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Discussion Starter #1
I am investigating the possibility of pursuing alto saxophone and b-flat clarinet strictly as a hobby. Progressing nicely with the sax but clarinet is another story.

Based on clarinet embouchure info I have gleaned, a common suggestion is that one should be able to produce a clean, constant F-sharp with the Mpc and barrel - which I am able to do without difficulty with staccato and long tones. However, once I attach the barrel to the instrument, the neighborhood cats flee. So I have to ask myself, what's so different with the instrument v. the Mpc/barrel alone.

One thing I noticed is that the seat of the register key on the upper joint has a metal insert that extends/projects into the upper joint chamber about 1/8-inch. Similarly, the upper joint thumb hole has a metal seat that extends into the upper joint chamber about 1/16-inch.

Although I know nothing about clarinet design, the thought occurs to me that the fact of these projections into the chamber must, in the least, create turbulence in the air flow which, in turn, must influence the quality/quantity of air flow and, therefore, the resultant tone. Yes?

So, are these projections into the upper joint chamber normal?

Thanks, Monk
 

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IOne thing I noticed is that the seat of the register key on the upper joint has a metal insert that extends/projects into the upper joint chamber about 1/8-inch. Similarly, the upper joint thumb hole has a metal seat that extends into the upper joint chamber about 1/16-inch.

Although I know nothing about clarinet design, the thought occurs to me that the fact of these projections into the chamber must, in the least, create turbulence in the air flow which, in turn, must influence the quality/quantity of air flow and, therefore, the resultant tone. Yes?

So, are these projections into the upper joint chamber normal?

Thanks, Monk
Yes you find those on most if not all clarinets.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Griff,

I just got the clarinet and decided to follow the same routine as I have with the sax, starting on the embouchure with just the Mpc. Oddly, I practice with the sax Mpc, maintaining a good, consistent B-flat pitch, to develop/strengthen my embouchure and when I place the Mpc on the sax, I continue with good tones. But with the clarinet Mpc, although I have developed what seems to be a good embouchure with consistent F-sharp tone, when I place the Mpc on the clarinet, I produce a nauseating array of squeaks and really have to struggle to produce the intended tone - and I mean struggle!

Since you have answered my question about design, I must assume that I am altering my embouchure with the Mpc attached to the instrument (for example, is the added weight of the instrument causing me to do this, that, or the other differently).

Surely it is I but let me ask this if only to eliminate all of my excuses: as in the case of the sax (alignment/pressure/closure of the pads, for instance), might there be some obvious (to a novice) mechanical defect that might explain why I can seemingly produce a good tone with just the Mpc and lose it entirely when it is attached to the instrument?

Thanks again, Monk
 

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Moupiece pitch on alto should be concert A or below.
 

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If you are producing a clear F# concert on the mouthpiece and barrel with good control and then squeaking when playing the clarinet one of the following is probably the cause:

Problems
- Not covering the holes completely with your fingers
- Accidentally touching and opening one of the spring closed keys
- The clarinet has leaks---especially in the upper joint

Solutions
- Cover all the holes and squeeze, then see where the rings are on your fingers. This usually tells which fingers are not centered on the holes. Another suggestion is to play in front of a mirror or have another person watch your fingers as you play.
- Be conscious of your hand position. Each time a squeak occurs, stop and try to notice if a key has been bumped or touched.
- Take your clarinet to a repair shop to have it checked.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
@hakukani

Of course, and thanks for pointing out my miscue: I guess I have b-flat clarinet on the brain (which I expect to confuse with E-flat alto in any minute).

Monk
 

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@JBTSax

Thanks for the suggestions.

I have an open-hole flute with which I successfully dabble and it could be that I am carrying over to the clarinet an inappropriate hand/finger position. I shall be on the lookout.

Monk
 

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jbt gives a good checklist. The projections of the bottom holes are to keep them from filling with liquid (i.e. spit/condensation/water).
 

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@Artstove

Spit flowing out of the holes and dripping on my tie! Funny how common sense makes sense after someone points it out to you.

After concentrating on my without/with instrument technique, it seems that I am not as relaxed with the Mpc attached to the instrument. For example, one thing I notice in the mirror is that with the Mpc attached, I have a tendency to want to push the Mpc into my mouth rather than simply support it with the embouchure. With my alto, I don't do that; I use a Rico padded strap which supports most of the weight along with the right hand. Interestingly, when I first started to play the flute, rather than simply rest the flute on my lower lip I unwittingly pushed it rather hard against the lip, as if I was unconsciously using my mouth to support the instrument. That was a hard habit to break since, after playing a few minutes with the proper pressure, I would find myself reverting to the old way without thinking about it.

Thanks all for the info and tips.

