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Discussion Starter #1
Dear Everyone,

I've been having a hard time playing high notes above F on my Bb Bass Clarinet. I think it's my embouchure and I need tips on how to play any high notes above the high F. I've bought a new DARK Rovner ligature and a Yamaha 4C Mouthpiece for Bb Bass Clarinet, but it's still fairly hard to play high G,A,B, and C. When I play these high notes I'll get a squeak and mostly a sound that sounds like a sigh. I don't get any of these difficulties after the high F (including the high F). Does anyone have tips or now how I can fix this?

Thanks,
A.B
 

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I'm guessing you're talking about top line F. The G and A, especially, are unstable to some degree on all French-style bass clarinets, so you've got company. It could be a leak(s), it could be too much lip pressure, too soft a reed, or your voicing. If you're sure the horn is in good repair, then you need to, most likely, relax your embouchure, and experiment with voicing, and once you find the right combination, work the long tones for consistency. With your mouthpiece, you need at least a 2 1/2 reed, maybe a 3 or 3 1/2.
 

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It sounds like you have a leaky horn. It might be a good idea to have it checked out.
If everything checks out, start experimenting with how much mouthpiece you're taking in, shaping your oral cavity, firmness/looseness of your lips...
Then maybe try a different brand/strength/cut reed.
Bass clarinets are a little finicky when it comes to leaks, so I'm guessing your problem is more than likely leak related.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm talking about all the notes above the high F :)line5:)

Thank you for the replies I really appreciate them! I don't think it's a leak because my instructor tested the bass clarinet out with another mouthpiece and she was able to play the notes and the high notes fine. So I'm guess it isn't a leak or a technical problem, but more of my mouthing. My reed is a Vandoren 3 and I think it works well for me. How much should I be wetting my reed before I play? Also when you mean "experimenting" what should I experiment first? Right now I'm trying with more if my mouth in the mouthpiece, so where should I start as I experiment? My instructor has said to make an O sound and play with more mouthpiece and be relazed on the mouthpiece as if only the sides of my mouth touch the bass clarinet. Is this what I should be doing because I'm not seeing any results yet? Also I'm pressing the keys pretty tight when I'm stressing to play the high notes. Is that bad? If, so how do I get to relax myself?
 

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Well, those notes require a lot of support from your airstream/diaphragm. Your embouchure should be relaxed (never stress, also not in your fingers) with just enough pressure to make the reed vibrate.
It's hard (impossible) to give any good advice over the internet about these things, but you could practice some intervals starting on the high F. (F-F#, F-G, F-G#, F-A etc) and keep airstream and embouchure pressure constant. It's all about getting a feel for the notes, and how to make them sound good. It takes time, and bass clarinet is not easy. Keep at it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you for your replies, so to sum it up I need to practice a lot of these to get a good sound with no weird sighs and squeaks

  • Have a relaxed embouchure
  • Take in more mouthpiece (may vary)
  • Shape your oral cavity well (make an O?)
  • Keep the air and pressure constant
  • Have a lot air support for the notes

Is there anything I'm missing?
 

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Thank you for your replies, so to sum it up I need to practice a lot of these to get a good sound with no weird sighs and squeaks

  • Have a relaxed embouchure
  • Take in more mouthpiece (may vary)
  • Shape your oral cavity well (make an O?)
  • Keep the air and pressure constant
  • Have a lot air support for the notes

Is there anything I'm missing?
That should do it. Do make 100% sure your instrument is not leaking anywhere. Bass clarinets with a leak may play ok in the lower register, but it's the second register that's affected the most.
 

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Anything that uses the register key :) will be much more affected by a leak than anything that doesn't.
 

