Should the Clarinetists Left Wrist Move or Not?

by Gwen
(Medford, Oregon)

I recently picked up Michele Gingras' book Clarinet Secrets, 52 performance strategies for the advanced clarinetist.

--she also has a You Tube Video Here: (this video is now unavailable, but see response about wrist movement below).

She says almost the exact opposite about left finger technique (from what is on the site). She encourages students to move their left wrist in a relaxed way to facilitate the movement between notes going over the break.

What do you think of her video? Are there simply two different schools of thought on this issue? Do you feel she is simply wrong?

I'm not trying to pit you against each other, I just really want to figure out which is best for my playing and right now I notice some wrist movement in my own left hand. I want to decide if it's really worth the effort the get rid of it!!



Hello Gwen,

I'm glad you sent me this question and the video. In my opinion clarinet playing should be from the knuckles down. You should not see any wrist movement. Dr. Gingras' video actually shows a good example of wrist movement and no wrist movement. When she plays examples slowly, the wrist moves a good deal. On the faster examples she actually gets very efficient and you will see little or no wrist movement.

I'll point out this via timings on the video:

:20 A-B trill long - no wrist movement

:25 Bb-B trill long - no wrist movement

I agree with her statement to "Remain curved with the left index finger."

1:32 F#-A - there is too much wrist movement

1:46 Here is where she mentions 'rotating the wrist'. Again, I believe, with careful attention to detail, you can move between these notes by moving from the knuckles to the finger tips. Honestly, I think she is trying to get the point across that many clarinet players approach the clarinet with the left hand at a ninety-degree angle. If you do this, it will create a large wrist movement and a blip of the open G in the middle on the two notes.

2:19-2:36 - In my opinion the wrist moves too much here. But it is better hand position than having the left hand at a ninety-degree angle. She also mentions to have the "left wrist relaxed." I do agree with this. Even with no wrist movement, the wrist should remain relaxed. Because I think the wrist should not move, many might think I also want it to be rigid. Absolutely not, please keep the wrist relaxed no matter what.

2:55 - A-B slow, the wrist moves

3:09 - A-B fast. This is where the video contradicts itself a little bit. When Dr. Gingras plays the example between the A-B fast, her wrist virtually stops moving. She has impressive speed and smoothness between the notes.

3:25 - Really fast. Again, no wrist movement.

It is interesting. You will, in videos and live performance, see amazing professional clarinet players use too much finger movement. Many times, that is during slow passages. However, if you pay attention when they play fast passages, their hands hone down to almost no movement except what is necessary to change the pitches.

What is the answer on wrist movement or not? That is up to you. Have the goal to make the absolutely most fluid transition between pitches as possible in both slow and fast passages. Getting good finger control takes numerous hours and years of practice. And this is just really talking about the technical side of moving between these pitches, do not forget to make a beautiful phrase and spin out a great melody.

By the way, I do recommend Dr. Gingras' books: Clarinet Secrets.

Good luck practicing and I hope to hear from you again.



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