Clarinet Tip #2: Relax

I played quite a lot of Clarinet when I was young, and wasn’t too bad at it. Then I stopped; for about 20 years. Then I started again. I found that I’d forgotten lots. Even worse, I discovered that there was a lot basic stuff that I should have learned, but hadn’t.

So thought I’d share a few of the things I should have learned when I started, but didn’t; until now.


A common problem when playing the clarinet, is that the fingers are too tense. Lots of other muscles are tense too.

If you can learn to relax everything, except only those muscles that need to be strong, then you will play much better and have greater control over your fingers.

The muscles of the embouchure, and the muscles around the right thumb – supporting the weight of the instrument – should be the only tense muscles. Everything else should be relaxed.

Do this: experiment to see how lightly you can press your fingers down on keys and holes and still make the note sound without any problems. You will be surprised how light you can go. When you start using minimal pressure, you can start to feel the vibrations of the notes in your fingers. This is a good sign. So go on, experiment!