Curated from Vandoren Paris – by Paula Corley – Vandoren and Buffet Crampon Artist, Pedagogy Chairman: International Clarinet Association, Texas Lutheran University Faculty –
Poor tone quality – both slurred and articulated – tops the clarinet critique list for directors and judges. How do you fix it? Here are five suggestions to improve tone quality when slurring and articulating.
Start the lower note with fast air. Make the note sound vibrant. Everything ‘grows’ from the bottom.
Before you add the register key, do a very slight crescendo just until the upper note speaks. However, do not allow students to “blow harder” in the middle register. This exercise should get rid of middle register ‘explosions’, not create them. Developing players often experience a delay or break between registers because the air speed is not consistently fast and steady. This slight crescendo accounts for the resistance change that occurs when the register key is added.
Once players can create a smooth connection between simple intervals, the chalumeau and clarion registers should begin to sound more homogenous. You may discover that some students are simply not creating a fast, steady air stream at all. The lower register is less resistant, especially if the student is playing on reeds that are too soft and on an inappropriate mouthpiece.
Please do not try to tune a bad sound! Insist on a centered sound before attempting to tune.
• Flat pitch may be better treated with a mouthpiece or reed change. The clarinet does not “lip up” very easily.
• Sharp pitch: try finger shading and slight voicing changes to correct sharp pitch.
• Basic Interval exercises work well for developing good air support and pitch awareness.
Key of G is a good place to start. Adjust the barrel for open G.
Key of C – Third space C is usually sharp. Try adjusting the middle joint for C.
Concert A should be stable on most good quality clarinets that are 1) warmed-up properly and 2) are being played with a good mouthpiece and reed.
D major and Eb are sharp notes acoustically. These two notes are good examples of those that must be lowered by a voicing change. To lower pitch, try voicing with ooh (as in you) instead of ee. This slight change should pull embouchure corners in and reduce lip pressure which may lower pitch slightly.
G, A, B and C (below) can be sharp in pitch. Allow the right hand fingers to remain as close as possible to the open holes to help lower pitch. Second line G, G#, A and A# can be helped by actually pressing down right hand fingers. Some refer to this as resonance fingerings. There are many recommended combinations of resonance fingerings. Experiment to find a combination that works.
Rounds work well for developing part confidence and pitch awareness. Start with one on a part to build confidence in every player. Use a ‘drone’ pitch and allow time for students to discover “beats” (sharp or flat) at the fermatas. The goal should be adjusting successfully to other players within the ensemble – not just ‘stopping the dial.’
for building part playing confidence and pitch center in the ensemble setting.
One breath per marked phrase.
Make each note sound “equal”. No notes should “pop.”
Play with a reference pitch tuner. Check the pitch tendency of tonic (scale note #1).
Air between the notes – no break in sound.
What works for you may not work for your students. Investigate equipment by having students try different mouthpiece and reed combinations. Ask these questions: 1. Which one feels most
comfortable? 2. Which one sounds the best? 3. Does the equipment choice make tuning better or worse? Will you have to make another change (ex. Barrel) to play in tune?