The Clarinet “Law of Minimal Motion”

With so many options for clarinet fingerings, there are certain rules we follow when determining which one to use depending on the passage. You can read the 4 Rules to Choosing the Best Clarinet Fingering here.

The 4th rule however – The Law of Minimal Motion – is more of a philosophy and appears over and over in different ways. Students will get better at determining how to use this philosophy to improve their technique the more you explain it and insist that they consider it.

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There are times when the Law of Minimal Motion is black and white. For example, if you have a C below the staff next to a  B natural and then to an A you would obviously use the middle B. So you would move a total of 2 fingers. You would add finger 5 and then add finger 4. If you chose to use the chromatic fingering – (some call it the sliver key or forked fingering – I call it the banana key) – you would be moving 4 fingers. You would add finger 4 plus banana and then add finger 5 and lift banana. So it is obvious that you use the most efficient fingering (2 fingers instead of 4). Most kids see this easily.

RPinkies (Click on picture to expand)

Let’s take a more subjective example. Let’s look at the right hand Low E/Middle B key.  The standard way to finger 3rd line B is the two home pinky keys. I call this regular B.  The alternate fingering for B is the key I call “BottomBottom” because it’s the bottom key on the bottom layer. When you play standard B you use 2 pinkies and 2 hands.  (You can play it with just left, but when using the standard fingering, you should put down both.)  When you use right hand B BottomBottom it is just the right finger. So one finger, one hand. 

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