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  1. #1
    Distinguished SOTW Member themacintrasher's Avatar
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    Default Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    My band director gave me a clarinet to take home today, and I'm getting some horrific squeaks out of it. I'm wondering if using my saxophone embouchure is causing that. I use a no lip curl embouchure, as apposed to single or double lip one. Any help would be appreciated.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member SaxPlayer1004's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    You almost always need to pull your lower lip over your teeth for clarinet. It's a completely different game from sax. You take a LOT let mouthpiece into your mouth, and the pressure is a lot higher. You'll get it eventually, but try to play with your lower lip curled over, it should help a bit.

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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    Post a soundclick!

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    Distinguished SOTW Member SaxPlayer1004's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    I don't wanna hear no horrific squaky clarinet. I deeply apologize but I hear that almost every day with my middle school students. I'm sure he knows what a clarinet is supposed to sound like, and clarinet mouthpieces aren't quite as wacky as sax mouthpieces.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member kymarto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    Quote Originally Posted by themacintrasher View Post
    My band director gave me a clarinet to take home today, and I'm getting some horrific squeaks out of it. I'm wondering if using my saxophone embouchure is causing that. I use a no lip curl embouchure, as apposed to single or double lip one. Any help would be appreciated.
    There is a fundamental difference between clarinet and saxophone acoustically, in that because of the difference in the tube shape, you need to lip-damp the resonances of the reed. On a sax the reed will couple and sound at the playing frequency of the tube even if you don't damp the natural resonance frequency of the reed with your lip, but on a clarinet the reed will vibrate at its natural resonance frequency (squeak) if you don't use either more lip pressure or your bottom lip nearer the reed tip to stop that from happening.

    So yes, if you use a loose sax embouchure, it won't work on clarinet.

    Toby

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    Distinguished SOTW Member themacintrasher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    Quote Originally Posted by SaxPlayer1004 View Post
    You almost always need to pull your lower lip over your teeth for clarinet. It's a completely different game from sax. You take a LOT let mouthpiece into your mouth, and the pressure is a lot higher. You'll get it eventually, but try to play with your lower lip curled over, it should help a bit.
    Wow! I can play the upper register now! Seriously, that works really well, thanks.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    Clarinets are interesting specimens. I am no expert, but from what I can tell there is a difference between the way you are supposed to play a clarinet and the way that actually works best. when I took up clarinet, my band director told me all sorts of things about embochure and pitch, but when I tried to apply them into practice, I had porblems. In the end, I changed my typical angle I hold a soprano sax, which has a similar shape to clarinet in the sense that it points down. I also ended up takeing less mouthpiece and using an airstream that would be dreadfully bright on a sax for it. i also applied different curls to achieve different sounds. That's just me though. I think you should just try different styles out and see which one produces the least squeaks. Then, as you get better, you can change you techniques to fit your changed embochure.
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    All I can say is that I have picked up a clarinet when I was really good with saxophone, and I could not make it work. They are really different beasties. If you wanna play clarinet, you need a clarinet teacher. I am 100 % sure that your saxophone chops are (almost) useless here. They look similar, but ain't.
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    Distinguished SOTW member/Official SOTW Sister bandmommy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    Proper clarinet embouchure cannot be taught via the web. You gotta have a teacher that specializes in clarinet to get it right. There's a crapload more involved than having your lower lip curled over your bottom teeth.
    Horn angle, hand position, how much mouthpiece to take in......
    It's a hell of a lot harder to learn clarinet 'correctly' than most people think.
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    Distinguished SOTW Member Carl H.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    Quote Originally Posted by bandmommy View Post
    It's a hell of a lot harder to learn clarinet 'correctly' than most people think.
    I'm principal in the local symphony and it still gives me fits. A real clarinet teacher is the best way to get started.
    So far, this is the oldest I've been.

