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Clarinet playing posture/embouchure

I’m looking for some pointers as to how to help my 10 year old correct his playing posture/embouchure. He’s reached grade 4 standard but unfortunately his last teacher allowed a lot of technical issues to go unchallenged and it’s now proving a real struggle to correct them. The main problem is that he seems to have difficulty in maintaining the clarinet in the midline - the mouthpiece appears to deviate towards the right side of his mouth and thus the instrument isn’t aligned with the centre of his body. It looks very bizarre! His cheeks also puff out particularly on the right. As it’s become such an ingrained way of playing it he has no self-awareness that he’s doing it. We’ve just started with a new teacher but it’s proving very difficult to get him to change his errant technique.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
... the mouthpiece appears to deviate towards the right side of his mouth.
If your profile pic is your kid playing, he might have Kenny G syndrome: Mr. Gorelick plays his horns a off-center because he had(s) tooth problems. That might be a thing, especially for a 10-year old.

Puffed cheeks thing is probably a technical issue rather than an organic one, tho.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
These are some of the things I used with my beginning clarinet students and some suggestions for equipment.
  • Use a rubber mouthpiece patch to insure the top teeth are firmly on top of the mouthpiece and in the same place each time.
  • Remind him to sit upright on the front half of the chair with the back straight and both feet on the floor.
  • The embouchure is formed by the "EE" muscles pulling out and the "OO" muscles pushing in making a tug-o- war that ends in a tie.
  • The boom lip is stretched thin and the chin is flat and pointed. (It is impossible to puff the cheeks when the corner muscles are tight.)
  • It is helpful to buy a thumb rest with a ring attached so a neck strap supports the weight of the instrument.
  • It helps to warm up playing on just the mouthpiece and barrel. The pitch should be F# concert or slightly higher on a short barrel.
  • When the embouchure is correct and the mouthpiece at the right angle you should be able to insert your index finger in the curve of the chin.
  • To check the tightness of the embouchure and the top teeth on the mouthpiece the teacher can form a "U" with the thumb and index finger and gently moving back and forth on the sides of the mouthpiece do a "wobbly test" to see if there is any movement.
  • Practicing in front of a mirror can reinforce keeping a good embouchure and good posture.
Correcting poor playing habits takes time and consistency. The good habits need to be done at least as many times as the bad habits to completely extinguish the behavior. Rewards for small improvements goes a long way. Good luck.
 
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