by Kellan Loew
(St. Marys, KS)
I have been playing for about nine months, and seem to have a good tone, except for an ear piercing jittering sound I get sometimes when I play the low notes of the lower register. These jittering sounds are not squeaks, as in a high pitched sounds of a totally different pitch, but they are high pitched, excessively vibrating sounds always an octave or two higher then the note I'm playing. If I play loudly with lots of pressure, tightening my embouchure more, I can eliminate most of them, but otherwise I cannot. I might get this sound simply when I crescendo on the same note. I also noticed different reeds make a big difference, but it's hard to believe that there are only so few reeds that work.
My clarinet is a very old Noblet that has been cleaned and repadded 9 months ago. I have been using Rico and Vandoren 2 1/2 reeds lately, and my embouchure seems fairly close to what you've demonstrated on your site. I would greatly appreciate any thoughts you might have on this problem. Thanks for your time and for this helpful site!
From your description, I feel somewhat stumped to give you an answer. It is possible you are popping the register key and going up a 12th interval, which is a range of playing on the clarinet. However, that does not explain the jittering sound.
So, what is the way ahead?
1. Play for a live person like your band director or an older clarinet student or a Clarinet Teacher. They will help you troubleshoot this problem in person.
2. See if you can try other equipment, like another mouthpiece, ligature, barrel, and/or clarinet. I’m glad you are trying different reeds.
You do not have to try all different equipment at once, just try a different mouthpiece at first and see if you have the same issue. Then, go to a ligature, then clarinet, or any order you have access to. As I mentioned in 1, if you ask a clarinet teacher or older clarinet student, see if they mind that you try their set-up.
Truth – yes, in a box of ten clarinet reeds, you will probably like 1 or 2 of the reeds best. However, I will tell you that you can adjust clarinet reeds on the mouthpiece and that one reed will play completely different (better and worse) with a slight movement. Go to the Clarinet Reed Adjustment page to learn more about this.
Wishing you well and hope figure it out. Once you do, send me a note at Contact or @ClarinetNow Twitter. Best.
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