question on how to describe proper vocal cavity for playing

by Lance Hoopes
(Green Valley, AZ)

I've tried several methods with students to describe how to form the inside of their mouths for proper sound.

We continually hear things like "open throat", "warm air", "cold air", etc. and those of us who have been playing all our lives know what those things mean. They really aren't very descriptive of the actual process, though.

How do you describe those concepts to students?

Lance Hoopes
Retired band director


Hello Lance,

Thanks for the question. I can give you two things to think about on oral cavity.

1. Think about yawning: specifically how you open the mouth up with a big "oooh" and the nasal cavities open as well. That is how we wish the oral cavity to be shaped while setting the embouchure and blowing into the clarinet.

2. About opening the throat, the yawning description helps this. Ask if students are constricting or tightening the throat? They should not be doing this. It should be relaxed. Many times, young students will tighten the throat to help with the air pressure. The air pressure should come from the diaphragm and not from the neck or throat. This is all connected to the oral cavity and gives the kids another area of the mouth to think about (which is both good and bad).

I hope this helps a little bit.


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