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It sounds like your instructor is giving the right advice about embouchure. Equal pressure all around the mouthpiece. Start by experimenting with the amount of mouthpiece in your mouth. Play open G, add mouthpiece until you feel you're about to lose control, back off a tiny bit, that's your embouchure. Clenching the keys isn't doing any good, and it's likely a by-product of your frustration. It'll improve when you start having success. The vowel/voicing thing is important. Players starting out on bass, particularly if they've played soprano clarinet, tend to voice these notes too high, and either get nothing, or something as good as nothing. Set your mouth as if you're playing, maybe, a bottom space F, finger the high F, see what happens. Experiment with visualizing other low notes until you start seeing some success. Voicing is difficult to describe. Your instructor can help. Your reed should be OK. You don't need to soak it long, 5-10 seconds. Good luck.
I'm talking about all the notes above the high F :)line5:)

Thank you for the replies I really appreciate them! I don't think it's a leak because my instructor tested the bass clarinet out with another mouthpiece and she was able to play the notes and the high notes fine. So I'm guess it isn't a leak or a technical problem, but more of my mouthing. My reed is a Vandoren 3 and I think it works well for me. How much should I be wetting my reed before I play? Also when you mean "experimenting" what should I experiment first? Right now I'm trying with more if my mouth in the mouthpiece, so where should I start as I experiment? My instructor has said to make an O sound and play with more mouthpiece and be relazed on the mouthpiece as if only the sides of my mouth touch the bass clarinet. Is this what I should be doing because I'm not seeing any results yet? Also I'm pressing the keys pretty tight when I'm stressing to play the high notes. Is that bad? If, so how do I get to relax myself?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Dear All,

I need to learn the piece Bach - Cello Suite No.4 v-Bourree

I'm playing the bass clarinet piece however (don't worry about the transposing and all that it's covered), but the main problem is there are a lot of high notes and some exceed past the high F (those ones I'm still trying to get good at) I need to learn this in a week and many people are saying If I want to be able to play any notes above the high F in the first register (third octave) I need to take it relaxed and slow and just keep on practicing. I probably can't learn this in a week because of my disability right now and I should scrap it and play something else right?

Thanks,
A.B
 

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Discussion Starter #13
It sounds like your instructor is giving the right advice about embouchure. Equal pressure all around the mouthpiece. Start by experimenting with the amount of mouthpiece in your mouth. Play open G, add mouthpiece until you feel you're about to lose control, back off a tiny bit, that's your embouchure. Clenching the keys isn't doing any good, and it's likely a by-product of your frustration. It'll improve when you start having success. The vowel/voicing thing is important. Players starting out on bass, particularly if they've played soprano clarinet, tend to voice these notes too high, and either get nothing, or something as good as nothing. Set your mouth as if you're playing, maybe, a bottom space F, finger the high F, see what happens. Experiment with visualizing other low notes until you start seeing some success. Voicing is difficult to describe. Your instructor can help. Your reed should be OK. You don't need to soak it long, 5-10 seconds. Good luck.
So by visualizing do you mean that for all the really high notes I should visualize and voice low notes? Or just pretend that I'm trying to play a low note, but playing a high? Also when I'm soaking my reed up for 5-10 seconds when I'm going to put it on my mouthpiece do I wipe any water off or anything?
 

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The key for me is to keep the air pressure steady and strong, the embouchure relaxed with the corners in and the tongue arched high in the mouth. I'd be thinking about having the sides of your tongue touching your top molars. This will allow you to regulate your airstream with your throat and tongue and keep that strong, steady air that's the key to all good sound production.

Generally, arching the tongue will help you voice higher notes, so if you keep hitting the partial above, you'll want to play with the voicing by adjusting the exact amount you're arching your tongue. This will be a very fine adjustment, but you'll be able to feel the difference. When you inadvertently hit a higher partial (also known as squeaking), rather than backing off or stopping playing, keep your air strong and try to feel out how to bring that down to the partial you're looking for. Obviously, this won't work in a performance, but that's what practice is for!

Of course, you could also be squeaking because you're applying too much jaw and lip pressure like you would on a clarinet. The clarinet lets you get away with that, but the bass clarinet won't allow it.

Think of your bass clarinet embouchure as basically a clarinet embouchure but with much, much less pressure. Unlike a saxophone, where the tongue is kept relatively flat in the mouth, all of the clarinets, in my experience, require that the tongue be arched in the mouth to keep a centered, focused sound and to easily access the whole range of the instrument. When I was younger, I used to keep my tongue too flat and would end up trying to compensate for the bad voicing by varying my air support, which didn't work at all. I have had students who did this who made big strides when they started arching their tongues properly.

