difference (and similarity) between the saxophone and clarinet embouchure I learned from Dr. Ray Smith at BYU, one of the nation's finest doublers and woodwind teachers.

    The clarinet embouchure
    The "EE" muscles pull out at the corners of the mouth and the "OO" muscles push in. They form a tug-o-war which ends in a tie resulting in a flat chin and a bottom lip stretched thin above the lower teeth.

    The saxophone embouchure
    The "EE" muscles pull out at the corners of the mouth and the "OO" muscles push in, but the "OO" muscles win the tug-o-war forming a rounded chin (not bunched) and a more relaxed lower lip.

    The fastest way to learn good clarinet embouchure and tone production is to first practice on the mouthpiece and barrel apart from the clarinet.

    - Hold the "tone producer" with the left hand and put the mouthpiece in the mouth at a downward 45 degree angle.

    - Make the "EE" - "OO" embouchure and put the right hand index finger in the curve above the chin so that it touches the reed.

    - Set the top teeth on the mouthpiece approx. 1/4" from the tip, take a breath and blow fast cold air.

    - The pitch should match an F# Concert or a bit higher on a short barrel when the embouchure is at the ideal tightness.

    - The key element is to feel as if the chin is pulling down and away from the finger as you play.

    - When it feels as if the pressure from the chin against the finger is gone, slowly pull the finger out.

    - Watch yourself sideways in a mirror playing long tones.

    - When the chin starts to bunch up again go back and repeat the process.
  5. Pete, all of the above!!

    Thank you! I think this is very sage advice, which I hope to follow soon. Certainly I have not been putting nearly enough practice time, and perhaps I would do better to wait until I get some good instruction from a clarinet person. I'd hate to spend time practicing bad habits!

    JBT, thank you for these very detailed suggestions. I'm going to print them and see if I can make some progress.

    Thanks to all of you. Ruth
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