Tongues, Lungs, and Ears.


I’m a freshman, soon to be sophmore in highschool and have played clarinet for 4 years (since 6th grade) I’m currently 2nd chair clarinet, my only competition being a senior.
I’ve played in District Band and received a 2 at State on my solo.
Through my sucesses, I’ve found my biggest blockade is my tonguing. My staccatos have a dull squaking sound or are rarely clean in tone, even often overly accented. (This observation mainly from performing Divertimento in Bb (Mozart) as a solo) At district band with the more challenging music, I noticed my difficulties were mainly the rapid tonguing of consecutive 16th notes, etc..
My judges comments at state simply said “work on lighter tonguing” which is really what killed me, because otherwise, my accuracy, tone, etcetera, were near a 1 rating.
I’ve been told “tip of the tongue to the tip of the reed” but this never really works once I’m trying it on the mouth piece.
Are there any exercises I can do to improve my tonguing?
Any ideas would be greatly appriciated!
Tonguing in not a speed contest</strong
Dear Professor Friedland,

I have recently switched instruments from the Bass Clarinet to the Clarinet and I found that I had to break a few bad habits. The one I am most concerned about is my tonguing, when I first started out on Clarinet a year ago I found that I wasn’t hitting the tip of the reed with the tip of the tongue and I just recently broke the habit and I am still improving on this. Is the”tip of the tongue on tip reed” concept same for the Bass Clarinet? I can tongue faster on the Clarinet while hitting the tip of the reed with my tongue, but on the Bass Clarinet it feels like I am not tonguing faster, and sounds and feels like I am tonguing slower. Is there a different embouchure and style of tonguing I should have for the Bass Clarinet and the Clarinet? Can you tell me some of the common bad habits that bass clarinet and clarinet players have in general so I can watch out for these things and start to fix them immediatly? Thanks for taking the time to read my letter.


Hi or G’day!
From your greeting I assume that you are writing from Australia.
I received another tonguing question from a clarinetist today and if you will allow me, let me respond to both questions in one response.
If you are interested in the technical steps to correct approaches to starting the sound on the clarinet and/or the Bass clarinet, certainly I would suggest that you read all 6 or 7 odf the articles I have written on the subject of tonguing.
But really, without meaning any kind of sarcasm at all, I am concerned about your ear.
I am concerned that you do not hear what you are playing and how you are distorting the sound, (if you are) when you tongue in a musically ugly manner.
You have to go back and determine what it is we are doing when we play the clarinet or in fact, any musical instrument excepting the voice, the most perfect musical instrument, the one most capable of emotion of the most expressive renderings that exist in music.

When we play our clarinet or any single line line instrument we are or we should be emulating the voice, yes the human voice, that most exquisite of musical instruments.
Certainly singer sings long sustained notes and short ones almost at will, and it is never ugly, the beginning or the end of the sound, never ,never, and it is usually beautuful.
How do they do it? That really doesn’t matter either, What matters is that you emulate the sound, you copy the way a singer attacks and releases a note and you make the approximation on your clarinet, using of course, the ways of starting the notes that you have read about, the fact that the reed is a valve and you have to have pressure behind the air before you open the valve by taking your tongue off the reed and allow the air to enter the mouthpiece, and start the reed vibrating.With our instrument, you do it first with extreme care and deliberately and slowly and you do not go forward until it has improved, and you make sure that you are following the simple technical steps you have read about, on this very site.
Slow, deliberate practice is most important and always begin in the easiest register on wjhatever instrument you are playing.
With the Bass clarinet, I have found that I used reeds that are quite soft comparatively speaking, and also you cannot bite or the sound will simply close off. Air is more important, not reed strength. Actually that is true for any clarinet.
I would also practice legato passages, playing with consumate smoothness making beautiful legato connections.
When you articulate this same passage it should sound exactly the same, but articulated or tongued. It should not take on some grotesque.Listen It is still music, therefore musical and should be executed that way.
Finally staccato means separated, not short.
Short or shortened note values have to do with the style not the mechanical act of articulation.
Use your ear to discern what is beautiful and do not accept anything less than beauty in whatever clarinet mode in which you find yourself.

Good luck, mates

Play well and stay well.


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