Why Are My Clarinets Playing Flat?

If you have clarinets playing flat, it needs to be addressed immediately as it is often a symptom of a much more significant problem. The good news is that by fixing the things mentioned below, it should not only improve their intonation, it should drastically improve their tone as well.

Mouthpiece & Barrel:
Have the students play for you individually on mouthpiece/barrel. The pitch should be an F# (concert pitch). If they are sharp, that’s ok (for now). They should not be flat. Let the child watch a tuner. (If they are up to pitch on mouthpiece/barrel but not on the instrument, skip down to the part about “adding the instrument.”) Have a mirror available so they can see what you are looking for.

If they are flat, address these things:

Voicing – They should be thinking/voicing “EEE” in their mouth. The tongue should be as high as possible. You can also say “high and forward.” Have them say “aaah” then “eee” to show them how much the tongue can move in their mouth. Then have them play and think “eee.” It’s possible they can pull the pitch up enough to hear it, kind of like a “siren.” Have them try to hold the pitch as high as possible and then keep thinking “eee” more.  You can also try having them say “hee.”

Anchor – The top of the mouthpiece should be firmly on the upper teeth. I highly recommend thick mouthpiece patches (See the article explaining why here.) If there is any way your band program can just pay to get them for all your clarinetists it is well worth the investment. If not, send out an email to parents asking them to get them as soon as possible. They should be securing the mouthpiece to the top teeth by pressing up at the angle of the instrument. (Not directly up to the ceiling, but more up into the teeth, mouth)

  • Check this by gently “wiggling” the mouthpiece as they play. It should not move at all.

Continue reading this post at the original location on BandDirectorsTalkShop.com

Podcast 01 Before School Starts

Episode 01  Show Notes

This episode of the Crossing The Break podcast covers the following aspects of teaching clarinet:

  • Supplies to order
  • Stand tags (how to make them and the purpose of them)
  • Thinking through the logistics as you set up your classroom
  • Philosophy of beginning band
  • Demonstrating for students

Free download of all outline notes for the entire 20 episodes (click here to ‘enroll’ in the free course which basically just allows you to download the full packet of Outline Notes. I hope to add more pictures/videos to this course at a later time, but for now it allows you to download all 20 episodes at once.)
Before School Starts
 (Outline notes)
Clarinet Hacks Article (information on supply order)
BandDirectorsTalkShop (link)
Stand tagsBand Stand Tags


Crossing the Break on Clarinet – Smoothly!

There are many factors that contribute to clarinet players going smoothly from A to B in the staff. Many people call this “crossing the break” when really, the goal is to have NO break. I use the term “crossing the break” when talking to other teachers, but never when talking to students because I don’t want them to get in their mind that there is a “break” there. I say “going from no fingers to all fingers” or “moving from A to B” or something like that.

Obviously, the first step to crossing the break is to cover all the holes quickly and securely. When it seems like their fingers are doing the right thing and it’s still not smooth, air is probably the contributing factor. Here’s a visualization that may help.

I say this to the student:

Continue reading this full article at its original location on BandDirectorsTalkShop.com.

Podcast 00 Introductory Episode


This episode of the Crossing The Break (the “teaching clarinet podcast”) covers the following:

My Favorite Song for My Clarinets in May

This version of “Let’s Go Band” for clarinet is my favorite thing to do with my clarinets at the end of the year!

Now, I know what you’re thinking.
Let’s Go Band?
Come on.

But I promise this version is a great TEACHING version! I made it a couple years ago in May – I loved it and the kids really loved it!

“Let’s Go Band” for clarinet

Here’s what it teaches/reviews:

  • Chromatic Fingerings – Woohoo! After drilling these chromatic fingerings all year, the kids get to use them in a super fun song. Here’s what it covers:
    • sk F#
    • outside left C#
    • Banana F#
    • Banana B natural
  • Range – The last line takes the kids up to a high C# & D above the staff. Most years I get to that on the chromatic, but if you haven’t yet, this is a way to introduce it. If only a couple of your kids are ready for it, you can have most of the kids play line #2 again while the ones that are ready can go for #5.

Read the rest of this article at its original location on BandDirectorsTalkShop.com – click here.

4 Clarinet Hacks – Better Clarinets in 30 Seconds

Here are 4 clarinet hacks that can greatly increase your student’s comfort and chance of success.

#1 Mouthpiece Patches
I LOVE mouthpiece patches!  I don’t really care that they protect the mouthpiece (though this can be a nice bonus).  I love them because it dulls the sense of vibration on the upper teeth.  Many students do not anchor to their top teeth because they don’t want to feel the vibration.  Adding a mouthpiece patch can fix that problem, and in turn improve their tone significantly in a short time.

There is a specific kind I like – not a brand necessarily, but there are 2 options and I definitely have a favorite. You’ll see a very thin, hard one that is often clear and a thicker, softer one that is usually black.  Get the black ones!  I’ve played on the clear and don’t feel like they help with vibration much at all. This is all about the comfort of the student so they are willing to play with a correct embouchure and black provides more of a cushion.

Continue reading this full article at its original location on BandDirectorsTalkShop.com.