Clarinet Hand Position

Developing efficient clarinet hand position as a beginner will give you technical facility and save you a lot of trouble later! Here's a general overview of things to pay attention to when working on hand position.

For more detail: 

Right Hand Position 

Left Hand Position

Arm Position

1. Let your biceps hang loosely from the shoulder joints, creating “daylight” between the body and the arms.

NOTE: Relax your hands and notice the naturally-occurring slight curve in the fingers. This will transfer to the clarinet.

Clarinet hand position is easier with good posture. Click to learn more.

2. Hold your arms out horizontally and you'll see the natural line at the wrist joint, which is almost on a level with the forearm, rising only very slightly to the knuckles. Proper clarinet hand position involves a straight line maintained from the elbow to the wrist to the knuckles.

3. Bending at the elbow, bring your arms closer to your body in a fluid, relaxed motion, maintaining the space between the body and the arms as well as the straight line through the elbow, wrist and knuckles.

When you add the clarinet, remember what this feels like in your arms. 

General Tips 

#1. Clarinet hand position is most efficient if you can maintain the natural curvature of the fingers. Straight fingers or fingers that curve inward (sometimes referred to as a "break" in the fingers or "collapsed joints") can really slow you down!

Straight/collapsed fingers. Bad idea! 

Hand position with fingers curved

#2. Many of the problems clarinetists have with hand position have to do with excess tension in the fingers, hands and arms. The right thumb is the main supporter of the weight of the instrument. If you try to hold onto the clarinet with the rest of your fingers, that can add in a great deal of tension.

#3. Keep your fingers poised over the tone holes and keys, not too far away from the clarinet. If your fingers are far away from the clarinet, it will take more time to move them onto the tone holes and keys.

#4. Finger action actually originates from your arms! Use your big knuckle joints to wiggle your fingers and watch the muscles on the top of your forearm near your elbow. There should be some movement that you can see.

#5. In technique, most of the finger movement occurs from your big knuckles. It also shouldn't change the curve of the other joints in the fingers. Fingers should move straight down onto the keys and tone holes swiftly, but not forcefully.

#6. Use the fleshy pads of your fingers to cover the tone holes, not the very tips. This gives you better coverage of the holes. If you press your fingers into the tone holes, you should see the indentations of the holes and rings on the pads of your fingers. 

Tips of fingers, not covering the holes 

Imprints on the fleshy pads of the fingers from good clarinet hand position.  Some people call these "cheerios."

#7. When using the pinky keys, remember to hit the tip of the key with the tip of the finger. Why? It keeps your pinkies curved and since the keys are essentially levers, pressing them at the tip means that you'll use the whole length of the key to bring it down and thus less force.

#8. A good home position for your pinkies is the left E/B key and the right F/C key. Rest the pinkies or slightly hover them over these keys when you're not using them. This keeps you mindful of the curve in the pinkies and also prepares you to cross the break more easily.

#9. Maintain the curve in your fingers even when they're not being used. If they're curved at all times, that means you have to work less to get them in position for when you actually need them.

Fingers below the index finger straight, tense and far away from the clarinet. Also a bad idea! 

#10. When using both the right fork and left hand sliver/fork/banana keys, have the tip of your finger come into contact with the key as close to the rod as possible, like this: 

This maintains the curve in the fingers, and keep you from accidentally covering the tone hole, like this: 

Finger is straight on the fork key, covering up some of the tone holes.

#11. If something hurts, stop and re-evaluate. Conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis can easily develop with repetitive, inefficient movements. Don't let that happen to you!