Instrument Reminders

We all need a little 'reviewing' from time to time about good playing habits. Good playing habits are much easier to learn than they are to break! Print this page and leave it in your folder.

Flute

  • Your head should tilt slightly to right (left hand ‘pinches’ right ear lobe)
  • Lower lip covers 1/3 of the tone hole (practice in front of a mirror)
  • 3 points of balance: chin, first knuckle left index finger, right hand thumb
  • Flute players should be able to balance the instrument using only these 3 points of  balance! Keep your left index finger glued to the flute.
  • Right hand ‘book off of shelf’ posture
  • Fingers should stay within 1 inch of keys at all times ‘imagine a pencil above your fingers and you don’t want to hit it’
  • Check left hand pinkie: it should rest on the pinkie key not be under the flute.
  • Use the tip of your tongue to start each note - Imagine that you’re spitting a piece of rice off of your tongue.
  • Always try playing several notes on one breath. You should not breathe after every note!
  • Always swab your flute when you’re done playing with your rod and cloth. The cloth should not stay in the case. The moisture in the cloth is what you’re trying to protect your flute from! Keep the cloth in your folder instead.

Clarinet

  • The reed will work best when the tip is even with the tip of the mouthpiece and centered.
  • Do not suck on reed while putting your instrument together - instead give the back of the reed a quick lick once you’re ready to attach it to the mouthpiece.
  • Chapstick and lip gloss should be wiped off of your lips before playing. These will clog the reed and prevent the correct vibrations.
  • Make sure to put reed back in it’s case when done playing. Do not leave it attached to mouthpiece inside of your closed case. This makes for a bad science experiment!
  • You should always have three good reeds ready to be played. Try to use a different reed each day. This will help wear them down evenly.
  • Forming your embouchure: only half of your lower lip should cover your lower teeth. The lip forms a flat, firm pad for the reed.
  • Flatten and firm chin muscles as if pointing the chin toward the floor.
  • Lower lip contacts the reed right where the reed ‘breaks free from the mouthpiece’ 
  • No puffed cheeks, imagine you are sucking on a lemon.
  • Always try playing several notes on one breath. You should not breathe after every note!
  • Practice the clarinet while standing, sit if you become tired.
  • Think of 45 degree angle while playing, bell of clarinet should not touch or be between your knees.
  • Right hand thumb rest touches between back of your nail and first knuckle.
  • Always push up on the thumb rest with your right hand while playing - this keeps the clarinet sturdy and balanced in your mouth.
  • Both right and left hand fingers should be slightly curved as if holding a tennis ball.
  • Be careful not to touch the side ‘trill keys’ with your right hand.
  • Always swab your clarinet when you’re done playing. This will help keep your pads in great condition.
  • Consider upgrading your mouthpiece, ligature and/or reeds for a better sound. Ask Mr. Leclerc for some suggestions.

Alto Sax

  • Attach the mouthpiece to the neck first, making sure to place the mouthpiece up to the line on the cork that Mr. Leclerc marked. This line lets you know you’ll be playing in tune!
  • The reed will work best when the tip is even with the tip of the mouthpiece and centered.
  • Do not suck on reed while putting your instrument together - instead give the back of the reed a quick lick once you’re ready to attach it to the mouthpiece. 
  • Chapstick and lip gloss should be wiped off of your lips before playing. These will clog the reed and prevent the correct vibrations.
  • Make sure to put reed back in it’s case when done playing. Do not leave it attached to mouthpiece inside of your closed case. This makes for a bad science experiment!
  • You should always have three good reeds ready to be played. Try to use a different reed each day. This will help wear them down evenly.
  • Forming your embouchure: lower lip curled slightly over lower teeth, this is the cushion used for your reed. Lower teeth should never directly touch the reed. Top teeth gently touch the top of the mouthpiece.
  • Pay attention to how much of the mouthpiece is in your mouth - too little mouthpiece will make it difficult to make a sound, too much will cause a honking sound.
  • Always try playing several notes on one breath. You should not breathe after every note!
  • Adjust your neck strap to the proper height. The proper height means your sax will easily come into your mouth without extending your neck or bending over.
  • Fingers should be curved and relaxed and always touching the six front keys even when those keys aren’t being used.

Trumpet

  • Remember the mouthpiece is placed in the center of your lips with 50% top lip and 50% lower lip in the mouthpiece.
  • Corners of lips should be firm, no puffed cheeks. Lick your lips to help your buzzing.
  • Always buzz on the mouthpiece before playing the full instrument. Practicing ‘smooth, same sound’ buzzing for 4,8,12 and 16 beats. Follow this with ‘siren, low to high’ buzzing.
  • Air is 90% of playing a brass instrument, it’s the fuel that keeps a player going. Trumpet players should breathe through the corners of the mouth without taking your lips off the mouthpiece. 
  • Always try playing several notes on one breath. You should not breathe after every note!
  • Your left hand holds the weight of the trumpet. Right hand should be in a relaxed curved shaped, as if you were holding a tennis ball. 
  • Make sure your right hand pinkie finger is resting on top of the hook and not in the hook.
  • Always empty your spit before putting instrument back in the case.

Trombone

  • Form embouchure by saying the letter M and bringing lips together. The corners of the mouth should be firm and in a slight frown, pointing downward. No puffed cheeks.
  • The mouthpiece should be placed in the center of your lips with 2/3 upper lip and 1/3 lower lip in the mouthpiece.
  • Always buzz on the mouthpiece before playing the full instrument. Practicing ‘smooth, same sound’ buzzing for 4,8,12 and 16 beats. Follow this with ‘siren, low to high’ buzzing.
  • Sit tall and straight, holding the weight of the trombone in your left hand. 
  • Trombone should not be pointed toward floor.
  • Slide should be held in a relaxed manner with your thumb, first and second fingers. Palm should face you not down towards the floor.
  • Elbows should be away from body and pointed to the floor.
  • Always empty your spit before putting the instrument back in the case.

Percussion

  • Practice rhythm skills by clicking your sticks together and counting (one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, etc). Next subdivide the beats by counting (one and, two and, three and, four and, one and, two and, etc). Lastly count by saying (one lolly, two lolly, one lolly, two lolly, etc).
  • Hand position: start by dangling your arms by your side, then simply raise your hands (palms down) in a relaxed manner until sticks are position near the center of the drum head. 
  • When sticks are held correctly, your thumbs should be facing each other and not the ceiling.
  • Stick is held between the thumb and first finger in each hand (this is the pivot point or fulcrum) about 1/3 of the way down the stick. The other fingers simply curl around the stick to support it. Remember the stick needs to be front heavy to allow the proper bounce.
  • Stick motion comes mainly from the wrist with the arms following along.
  • Practice a down-up stroke, imagining the drum head to be a trampoline the stick bounces off.