The clarinet vs. the saxophone embouchure

Discussion in 'Practical Advice' started by Gandalfe, Feb 12, 2008.

  1. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    When I first started on the clarinet three years ago after many years playing sax, I immediately noticed that no matter how much my sound improved (in the beginning) I still sounded like a sax player trying to play a clarinet. And the intonation was all over the place. As I started to make traction I was able to fix some intonation problems by smiling although I'd been told that would not be good for my sound.

    What are the differences in the two embouchures? What exercises could be used to improve the sound of the instruments? My worst nightmare is going from tenor sax to clarinet; it's so bad it almost makes me want to stop playing clarinet. Fortunately the bass clarinet isn't quite as bad.
     
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  2. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    On most folk, the clarinet embouchure is more like a "grimace" than a "smile" per se. (On my face, which looks like a frown when it is at "neutral", I only have the slightest of grins when playing clarinet.)

    But, there is more to it than that. The tension in the lips are different, although just how I cannot quantify any longer.

    I think that it is always better for a player to move from clarinet to sax, than it is the other way around. That's not to say that the other direction doesn't work, just that it works better for most players.

    Bass clarinet is a bit of a different kettle of fish, this due to the low angle at which most bass clarinet necks force the mouthpiece to enter the mouth. A typical bass clarinet (with a "non-high angle" neck) requires more of a tenor sax embouchure than a clarinet one. That might be why you have less of a problem there.

    Playing clarinet in a group setting will work more wonders for your "lip" than will a ton of practicing alone. You need to blend in with others who know how to play clarinet, and placing yourself in that setting will force it to happen. Even sitting third in a concert band will help - in fact, it might be best to start there and then attempt to move up to the higher parts once you've got the lower register mastered.

    I find that my clarinet "chops" fall into disrepair during the majority of the year (when I mostly play sax), only to get torqued back into shape during musical season (generally, the spring and summer). This year, I'm doing two shows. The first has clarinet, bassoon and baritone sax, and the second is the Reed I book on Sound Of Music. Normally, I would dodge SOM like the plague (bor-ring!), but this year I need to get back into clarinet shape, so it will serve.
     
  3. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    The other thing, as Terry touches on, is how you actually play the mouthpiece. On a clarinet, you're more blowing across the mouthpiece. On a sax, you're more blowing into the mouthpiece -- which is why my tone sucks on straight soprano sax and is better on vintage curved horns.

    I started on clarinet and was moved from Bb soprano to Bb bass to Eb bari sax.
     
  4. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Bb bass saxophone, or Bb bass clarinet?

    If it was from clarinet to sax to clarinet to sax again, that would tend to screw you up. Push comes to shove, getting into a "groove" with one particular instrument can be a burden.

    Last night, I put a bassoon reed into my mouth for the first time in nine months. Talk about tiring to the muscles surrounding the mouth! So, it could be worse...
     
  5. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Clarinet. I didn't play Bb bass sax until I had been playing bari for a couple years.

    And then I switched to Bb contrabass clarinet :).
     

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