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Learning Proper Clarinet Finger Position

Most clarinetists begin by learning open G and moving downward to middle C.  From there they continue down the instrument to low F and E, and once those notes have been learned the lesson book often takes them to the next step of adding the register key to get the second octave of notes from B natural and up.  The primary problem for the majority of young clarinetists is that many focus so hard on fingerings that they forget about the incredible importance of finger position on the keys.  While a slight leak from a partially covered tone hole may still play in the low octave, when the register key is added that leak may prevent the note from playing at all.

Tricks To Fix Clarinet Finger Position Problems

One of the easiest ways to quickly determine if a register problem is caused by bad finger position is to press the fingers down hard into the tone holes while playing a low E.  Hold the fingers firmly in place for about ten seconds then quickly pull one hand away and look at where the holes have left imprints on the finger tips.  If you see incomplete circles then chances are quite good that those are the fingers that may be causing the leak and preventing you from crossing the break. 

Fixing bad finger position in the right hand is often as simple as adjusting the thumb rest or the thumb's position.  Many modern beginner clarinet models have adjustable thumb rests that can be moved higher or lower by adjusting a screw.  The proper position for this thumb rest is determined largely by the hand's resting position.  Allow the hand to dangle at your side and allow the fingers to relax into a normal, comfortable position.  Without moving the fingers bring the hand up and place the fingers on the keys.  Adjust the thumb rest so that it comes down to meet the thumb while it remains in this relaxed position.  The fingers should comfortably come in contact with the tone holes and cover them completely without being cramped at an angle.  Having the thumb rest in the wrong position can force the player to cramp their hands and slant their fingers into the tone holes at an angle causing leaks and long term discomfort.

Clarinet Embouchure

Clarinet embouchure (the formation and placement of the jaw and facial muscles as you play) is another key part of getting a good tone on the clarinet.  Try looking at some photographs of good and bad clarinet embouchures to see images of common problems that many beginners face.  Then, practice or demonstrate proper clarinet embouchure in front of a mirror and take a significant amount of time during lessons or practice sessions to make sure that the embouchure is formed correctly from the start. 

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