Monk
 

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If you're pushing the mouthpiece into your mouth, either you're holding the clarinet too high (too horizontal), or you're head's too low. The mouthpiece should enter your mouth at a sharp angle and be wedged behind your top teeth, not straight towards the middle of your mouth. It's quite possible that you have leaking pads. That would cause squeaks, especially the notes that require several fingers to be down, but if you're getting squeaks (and especially squawks, AKA low-pitched squeaks) everywhere, you've got too much mouthpiece in your mouth.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
@Artstove

Don't know if you are kidding or not but . . . with the instrument angled down along with my head, I do find that I drool a bit into the Mpc if I am not careful. Then too, at 68 y/o, I drool regardless.

@Lomaserena

Being a novice with a head tending to replicate sax and/or flute techniques, I am sure that, in part, I am introducing manifold counterproductive gestures/positions to my clarinet efforts (actually, I am a keyboard musician who should probably stick to what he's been doing for 55+ years).

Speaking of instrument position, it is my understanding that the instrument forms an approximate 35-degree angle between it and the body; from the horizon, I drop to 45 degrees and then guesstimate the 35 position. Now I am sure this angle is not rigid, i.e., some musicians might habitually play at 25 degrees, others at 45. I am thinking that, given the individual anatomy of my oral cavity I will find that sweet spot with respect to the angle.

However, you mention something that I have not read before - and I apologize for the off-topic rambling - regarding the Mpc not pointing straight into the mouth. When I practice with just the Mpc and barrel, I point the Mpc straight into my mouth, much like I do when playing the sax (back straight, neck straight, head upright and Mpc straight in with any subsequent gyrations coming from the waist). However, when I play the clarinet, I do have the instrument pointed down but I now see that I am not maintaining my head position such that I achieve the Mpc/upper teeth position that you describe. As I view the relationship in a mirror, I see that my upper teeth are perpendicular to the surface of the Mpc (that unnamed angled surface opposite the facing). On my Mpc, the angle formed by the facing and its opposite side is 30 degrees but I see that I form my 35 degree angle (instrument 35 degrees away from my body) by actually bending my head/neck while maintaining the perpendicular angle of my teeth to the Mpc. If I straighten out my neck/head and maintain the same perpendicular, I see that the instrument is about 70 degrees out from my body. Given your description of the Mpc being "wedged behind your top teeth," I see that by keeping my neck straight/head erect, arriving at a 35 degree angle will necessitate the "wedged behind your teeth" form you describe.

I (and the neighborhood cats) thank you all for your observations/suggestions. I realize there is no substitute for a "live" teacher (which evokes painful childhood memories associated with the piano) but having self-taught myself on flute, and doing so with the alto saxophone in an OK fashion, I am inclined to avail myself of the generosity of the Net and forum members such as you all in pursuit of the clarinet. Speaking of which, the Texas Music School Project clarinet prof recommended the Clark Forbes Debut Mpc and Vandoren 2.5 reeds for openers - which I have just obtained, along with the Bonade inverted ligature (I use a Yamaha 4C and Vandorens on the sax - also with the Bonade inverted ligature).

Fun stuff for me as I await the arrival of my coffin. Thanks again,

Monk
 

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@Artstove

Don't know if you are kidding or not but . . . with the instrument angled down along with my head, I do find that I drool a bit into the Mpc if I am not careful.
Be careful, or you will reignite the "saliva" vs. "condensation" debate that has previously ravaged this forum!

But actually, I am not kidding. You will get moisture inside your horn, and even assuming that it is all or mostly condensation (which I believe is correct), it will flow downwards, and if some gets into your thumb or register hole, it will cause a weird burbly noise, and the note won't sound properly. It can happen on some of the more side-oriented holes, and on the thumb and register holes, even with the little levees. That is why you will sometimes see clarinet players blowing vigorously into the side/bottom holes on their horns...
 

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Trying to learn clarinet through emails from guys who can't actually hear you is unproductive. There is very little that you learned about flute playing that is transferable to the clarinet except that they both use the treble clef. Flute is played with a relaxed flexible embouchure. Clarinet embouchure is firm and shouldn't move hardly at all. Sax is not like either. I don't think it's a good idea to learn saxophone basics and clarinet basics at the same time and before one embouchure is really secure.
 

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@Artstove

I was not aware of a saliva v. condensation controversy; if only because ignorance is usually bliss, I am not inclined to buy a ticket for the next round of discussions. However, I should think the question academic because, regardless of the etiology of the moisture, the moisture exists and will behave as such. I have very little problems with flute moisture (I imagine since whatever collects is condensate) while my sax collects enough moisture to support a pair of goldfish. The thought of blowing out the moisture from the clarinet conjures up images of the conductor looking at the clarinets, wondering where the hissing is coming from. Of course, one could simply give the instrument a couple of flicks of the wrist, hoping that the bell would not fly off and hit a flutist or violist in the head. I'll have to carefully consider the pros and cons.

