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Author Topic: Anybody here play clarinet?  (Read 252 times)
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Mahlerbone

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« on: Jan 07, 2018, 12:51PM »

About a month ago I borrowed a clarinet from a friend.  She played it back in high school and it's been sitting in her closet for the past 15 years so she said I could use it.  It's an instrument that I've always aspired to play.  I'm having a lot of fun with it and my tone is already pretty decent.  I can play up to a high C (concert Bb) comfortably now.  The worst part is trying to cross the break seamlessly, which is A to B (concert G to A).  If your fingers aren't completely covering every hole than you have no chance.  This seems very difficult to do  Also, sometimes I squeak and I can't figure out why, and other times for some reason certain notes just don't want to speak at all.  The right reed definitely makes a difference.  I tried 2 and 2.5 at first, and I squeaked all the time and the sound was too bright, articulations weren't clean, and the high range just sounded thin and horrible.  I tried a 4 which was better in the high range, but overall a chore to play.  I just got a 3 reed and that seems to be just the right balance.  I contacted a local teacher to try to get some help, maybe for one lesson a month.  I think I have the potential to be really good at the clarinet with some practice and guidance along the way.
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Alex McMahon
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« Reply #1 on: Jan 07, 2018, 01:36PM »

Disclaimer: I'm not a Clarinet player. I do teach 5-12 band though, so maybe some of these ideas will help you.

Hand placement- imagine you're holding two soda cans stacked together and keep hands low in that position, with fingers as close to keys as possible. When starting out, I have kids push fingers fairly hard on the open holes and then look to see if they have circles on their fingers. If not, the whole isn't being completely closed. As an adult, you can skip this step.

Crossing the break- On Throat tone register notes (G-Bb) you can leave all of your right hand fingers down when playing. This will help you transition from A to B natural by being able to set the right hand fingers in place to where you only have to change your left hand.

Embouchure- keep your chin/lower lip flat and pushed forward against the Reed and head up. Keep lips firm all the way around.

I hear a lot of students play flat on clarinet from having their head down and not enough bite pressure or lip firmness. OR the clarinet is pointing more outward than down (above a 45 degree angle)

Reed strength- most of my beginners start on 2.5 and are on 3s within 6-12 months, and then they stay there or 3.5 for most of their school career. You're tone on the 4 sounds better since you're not able to close off the aperture as much as the lower strengths. But it's more work to apply consistent lip/bite pressure to a harder strength and will fatigue you more easily. 

Squeeking- possibly too much reed or too much air pressure. Try taking in less mouthpiece.

Pinky keys- check out images of pinky key dots. It will help to visualize which notes have corresponding keys on the L and R pinkies.

The Essential Elements band book series has several exercises geared toward helping clarinets develop the register switching technique called "Grenadilla Gorilla Jumps"
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robcat2075

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« Reply #2 on: Jan 07, 2018, 03:21PM »

I took lessons on clarinet in college as a second instrument and played it in the second band.

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The worst part is trying to cross the break seamlessly, which is A to B (concert G to A).  If your fingers aren't completely covering every hole than you have no chance.  This seems very difficult to do

Yes, it is tricky.  I was the only brass player in Woodwind Pedagogy class who could do it. :D Basically, it's about the timing of opening the register key/closing the fingers down the horn/moderating the breath pressure at that exact moment. It's something you have to pay minute attention to and explicitly practice as a skill.


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Also, sometimes I squeak and I can't figure out why, and other times for some reason certain notes just don't want to speak at all.

The classic reason for a squeak is that a closed hole actually has a slight opening. Your finger may not have accurately covered a hole or... a pad is worn or out of alignment such that it seals only with a certain amount of pressure which you may not be applying every time.

The ideal is that they don't need much pressure to seal and that one edge isn't contacting the hole even a micron more than the other. The pad and the hole should mate exactly.

An old clarinet that someone hasn't played since HS... may not be in perfect adjustment and the pads may no longer be soft enough to accommodate anything less than perfect adjustment.


Quote
The right reed definitely makes a difference.  I tried 2 and 2.5 at first, and I squeaked all the time and the sound was too bright, articulations weren't clean, and the high range just sounded thin and horrible.  I tried a 4 which was better in the high range, but overall a chore to play.  I just got a 3 reed and that seems to be just the right balance.

I found that reeds of the same marked strength can still behave rather different.

For me, the absolute essential basic of good clarinet tone was the stiff lower lip pulled against the lower teeth. Head up, clarinet down, as Alex McMahon noted.

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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #3 on: Jan 08, 2018, 05:33AM »

I tried to learn to play the clarinet twice.  Once in high school as a 2nd instrument, but changed to bassoon which was a more satisfying, if more difficult instrument to play.  Then again about 25 years ago, but my dirt bike riding makes the skin on my fingers very thick/hard and made it impossible to cover the holes properly without extreme effort.

In any case, I found the very same things that you are finding.  I think Robert's answer are good - they sound like the advice I got back in high school.  If your serious about this I think getting a decent teacher, even for just a few months, would help you a lot.  There is not substitute for having an expert observe your playing to let you know what to improve upon.
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Mahlerbone

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« Reply #4 on: Jan 08, 2018, 07:06AM »

Since the clarinet was sitting in its case for 15 years, I probably should have it checked out by a repair tech.  I'm sure that there are some pads that need replacing and keys that need adjusting.  I should probably get some kind of lubricant for the keys also, and have the repair tech show me the proper way to oil it.  I was told by my friend that it's an intermediate level clarinet, which will be just fine for learning how to play it.
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Shires alto w/ yellow bell
Shires T00NLW, 1YM8, 1.5 tuning slide
Shires TB47G, 7YLW, TY tuning slide, standard rotor
Shires B62LW, BI 2G, Bollinger tuning slide, dependent Trubores
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