Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

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    nathan61's Avatar
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    Default Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Has anyone heard of people playing the clarinet with the mouthpiece upside down (so the reed is against the top lip)?

    This weekend I was biking through a village in Madagascar, and I came across a wild parade with about a 10 piece marching band. There were four clarinet players, ranging from 30's to 50's in age. They were all playing ancient clarinets with and old fashioned fingering system, and they all had their mouthpieces upside down!

    I am guessing that either they all learned from the same guy, or that there is a school of clarinet playing that I have never heard of. Anyone heard of this?

    Incidentally, this parade was a famadihana, a joyous ceremony that involves parading a dead relative's bones around every seven years.

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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Were they double lipping or reverse single lipping? Hearing about that makes me wanna try haha.

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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    I think this is a Southern Hemisphere thing. "Reed on Equator side".
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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Probably NOT a clarinet but an instrument that sorta looks like one.....there a quite a few instruments that look clarinet like that are not

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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Quote Originally Posted by ericdano View Post
    Probably NOT a clarinet but an instrument that sorta looks like one.....there a quite a few instruments that look clarinet like that are not
    You are correct. There are many middle eastern instruments that do look like clarinets. Just for fun........Go ahead. Try playing with the clarinet mouthpiece upside down. I've tried it and I don't think you could actually play music even if you were taught to play that way from day one.

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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Quote Originally Posted by Bebopalot View Post
    You are correct. There are many middle eastern instruments that do look like clarinets. Just for fun........Go ahead. Try playing with the clarinet mouthpiece upside down. I've tried it and I don't think you could actually play music even if you were taught to play that way from day one.
    Then again, I every so often see instruments on eBay that are supposed to be played "reed up" (and with the bell between the legs, from looking at the neck position).
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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Quote Originally Posted by tictactux View Post
    Then again, I every so often see instruments on eBay that are supposed to be played "reed up" (and with the bell between the legs, from looking at the neck position).
    Now, you should try that before knocking it.

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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    I have a vague recollection of being told by someone who knew a great deal about historical instruments that this embouchure was quite common back in the early days (17th century).

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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Quote Originally Posted by tictactux View Post
    Then again, I every so often see instruments on eBay that are supposed to be played "reed up" (and with the bell between the legs, from looking at the neck position).
    Yet another I noticed just today: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Bues...item23145d3aee
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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr G View Post
    Yep,

    I've never figured out why a novice would think that the mouthpiece goes that way, even if they have never seen a saxophone before.
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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    It was common to play with the reed on top say, 200 years ago. The mouthpieces were a different shape, more like a duckbill (or a sax mouthpiece). I think there are parts of Europe where folk musicians still play that way, too. I suppose if you play double embouchure and could talk a maker into setting you up with one of those mouthpieces, you'd be the talk of your community band.

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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Howard View Post
    I have a vague recollection of being told by someone who knew a great deal about historical instruments that this embouchure was quite common back in the early days (17th century).

    Regards,
    The french word for beak is mentonnière, referring to the chin (menton).
    The word is a remnant of when the top part of today's mouthpiece used to be on the chin.
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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Quote Originally Posted by daigle65 View Post
    The french word for beak is mentonnière, referring to the chin (menton).
    And the French expression for "in mint condition" is "en condition menthe". (it must be true, for I saw it in the internets)
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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    "I've never figured out why a novice would think that the mouthpiece goes that way, even if they have never seen a saxophone before."

    That is an easy one for me. I recall as a small child seeing a saxophone with the ligature screw on the top of the mouthpiece. I just assumed that the screw had to be up against the reed, so I concluded that the reed had to be up, and thought that for a couple of years until I saw a close up photo.

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    I did just such an experiment a little while back.... Seem to recall it tickled like crazy. Don't have the link, but if you search YouTube for "mouthpiece orientation test" you'll find it...
    Disclaimer: My opinions are not based in any way on research, knowledge, experience, talent, insight, facts, or in some cases reality. Take any advice I offer at your own risk.

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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Quote Originally Posted by ericdano View Post
    Probably NOT a clarinet but an instrument that sorta looks like one.....there a quite a few instruments that look clarinet like that are not
    These were clarinets. I am a clarinetist, and I know one when I see it from four feet away. They are actually common here, the French brought them.

    Are you talking about the Turkish clarinets? They are in another key, but I'd still consider them a clarinet.

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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Quote Originally Posted by tictactux View Post
    I think this is a Southern Hemisphere thing. "Reed on Equator side".
    LOL, good explanation... These guys were actually wailing loudly in the high register...no way I could play backwards and do that!

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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Quote Originally Posted by daigle65 View Post
    The french word for beak is mentonnière, referring to the chin (menton).
    The word is a remnant of when the top part of today's mouthpiece used to be on the chin.
    Very interesting! What type of beak does that word refer to? In French I usually heard a birds beak called a bec. In any case, I suspected that these guys might be playing a very old way. I wish I'd had my camera, but I might just see them again. There are a lot of little marching bands parading around out here.

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    I thought the mpc was supposed to be upside down before I started playing...for some reason. After playing for seven years, I took my first clarinet lessons this summer and was told turning the mpc upside down is a good test to see if your embouchure pressure is correct.
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    Default Re: Playing With Mouthpiece Upside Down

    Way back when, I tried playing with the mouthpiece upside down just to see what it was like. The hardest part is tonguing the reed. [rolleyes]
    The Martin "Official Music Man" tenor, Barone black tenor, The Martin baritone, Richards Martin Indiana alto, Martin Handcraft alto, cheap Chinese soprano, Roland Aerophone AE10, Metalite mouthpieces, Plasticover reeds, Nord Electro 5D, bunch of other instruments

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