@MartinM

Trying to learn clarinet through emails from guys who can't actually hear you is unproductive.
In 1960, when I was a young lad with new driver license in hand, I bought a 57 Chevy from which I subsequently learned about cars. Part of that learning process involved purchasing an auto troubleshooting manual in which were listed manifold diagnostic drive-train, wheel, and chassis sounds - which I never heard before but was able to recognize by their apt description. Later in life, I undertook to tune my pianos having first read about beats and beat ratios; no one demonstrated these for me.

I am an accomplished keyboard musician (several years of training), an experienced flutist (seven lessons in my late 20s), a beginning saxophonist, and a novice clarinetist; I do not intend to seek "live" teaching with the latter two. It has been my lifelong experience to have learned many things simply by reading a book or asking a question. Yes, without a teacher, my progress might be slower, bad habits may ensue, and in the end, I may produce tones that embarrass an ice-skate sharpener (if you've ever heard one).

My woodwind playing, as I mentioned, is a hobby; it's fun for me. I will develop it to my satisfaction and be pleased with the result regardless of how I sound, technically. Along the way I will accumulate pearls and tips from generous folks willing to share their time, expertise, and experiences - all of which I dare say, will be productive for me especially at this point in my novitiate.

Again, my sincere thanks to all.

Monk
 

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Quick posture check for your clarinet playing. Your seated playing posture should be the same as when seated for a meal at your prim and proper Aunts dining table - head up, back straight - stop slouching! Then aim the clarinet between your knees. That is what you are shooting for - more or less. When standing, don't aim for your knees, or you will channel Miles Davis.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
@Carl H.

Thanks Carl - a very good tip for me.

I find that I am able to produce consistent tones with the sax quite a bit easier; your comment sheds light on why. With the sax, I have followed directives which adjust the neck strap such that the Mpc directly enters my mouth with my back, neck, and head erect; there's no margin of error. After reading your comment, I took special notice of my posture which I found to be all over the place depending on whether I was sitting or standing, and how I was sitting or standing (it seems my mind was more focused on my embouchure as if it existed in a vacuum).

Interestingly (and perhaps simply a coincidence of my Net searching), I have been impressed with the idea of playing/practicing while standing which, it seems to me, allows for inconsistencies, at least in my case.

So, I will do as you say and, henceforth, practice while sitting as you describe (my Benny Goodman affect will have to take a back seat). This makes good sense to me as it will, hopefully, allow me to focus on producing good tones by removing posture-induced inconsistencies.

After a quick tryout, the first thing I noticed is that, with the instrument aimed between my knees, I stopped thinking about what instrument angle I was forming/maintaining. Your direction also enforces what Lomaserena pointed out, above, to wit: unlike the sax, the clarinet Mpc is sort of wedged behind the upper incisors and at a sharp angle. I took to heart what LomaS said but, unconsciously, did not strictly apply it; it feels so wrong when compared to the saxophone - not that I was actually comparing the two. Since the one directive automatically imposes the other, that's two things I don't have to think about.

I really appreciate the lessons!

Monk
 

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@Artstove

I was not aware of a saliva v. condensation controversy... However, I should think the question academic because, regardless of the etiology of the moisture, the moisture exists and will behave as such.
That's my position, too, but this issue has generated some vigorous debate. As a former clarinet player who has more recently taken up sax, the angle of the horn in the mouth (and the looseness/tightness of embouchure) are significant differences that I have had to deal with. I like Carl H's direction for the approximate correct angle of the clarinet.
 

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And in the midst of all this struggle up the steep learning curve don't forget the words of Oscar Wilde, "Life is too important to be taken seriously."

I think we may have had the same piano teacher, Monk. Mine used to hit me on the head with a rolled up music book and shout "Do it again!" What a sweetheart she was (and we shared this joy for almost 12 years!) As a fellow sax and clarinet player (not much clarinet these days but I can still manage), I would encourage you to do the lesson thing and/or find a mentor or friend who plays and can give you some "hands on" pointers. There really is no substitute for a decent teacher, even if only for a few lessons.
In any case, have fun and keep at it.

I'm also in my sixties and man I'm having a GOOD time! Droolers of the music world unite!
 

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@Artstove

I like Carl H's direction for the approximate correct angle of the clarinet.
I am too new to the clarinet to be able to fairly proffer a blanket statement about lessons learned. Nevertheless - for me - Carl H. has furnished THE cornerstone on which to build. That, in conjunction with the building blocks provided by you and others, has me comfortably on my way.

This has proven to be a very generous - and patient - community whose scope of knowledge and experience must surely be unparalleled. I have and continue to serve as moderator and editor of a couple of computer technical forums where, all too often, novices are treated with disdain - and flamed - in their ignorance. Experts or experienced users often seem to forget that once, they too, could not distinguish between the seven different tertian 7th chords, to say nothing about identifying each of them by name [does one call it a half-diminished 7th, a seven 7th, as my jazz teacher referred to it; or a m7(♭5)].

I thank you all for making this clarinet novice feel welcome.

Monk
 
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