So I've been playing clarinet for at least two months in the school band, and I definitely wouldn't say I'm good, but I'd say I'm catching on quite well. I've been practicing, playing well, reading music well, just as a beginner should do, and we even have a concert in two days.

Anyway, I have a problem which could potentially ruin it for me at the concert. So when I play a whole sheet of music, it is really hard for me because after like fifteen measures I start to leak some air from the side of my mouth (which I got better at controlling, but it still happens sometimes. I don't think there is anything wrong with my embouchure though). I also was practicing just now and I started noticing a new problem. I was snorting at the back of my nose. It does sound weird, but it does happen to me. It is like when you yawn, and you are exhaling, noise leaks out of your nose and you get that slight "snorty" sound, or when you hear something a bit funny you just instinctively snort (for some people). But I get this when I play the clarinet. It started to happen when I was practicing just now, and now every time I start to try again it affects me and I can't keep playing with that problem. How could I fix this, and has anyone ever experienced this before, and is it common?

5 Answers 5


Leaking air: It sounds to me, that your muscles are still building up - after two months they are surely not fully accustomed to the new tasks. The remedy is regular practice.

I have no clear idea, what your snorting may be. It's always difficult to diagnose wind players, since many important processes happen inside. It may be too much or to little muscle tension; possibly you try to build up the necessary pressure not with the diaphragm as you should, but in the head region. I propose you ask your teacher, so he/she may observe you while you play and experience that effect.


Although you are very new to the instrument, it may not be because of this. I have been playing clarinet for 10 years and struggle with this happening. It's called VPI- Velopharyngeal Insufficiency. In my case, I have SVPI, which is stressed induced VPI. Definitely do some research on this and see if it matches your situation. If so, do your best to play with a good posture and embouchure. One thing I think of when the situation arrises is to "smile inside." As you know, everything is connected between your mouth and nose. You are loosing air through this passage way because it is too open. It may not be your fault. Either way, smiling from the inside of your mouth closes this space more so that air will not escape and cause the "snorting" noise. You have to make a conscious effort in order to succeed and often times it won't be a permanent fix to the problem. Good luck!

  • 1
    This is a hidden gem of an answer. I too have Velopharyngeal Incompetence, and it is absolutely the culprit. In addition to Caroline's excellent answer regarding the soft palate (the two are related), I hope future readers see the information in this answer!
    – Richard
    Dec 5, 2017 at 16:52

In addition to guidot's excellent advice, try this exercise: without your clarinet, purse your mouth similar to playing embouchure and, using your diaphragm, blow gently while concentrating on keeping the nasal passage closed. When this works consistently, repeat with increased diaphragm pressure (or smaller mouth opening). ALways concentrate on those nasal passage muscles. After a while (which could be weeks), it'll be automatic.

BTW, consider yourself lucky you noticed this early on. I know of cases where a wind or brass player didn't catch a problem like this until 4 or 5 years in, at which point it was esssentially impossible to fix.


The snorting means that you probably have a weak soft pallet towards your nasal passage. It is totally normal. I know because I have it too. Once you start snorting, it could be embarrassing. I don't know how much you practice, but for me, after practicing several hours a day, I get tired. So I take mini 30 min breaks in between. On the day of the concert, don't practice that much because you've prepared it. You can overcome this. If this happens during a concert, you got to do what you can to go all the way through. If you're in an ensemble, you can def take a mini break. Just remember, positive thinking, and breaks.


I’ve been playing the clarinet for 2 years now and it just started to happen to me, my teacher says that there is a muscle that is supposed to stop the air from going through your nose and says that the muscle might have weakened and is why that is happening.

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