Dear Mr. Sherman:
First of all, thanks for all your help in the past. Your site and your responses have been a great help to me and many others! I’ve now run across a situation that I’ve never read about before, and I have a question:
I should tell you that I’ve always had a little trouble with my wrists. They don’t fully “rotate,” which has caused me problems with everything from computer keyboards to piano keyboards. My beloved clarinet, I thought, was one thing that I could work with despite this very slight handicap. I have always had a little difficulty with certain notes, mostly those just above the “break” that call for using my right pinky. These notes often cause my other fingers to slip a little unless I bear down very hard. But just yesterday I discovered by accident that by rotating the mouthpiece about an eighth turn counter clockwise, my hand positions become much more steady and comfortable and those problems I’ve had seem to go away.
I certainly don’t recommend this for anybody else, but it works for me. My question is this: am I likely to sacrifice anything in terms of tone quality, pitch, air movement, etc., by playing this way? I hope not, because my playing ease and speed — and enjoyment — have improved tremendously in the last 24 hours!
Thanks so much for your time!
I read your letter with a great deal of interest. It illustrates what I have learned with difficulty over the years:
We were not born to have the clarinet in our mouthes. If we were, we would have been born with it there.
Yes, terribly silly, however the point is every person should and may do as you have done. Our embouchures are all completely different. I have seen so many different though correct playing positions that I have learned this. I know players who look as if they could never play their instrument, however some of them play absolutely beautifully. Our hands also differ.
Some clarinetists in different countries play with the mouthpiece upside down.
The late Gino Cioffi,one of the most talented players of our century and principal clarinet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra came to this country with the mouthpiece upside down.
Many if not most play the clarinet with a very slight angle of the mouthpiece. Obviously your position was constricting your playing position or your fingers are a bit different and you fixed it yourself.
Hooray for you! You taught us all a very valuable lesson. And obviously, you will sacrifice nothing and improve your playing and your enjoyment.
Congratulations. Keep up the good work.