Clean sound, mellow ease.

by Garth Libre
(Miami Florida)

I played almost every day for at least five years and graduated from playing in the school orchestra to playing in the NY Jazz Mobile youth group in 1972, the year after I graduated high school. That next year, I got a full scholarship to the Harkness School of ballet with pay! For the next two years I was so exhausted, and afraid they would toss me out that I never played clarinet again. Last month I tried to play my old horn and found that I easily could go up and down the scales but that every pad seemed to be leaking. The horn is the shop for a full overhaul and in the meantime I am playing my old Vandoren mouthpiece 5RV with a new Rovner ligature and a Rico Royal 3 reed. I play just the mouthpiece five minutes a day while waiting for the repair and in the last ten days, my embouchure is improving every day. I work on tonguing, long tones, no biting, even pitch and pitch variation. I want to get started as soon as I can with my main goal being good tonal production. I feel the fingers will come back long before I get the clean sound I'm looking for. I want to play with ease and flow. What more can I ask for?


Hello Garth,

Congratulations on returning to the clarinet. What more can you ask for? Getting the clarinet back from the repair-person is a start. Working with the mouthpiece is good, though.

When you do get the clarinet back, consider working on the chromatic scale. Your goal is to have a clean sound and play with ease and flow. Since the half-step is the smallest step in Western music, it should be the easiest to play smoothly. But, just think about the half-step from throat tone Bb to B natural over the break, that is a tough half-step.

Anyway, work on your chromatic scales slurred and articulated. Play a one octave low E up to E (bottom line on staff) slurred at a slow tempo. Then articulated as legato as you can. Then move F to F, F# to F#, G to G, etc… Since you are just getting back to clarinet, give yourself enough small breaks. That will condition your embouchure, tongue, and hands.

So, this is my advice on first returning to the clarinet. If you get a good head of steam, consider getting some clarinet lessons. Thanks for writing and come back to

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