Many in the clarinet world feel that there is an inherent advantage to playing with a double lip embouchure. While I’m not sure that’s necessarily true I can say unequivocally that playing double lip has worked well for me. I was fortunate in that I always played with my top lip over my top teeth—from the very first notes I ever blew into the instrument.
My father was my clarinet teacher and prized both a beautiful liquid
sound and expansive expressive phrasing above all else. He felt that a double lip embouchure was one way to achieve these musical ideals. There are clarinetists who sound gorgeous using single lip (top teeth on the mouthpiece) which is why it is not for me to say that one method is better than the other.
However, I have generally always felt that my legato has been smooth and my sound warm—both general characteristics of using double lip. Now to dispel the myth that one cannot play standing up using this method. It is true that Harold Wright always sat when playing a solo—even a concerto with the orchestra. It is also true that for many years I was afraid of playing standing up. Things changed when I began playing klezmer.
The joy and exuberance in that style of music was beyond anything that could be expressed while sitting down. And once I stood up …. well, there was no going back down. I find that I have to be alert to the warning of signs of fatigue in the facial muscles if I play standing up for too long. The muscles around the mouth can get very tight and even shake when pushed beyond their limit. However, that has only happened to me once or twice in many many years. As long as I am practicing regularly so as to be in good shape I can play a two-hour klezmer concert without any problem at all.
So, if you’re thinking about starting a beginning student with the double lip embouchure or are considering making the switch yourself from single to double lip, I say go for it!