Clarinet Playing Position

Good playing position means holding the clarinet correctly with good posture and poise.

Clarinet Breathing Exercises

Our brass and woodwind players need air or "wind" to produce a characteristic tone on their instruments, but even our percussionists can benefit from breathing while they play. In a band or "wind ensemble" like ours, each musician is responsible for breathing at the right time and controlling the release of that airstream for proper phrasing and musical interpretation.


  • Place the palm of your hand near your mouth.
  • Keep your shoulders still and take a deep breath.
  • Let your waist expand like a balloon as you fill up with air.

Airstream - "too"

  • Pretend like you're blowing out 40 candles on a cake.
  • Aim for the palm of your hand as you exhale.
  • The air you are blowing onto your hand is called the airstream.
  • Your tongue acts like a valve that releases the air.

EX. 1 - Spray the Garden Hose

  • Smile and make a "thumbs up" sign.
  • Now imagine that you're spraying a garden hose - smile!
  • Cover the nozzle with your thumb and then let go.
  • The water can spray all over the place, but try to control it.
  • Compare your thumb letting out the water to your tongue letting out your airstream.
  • Again, it's your job to control the way you breath and release your airstream.
  • Try five, six, or seven bursts of air in one breath

EX. 2 - Blowing Bubbles

  • Imagine you are blowing bubbles outside.
  • You want four groups of bubbles to float away into the summer breeze.
  • Now, dip the bubble wand and aim high for the sky.
  • Keep your shoulders still and take a deep, gentle breath.
  • Gently release your airstream through the bubble wand.
  • There goes the first group of bubbles - now stop.
  • Without breathing again, release the next group of bubbles.
  • Your tongue will stop for two seconds in between groups.
  • Let the third group of bubbles go, then stop the airstream
  • For the last group, release all the air left over from your breath.
  • Compare blowing bubbles to producing tones on a wind instrument.
  • This idea is great for playing softly or quietly.

EX. 3 - Tongue Twister

  • Say, "Tip of your tongue at the top of your teeth."
  • Imagine you have eyes in the back of your mouth and say it again.
  • "Tip of your tongue at the top of your teeth."
  • Where does your tongue land for every "t" sound?
  • Say it again and again, but think about what you're saying.
  • "Tip of your tongue at the top of your teeth."
  • Start each note with your tongue.
  • "Tip of your tongue at the top of your teeth."

Common Problems with Clarinet

The most common problems occur in equipment, tone quality, and pitch.


  • Improper assembly may damage your instrument
  • Damaged equipment will cause problems

Tone Quality

To get the best sound or tone quality you should:

  • Hold your instrument with good posture
  • Play with good breath support, focused airstream, and strong embouchure formation


To control pitch you should:

  • Develop good listening skills
  • Practice different notes (positions and combinations)


More Information

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