Single Lip or Double-Lip Clarinet Embouchure?

by Gary

Love your site, spent about 2 hours on it today!

Regarding the embouchure, I have been confused since reading Benny Goodman's Clarinet Method; he says to keep lip between the upper teeth and the mouthpiece. I believe Artie Shaw did this also.

Let me say that I am not a youngster, but an old guy in his 70's who started playing the clarinet about a year ago for the first time since my High School band days (clarinet and bass clarinet). I keep my teeth on the top of the mouthpiece and find it very uncomfortable to have the upper lip between the teeth and mouthpiece.

I notice that you recommend the teeth on the top of the mouthpiece; should I be concerned about the Goodman method?



Hello Gary,

I’m really happy you are picking the clarinet back up and hope you are enjoying it. Fantastic question and I can really shed some light on this. Mr. Goodman's embouchure method is known as double-lip clarinet embouchure. Mr. Goodman was an international sensation playing on single-lip (teeth on the top of the mouthpiece) before we switched to double-lip embouchure with the aid of clarinetist Reginald Kell. You can read more of this story here.

So, yes, on my website,, I recommend learning single-lip clarinet embouchure. I also teach single-lip embouchure to my students. However, I play with double-lip embouchure.

I totally recommend single-lip embouchure to you. There are so many GREAT players in the world that play single-lip. Follow through the Clarinet Embouchure and Poor Clarinet Embouchure pages for the tips I've already written out.

Why do I recommend single lip? Double-lip embouchure takes a BOATLOAD of work to do right.

The advantages of double-lip clarinet embouchure over single-lip to me are:

1. A rounder sound

2. Warmer sound

3. Better ease of legato passages between pitches. While 'ease' makes it sound easy, this is where the boatload of work comes to make it sound easy.

Reasons to avoid double-lip embouchure:

1. A large degree of pain to the upper lip

2. It takes a good deal of time to develop endurance

3. It is tough to find a clarinet teacher who plays double-lip to make sure you learn the technique correct.

I played single-lip embouchure from beginner, through a Masters in Clarinet Performance and winning the audition with the West Point Band. About two years into my career, I started studying clarinet with Kalman Opperman in New York City. He recently passed away and was truly a master clarinetist, teacher, craftsman, composer, writer, etc… He played double-lip clarinet embouchure and sold me on the technique. In a concert setting, I play double-lip, but as a marcher in an Army Band, I play single lip to protect the upper lip from uneven marching surfaces.

I believe the studies of double-lip embouchure with Mr. Opperman gave me a true advantage to writing about and teaching embouchure to my students. What I mean by embouchure is single-lip. Whether on single-lip or double-lip, the flattened chin, facial muscles, seal of the lips, jaw pressure, etc… of the clarinet embouchure really work the same.

So, your original question was, "should I be concerned about the Goodman method?" Absolutely not. You will get tons of musical pleasure with the clarinet playing single-lip embouchure.

Please visit again and tell all your friends about it.

Chris Jones

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