This is a basic instructional page on teaching the clarinet.
Reed selection: The majority of clarinet players seem to prefer Vandoren reeds, and pretty much no clarinet player likes Rico brand reeds. A Rico might be ok to start with, because they are fairly easy to get a sound out of, but I highly recommend Vandoren. There are several types of Vandoren to choose from, and I do actually like the Rico Reserves (higher grade of reed). Students should start on a reed at 2 or 2.5 Rico, or a 2 Vandoren. The higher the number the thicker the cane of the reed. Lower numbers are easier to get a sound out, but the sound is not a professional, characteristic clarinet sound. By their second year of playing the clarinet student should be on a 2.5, and by the middle of their third year a 3 or 3.5. A 4 reed is usually too thick and unnecessary. 3.5 can suffice for the remainder of their career in music.
Reed positioning: The reed should be completely centered over the facing of the clarinet mouthpiece (the flat part) and cover the entire opening of the mouthpiece. At the tip of the reed you should see merely an eyelash of black of the mouthpiece. The ligature (the piece, usually metal, that holds the reed on) should sit inside the lines that are usually marked on the mouthpiece, and should be lower than the lighter portion of the reed. Usually the screws of the ligature are on the right side of the mouthpiece, whether you have a traditional ligature or an inverse ligature (with the screws positioned on the back side of the mouthpiece).
Embouchure: The correct clarinet embouchure is to say “ee-oo” or “wee-too”; bring the corners of the mouth in, make the chin flat and pointed with the jaw pushing out. (See this website for further pictures and descriptions of proper clarinet embouchure.) The bottom lip should be folded over the bottom teeth and the top teeth should rest on the mouthpiece (if a students’ teeth vibrate I suggest using a mouthpiece saver; it is rubber and can help the player more comfortably play the instrument.) I always suggest that clarinet students play in front of a mirror, and usually I carry a hand mirror so they can see themselves during lessons because it is often difficult to feel if you are using the correct embouchure until you get to the point where you can really find the “sweet spot” of the embouchure.
Articulation: Clarinet players should use the syllable “tee” as opposed to other instruments that usually use “ta”, “da”, “du”, or “tu”. The reason for this is that the clarinet player should keep their tongue high in the mouth to create a proper and non-whiny sound, particularly in the upper register. To me, a whiny clarinet sound is worse than a bad oboe sound! I find that giving examples of what the clarinet sounds like when played with improper vs. proper embouchure, and high tongue vs. low tongue really helps the students to understand why we do these things. I also have the students actually say “tee” and “ta” to feel the difference of their tongue position. Sometimes when a student has trouble starting the note with a clear “t” sound I ask them to do a rapid “t-t-t-t-t-t-” on the clarinet, and that seems to be almost easier for some to do, and then they suddenly get it.
Posture: Students should sit up straight, with hands curved as if they are holding a soda can. I find that clarinet students often try to put their fingers under the clarinet, under a key, or some other place that they should no go. Remind the students to make their fingers hover over the keys when they aren’t playing, so they can be ready to play. I also find that students frequently will bump some of the other keys with the side of their hand (usually on the upper joint) or will have difficulty covering the holes completely. This can be overcome by practice.