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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    Quote Originally Posted by bandmommy View Post
    Horn angle, hand position, how much mouthpiece to take in......
    It's a hell of a lot harder to learn clarinet 'correctly' than most people think.
    Hand position is still my biggest issue on clarinet. Who in the heck thought that the keyboard layout on these horns was "ergonomic"? I would say that learning the clarinet really does help your saxophone chops. You really have to concentrate on the voicing of a clarinet, and your pinkies get a work out as well. The upper register is really hard to control, but after you work it out, your saxophone altissimo control improves. Many of the distinctive saxophone voices, such as Paul Desmond or Lenny Pickett, come from a clarinet background. That says something about the importance of clarinet.

    Oh yeah, make sure that the tone holes are free of any "gunk". Buildup will really ruin your day on these horns.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    I wonder if switching from clarinet to sax is easier? I didn't have too much of a problem learning how to play a tenor even though I've been playing clarinet for 7+ years. It took a while to get the low notes sounding quickly (still actually working on it) but with the octave key down, I could play it pretty well the second I started.

    I also wonder if switching from clarinet to alto is easier than clarinet to tenor... I want to try playing an alto soon, I think I could be good at it.
    Clarinet: 1967 Selmer Series 10, Vandoren B40 lyre 13 mp, Rovner Eddie Daniels II Lig, Vandoren V12 reeds
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    Distinguished SOTW member/Official SOTW Sister bandmommy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    Going from clarinet to sax is WAAAY easier.
    Sax embouchure, from my experience, is really lazy in comparison.
    My problem lies in going from clarinet to oboe.
    Old reed players are like fine wine. They only get better with age. Tom Hagen

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    Distinguished SOTW Member jmathesonjr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    The other problem is holding the clarinet too far away from the body. At one point in time, a person could not start on saxophone. They had to do some serious time on clarinet before switching to saxophone.

    When you are seated, if the bell of the clarinet is not between the knees or slightly lower, you will not get a good sound. If you look at pictures of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw when the clarinet is up higher than what it should be, you will notice that they are leaning way back so that the clarinet is still at the proper playing position. Another thing to do is point the bony part of the chin down towards your toes. Your lower lip should be stretched over the lower jaw.

    Also, get a clarinet teacher. They can do wonders for you.
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    "...Proper clarinet embouchure cannot be taught via the web. ..."

    I'll give it a go.

    For me (no expert), a clarinet basically needs a lot less area of lip in contact with the reed. It also needs quite firm support, a good part of which is offered by the teeth (because the edge of the lip contains no muscle tissue).

    Sax: Bunch lips, in a fairly relaxed way, to a round opening with a diameter approximating that of the reed part of the mouthpiece, and with lips in contact with, but in front of the teeth. Place reed on lower lip. Close jaw so that upper teeth meet mouthpiece. Done.

    Clarinet: Draw corners of lips apart, to make the lower lip quite thin, and just flowing over the top of the lower teeth. Place reed on lower lip. Close jaw so that upper teeth meet mouthpiece. Pull the corners of the lips in again, closing around the lips around the mouthpiece like a rubber band. Done.

    Of course the clarinet mouthpiece is at a lower angle to the face than a sax, but that is determined by clarinet posture, head/neck/torso posture.

    And of course as with sax, there are many variations, eg double lip embouchure, which IMO takes a lot of practice to sustain, and therefore not for everyone.
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    Quote Originally Posted by jmathesonjr View Post
    If you look at pictures of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw when the clarinet is up higher than what it should be, you will notice that they are leaning way back so that the clarinet is still at the proper playing position. Another thing to do is point the bony part of the chin down towards your toes. Your lower lip should be stretched over the lower jaw.
    Seems to be true with more contemporary examples as well.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjtB_0-Yz8I

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    I disagree with a lot of what is written.
    The principles of the clarinet and saxophone embouchure are the same- allowing the fullest vibration of the reed. The biggest difference between the two instruments actually takes place internally in the way you learn to voice for each instrument. This takes time, practice, patience and cannot be flicked on like a switch.

    I studied at length with a classical clarinet teacher, as well as many fine doublers, and the biggest issue stressed was sound conception. You have to know the feeling of the instrument inside you.

    The angle of a clarinet compared to that of a saxophone means that your lower lip will look, and feel, more pulled/tucked (whatever) in on clarinet.