When I was fortunate enough to take lessons from some of the best bass clarinetists I've ever heard in my life, we spent almost all of our time on fundamentals of embouchure and voicing. Continuing work on these ideas has really allowed me to open up my sound on the bass clarinet in ways I didn't think possible.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I don't know how to arch my tongue what do you exactly mean by arch? Arch it upwards or downwards?
 

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Wipe the water off. Every high note will be different, but generally, keep the embouchure relaxed and pretend you're playing low notes. Like I said, it's difficult to describe voicing here. eddiesclarinet.com is a good source for info.
So by visualizing do you mean that for all the really high notes I should visualize and voice low notes? Or just pretend that I'm trying to play a low note, but playing a high? Also when I'm soaking my reed up for 5-10 seconds when I'm going to put it on my mouthpiece do I wipe any water off or anything?
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Wipe the water off. Every high note will be different, but generally, keep the embouchure relaxed and pretend you're playing low notes. Like I said, it's difficult to describe voicing here. eddiesclarinet.com is a good source for info.
Someone on an another forum told me this: For voicing high notes, you will probably need to play with an oral cavity similar to saying "ew" or "ee" while playing. Lower notes are more like "ah" or "uh". Would you agree? So should I follow your order of visualizing low notes or this order of pretending an "ew" or "ee" for high notes, etc?
 

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I don't know how to arch my tongue what do you exactly mean by arch? Arch it upwards or downwards?
You'll arch your tongue by making an 'ee' vowel sound. The combined mouth shape of the lips/embouchure and the tongue is sort of like the 'ü' or 'ew' sound, with your tongue forming an 'eee' and your lips in more of an 'ooo' shape. For comparison, the saxophone, for me, involves more of an 'aaah' vowel shape, though I am not as good a saxophonist as many on this forum.

The key is to keep that 'eeee' voicing while keeping the enbouchure relaxed, but steady and controlled, with the corners of your mouth pressed in towards the mouthpiece. The corners of your mouth should be firm, while the upper and lower lip should be as relaxed as they can be without air escaping. Keeping those corners in will help prevent you from biting, which is a likely source of squeaks.
 

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That's good advice for soprano clarinet; for bass, voicing is a bit more like that of a saxophone. You need to voice the high notes with a more open vowel. I don't think I use "ee" at all, "Ew' or even "oh" for the notes you're concerned with.
Someone on an another forum told me this: For voicing high notes, you will probably need to play with an oral cavity similar to saying "ew" or "ee" while playing. Lower notes are more like "ah" or "uh". Would you agree? So should I follow your order of visualizing low notes or this order of pretending an "ew" or "ee" for high notes, etc?
 

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That's good advice for soprano clarinet; for bass, voicing is a bit more like that of a saxophone. You need to voice the high notes with a more open vowel. I don't think I use "ee" at all, "Ew' or even "oh" for the notes you're concerned with.
With all due respect, I completely disagree with this. To get a clean, clear, focused, "classical" tone, you need to use a clarinet vowel sound. While I don't think the voicing ends up being as extreme as on a clarinet, it usually feels like it is. The more open jaw and embouchure due to the wider mouthpiece will make the adjustment for you and I usually have to make a more conscious effort to keep the tongue high on that "eee" sound. Again, sides of the tongue against your top molars.

I have taken lessons with some great players and that's what they emphasized for getting that classical-style tone. Using a more open vowel will take a lot of focus out of the tone, which will make very high- and low-volume playing difficult to do without messing with your air support.

These are things that I hear lots of players do, especially saxophonists (even very, very good saxophonists!) when they play the bass clarinet, leading to frustration or a general sense that the instrument is just not as capable as other woodwinds in the clarinet and saxophone families.

I've taught quite a few clarinet and bass clarinet students over the years and have had a number of my students make pretty significant breakthroughs when they start to think about voicing like this.

Lastly, lomaserena, I genuinely mean no disrespect and fully recognize that the style of playing with a more open, saxophone-like voicing is the way that some of my favorite players of all time played the instrument (I'm thinking of Dolphy, Bennie Maupin and Todd Marcus, off the top of my head), but I just don't think that style of voicing is going to work in a more classical environment, with classical situations being as rigid as they are.
 
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