Instructions on How to Play Notes on the Clarinet Like a Pro

How to Play Notes on the Clarinet
Being one of the most revered instruments in the woodwind family, the clarinet is in a league of its own. Anyone who picks one up won't stop playing it till their last breath. Learn to play the instrument that is as boisterous as the trumpet and as smooth as the flute.
The clarinet is a closed pipe instrument and its basic working is similar to other woodwind instruments. It has a mouthpiece and a reed, unlike a flute (an open pipe instrument) and is smaller in size than the oboe (a closed pipe instrument). The oboe uses double reed, while the clarinet uses only one.
There is an enormous variation in the clarinet family. You get to choose from the bass and contra-bass clarinet, from the rare piccolo to the common soprano piece. For the sake of ease, we will use the soprano (B♭) ahead, as it remains the most widely used.
Holding the Clarinet
Woman laying clarinet
If this is your first time, the right way to hold the mouthpiece and the body is as follows.
  • Curl your lower lip slightly over your lower teeth. Rest the mouthpiece over the lower lip. The mouthpiece should not be bitten into, take care about that. Let it rest on top of the lower lip, just touching the lower teeth. Since you're a beginner, we will stay on curling only the lower lip for now. Keep your upper lip where it is and touch the top of the mouthpiece with your top set of teeth.
  • Whatever parts of your lips that don't touch the mouthpiece, seal them off by closing them up. Bring them towards the mouthpiece, while trying not to pout and lose your lower lip's grip.
  • The reed needs to be only about ½ an inch into the mouth. The clarinet should be at 45 degrees to you, with your feet planted firm and straight.
  • When you blow into the instrument, make sure you don't puff your cheeks. Keep them as flat as possible and blow into the mouthpiece.
  • You will be spending quite some time getting the embouchure right, but it is very important that you do it right.
Playing Your First Notes
The C
Playing the clarinet
To play the C-note, you need to hold, or cover rather, the first three holes on the clarinet from the mouthpiece. They are to be covered with your fingers on the left hand. The first hole on the underside of the clarinet is covered by the thumb on your left hand.
The D
Boy playing the clarinet
The D note sounds with one finger less than the C. Take off your ring finger from the third hole from the mouthpiece when you play C and you get D. The thumb stays at the same place.
The E
The E note is one whole note above D and two whole notes above C. You need only the index finger for this. Hold the first hole from the mouthpiece, with the thumb still at the same place and you will get the E note.
Things to Remember
Musicians playing clarinet
  • Always keep your head straight no matter what. The clarinet produces its sound with the help of the reed pressing against the mouthpiece, along with the angle the mouthpiece makes with your face. So tilting your head around will not help in getting the sound, it will only look funny.
  • The reed is very sensitive on the lower side, which is why you need to rest it on the curled lower lip. If your lower teeth touch the reed, it will get damaged faster.
  • Try to stop the squeaking sound when you blow into the mouthpiece by blowing hard and fast.
  • Everyone is unique and so is their embouchure. Your version may not look like the textbook picture of the perfect embouchure, but if you've got the basic steps right, it will be a good one, so don't worry about it too much.
There's a reason why the clarinet is called "the misery stick", it is just hard to grasp. Most beginners give up trying to cross the breaks along their road to professionalism. But those who persevere and survive, march on to play in orchestras and jazz bands. Whichever you choose, stay disciplined as you learn the clarinet and play from your heart.
Holding the Clarinet
If this is your first time, the right way to hold the mouthpiece and the body is as follows:
  • Curl your lower lip slightly over your lower teeth. Rest the mouthpiece over the lower lip. The mouthpiece should not be bitten into, take care about that. Let it rest on top of the lower lip, just touching the lower teeth. Since you're a beginner, we will stay on curling only the lower lip for now. Keep your upper lip where it is and touch the top of the mouthpiece with your top set of teeth.
  • Whatever parts of your lips that don't touch the mouthpiece, seal them off by closing them up. Bring them towards the mouthpiece, while trying not to pout and lose your lower lip's grip.
  • The reed needs to be only about ½ an inch into the mouth. The clarinet should be at 45 degrees to you, with your feet planted firm and straight.
  • When you blow into the instrument, make sure you don't puff your cheeks. Keep them as flat as possible and blow into the mouthpiece.
  • You will be spending quite some time getting the embouchure right, but it is very important that you do it right.
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Playing Your First Notes
The C
To play the C-note, you need to hold, or cover rather, the first three holes on the clarinet from the mouthpiece. They are to be covered with your fingers on the left hand. The first hole on the underside of the clarinet is covered by the thumb on your left hand.

The D
The D note sounds with one finger less than the C. Take off your ring finger from the third hole from the mouthpiece when you play C and you get D. The thumb stays at the same place.

The E
The E note is one whole note above D and two whole notes above C. You need only the index finger for this. Hold the first hole from the mouthpiece, with the thumb still at the same place and you will get the E note.
Things to Remember
  • Always keep your head straight no matter what. The clarinet produces its sound with the help of the reed pressing against the mouthpiece, along with the angle the mouthpiece makes with your face. So tilting your head around will not help in getting the sound, it will only look funny.
  • The reed is very sensitive on the lower side, which is why you need to rest it on the curled lower lip. If your lower teeth touch the reed, it will get damaged faster.
  • Try to stop the squeaking sound when you blow into the mouthpiece by blowing hard and fast.
  • Everyone is unique and so is their embouchure. Your version may not look like the textbook picture of the perfect embouchure, but if you've got the basic steps right, it will be a good one, so don't worry about it too much.
There's a reason why the clarinet is called "the misery stick", it is just hard to grasp. Most beginners give up trying to cross the breaks along their road to professionalism. But those who persevere and survive, march on to play in orchestras and jazz bands. Whichever you choose, stay disciplined as you learn the clarinet and play from your heart.
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