    Bring your lip against- not over- your teeth by saying a continuous 'vvvvvv' syllable.
    Then, learn to move your lower lip and jaw as a single unit ie: open and close your mouthpiece with your lip still in contact (against) your lower teeth.

    Bring lip/teeth to mouthpiece.

    On the saxophone the more horizontal angle means as your teeth come up your lip will spread over the reed.
    On clarinet, because the reed is against your teeth to some degree your lip does not appear to 'fold' out like it does on the saxophone.

    Pulling the jaw tight.......mmmmmm.....is good for creating certain colours and playing extremely high, but I've only found it creates tension in the sound.

    Tone comes from the inside- throat and oral cavity.
    The embouchure is an air seal.

    Yes, you can make minor adjustments with muscle pressure in different places and varying jaw pressure, but the basic principal remains the same.

    There is no finite amount of mouthpiece to take. Its depends on the situation, pitch and tone colour required.

    But, a basic place to start is just before the reed and the mouthpiece join (towards the reed).

  18. #18
    Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    "... The principles of the clarinet and saxophone embouchure are the same- allowing the fullest vibration of the reed. .."

    I've heard beginners make the most atrocious fog horn noises form allowing full vibration of the reed. And full vibration of the reed would have to include squeaks.

    The lip parameters include contact area on reed, pressure exerted, where exactly that pressure is exerted, and the thickness of the lip cushion (which affects the damping characteristics.

    These contribute to encouraging the vibrations we want, i.e. for "good" tone, and discouraging the ones we don't, i.e. the "bad" tone and the squeaks.

    But yes, the oral cavity, i.e. mainly tongue shape, is important too.
    Contentment is not the fulfilment of what you want, but the realisation of how much you already have.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Differences in Saxophone VS clarinet embouchure

    Quote Originally Posted by Gordon (NZ) View Post
    "... The principles of the clarinet and saxophone embouchure are the same- allowing the fullest vibration of the reed. .."

    I've heard beginners make the most atrocious fog horn noises form allowing full vibration of the reed. And full vibration of the reed would have to include squeaks.

    The lip parameters include contact area on reed, pressure exerted, where exactly that pressure is exerted, and the thickness of the lip cushion (which affects the damping characteristics.

    These contribute to encouraging the vibrations we want, i.e. for "good" tone, and discouraging the ones we don't, i.e. the "bad" tone and the squeaks.

    But yes, the oral cavity, i.e. mainly tongue shape, is important too.
    To avoid any potential mis-understanding, I'm not advocating a facial muscle free-for-all, of course there is some muscle use to create stability. Pulling the chin tight just creates tension in the sound though.
    I have found squeaks to not be the fault of the embouchure per se, but rather an inappropriate use of air and an inappropriate amount of mouthpiece.
    In almost all beginners I find that controlled air flow in the #1 parameter affecting sound. They can achieve this by learning to place their lower lip against their teeth, bring the mouthpiece up to their top teeth and close the jaw.
    Then, blow without making a sound, hearing the air fill the clarinet. After this, they basically crescendo with this airstream until the tone sounds. I almost always find that if you tell students that they have to control the puff of their cheeks (and demonstrate this) they use just enough muscle control as the air increases to gain a lot of finesse in their tone quite early. Quite quickly they learn the threshold of air to sound emission and the 'lead-up' time of air is reduced and articulation can be introduced.

    Secondly- try playing a 4th register C right on the tip of the mouthpiece and a low E with a LOT of mouthpiece- without compensating.
    The higher partials reside in the thicker part of the reed, lower partials in the thin part.
    Again, I maintain almost all horrendous squeaks in beginners are caused by either too much mouthpiece, improper air or too much emphasis on trying to set up the embouchure and tongue the note without sufficient air flow.

    But, back to the topic of clarinet vs saxophone- you really just need to play both instruments to the point where you pick up alto and its an alto, you pick up tenor and its a tenor, you pick up clarinet and its a clarinet. Many of the parameters you set for each instrument can't be consciously controlled, you just have to play each one until it becomes part of you.

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