Clarinet Technique

GRADE: 9-12
GENRE: Traditional Jazz
TOPIC: Clarinet
DISCIPLINE: Harmonizing Instruments


In this lesson, students will be introduced to New Orleans techniques for performing on the Clarinet. Students will demonstrate how to incorporate the functions and techniques into their performance. 



  • Demonstrate body posture, hand positioning, and embouchure techniques. 
  • Apply techniques for warming up on the Clarinet.
  • Demonstrate proper functions and techniques for playing New Orleans music. 



National Core Arts Standards

Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 5 Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.
Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 6 Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.



Students should have knowledge of an instrument and an understanding of the lines and spaces on the musical staff. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson.





  1. Tell students that in order to develop a full tone on the Clarinet they must adopt proper instrument techniques. The “Getting Ready” techniques are posture, embouchure, and hand positioning. 


  1. Display the “Getting Ready” slide on page 3 of the presentation, Clarinet Technique.  Demonstrate and define posture, embouchure, and hand positioning for students. Posture is the proper way to sit in your chair. Students should have their feet flat on the floor, back straight up, seated on the edge of the chair, chin up and parallel to the floor. Hand positioning is the placement of your hands and fingers on the Clarinet. The left hand is positioned on the upper tube and the right hand is positioned on the lower tube. Your right hand thumb should be under the thumb rest supporting the instrument. Fingers should be slightly curved above the tone holes. Embouchure is the way you position your mouth and lips around the mouthpiece. For the Clarinet it should be a firm grip, forming a “V” around the mouthpiece.


  1. Allow time for students to practice the techniques. Facilitate through the room providing feedback to students. 



  1. Seat students in a circle, with the instructor in the center. Display the “Clarinet Anatomy” slide on page 4 of the presentation, Clarinet Technique, to review the anatomy of the Clarinet with students while they assemble the instrument. Students will identify each individual part of the Clarinet while assembling their own.


  1. Once the students have constructed the instrument, review the technique procedures: posture, hand positioning, and embouchure. Allow time for students to review the techniques and get into position. 


  1. Display the “Warm Up” slides on pages 5 and 6 of the presentation, Clarinet Technique. Tell students they are now ready to make a sound. Model and explain to students how to warm up. Warm-up with Long Tones: one breath, soft to loud, and loud to soft. Show the video, Clarinet: Scales & Tones, on slide 6 to see a demonstration of long tones and short tones. 


  1. After students are warmed up, introduce techniques unique to Traditional New Orleans Jazz. Display the “Functions and Techniques” on slides 7-16 of the presentation, Clarinet Technique. New Orleans musicians are known for implementing the following instrument functions in Traditional Jazz:
    1. Arpeggios: Notes of a chord played ascending and descending. Display slides 8 – 9 from the presentation, Clarinet Technique, to review Harmony and Arpeggios from the video, Clarinet & Ensembles.
    2. Harmony: Harmony is sounding more than one note together at the same time and is built to complement the melody line. When 3 or more notes stacked above one another are combined to sound together, this is called a chord.
    3. Vibrato: Display slide 10 of the presentation, Clarinet Technique, to review Vibrato from the video, Clarinet: Vibrato Styles. To make the note wave (slow, medium, or fast) generally by controlling the airflow and the embouchure. For an example of Vibrato, display slide 11 to watch, Louis Cottrell – True, You Don’t Love Me.
    4. Portamento/Glissando: Display slides 12 and 13 from the presentation, Clarinet Technique, to review Portamento/Glissando. Portamento is dropping the embouchure to lower the tone of the note and simultaneously roll fingers of notes chromatically while tightening your embouchure. A glissando is a long slide, between two specific tones. 
    5. Collective Improvisation: Display slide 14 from the presentation, Clarinet Technique, to define collective improvisation and watch an example by George Lewis, “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise”
    6. Riffs: Short Rhythmic ideas played in repetition underneath the Soloist. 
    7. Dynamics: Display slide 15 from the presentation, Clarinet Technique, to discuss Clarinet Dynamics. Dynamics means how quiet or loud the instrument is played. In Jazz, building up gives your audience something to look forward to.  


  1. Have students practice the functions and techniques of Traditional Jazz. Display slide 16 from the presentation, Clarinet Technique, to hear the Frontline instruments put it all together in the video, Frontline: Clarinet. Allow students time to practice at home and rehearse at school. 



  1. The teacher should assess students’ knowledge of Clarinet techniques by demonstrating posture, embouchure, and hand positioning. Observe and provide feedback as students display how to warm up and apply New Orleans style music functions and techniques.



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer



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