my child wants to give up because it hurts her jaw to play clarinet. help!

by Anna

My child is doing grade three clarinet. She now says that she hates playing it because her jaw hurts, or around her mouth specifically. We have all invested much to help her play this instrument and I have explained that I think it is the muscles trying to get strong, but I don't really know because I am a pianist. Her teacher seems to be baffled by this. Have you any advice or help that could shed some light on this problem. I really would like her to carry on with her instrument. Thank you.


Hello Anna,
I hope that she can continue with the clarinet as well. Now, remember, I'm not a doctor, but I can suggest you look at these symptoms of TMJ. Especially read the symptoms as associated with the mouth. Here is the website: TMJ symptoms

I've never had TMJ. But while practicing seriously for years, I asked my teacher how I could practice all the hours he suggested and not hurt my mouth and hands. He put me on a regiment of 2 minutes on and 2 minutes off. If I still hurt after that, the one minute on and two minutes off. This all means I practiced blowing and fingering for the 2 min. on and I would only finger (with the clarinet sitting on my knee) for the other 2 min (or 1 and 2).

Coincidentally, my sister gave me a digital kitchen timer for Christmas after this particular clarinet lesson and I set it to beep for each practice interval.

This takes some serious discipline and I cannot imagine children being able to follow it well, but it was my solution to pain both in the mouth and hands.

Even though now I can practice hours at a time, I insert several short "fingering-only" breaks in the mix. An awesome by-product of all of this discipline is that while I fingered only (no blowing), my fingers lightened up to a new, very dexterous level. However, all in all, it helped my mouth, too.

Best of luck to your daughter. Do you have clarinet recordings in the house? Does she know what the clarinet sounds like at its greatest? If not, please have her pay a visit the Famous Clarinet Players page on

Best of luck to you both.


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