Squeaking, difficulty with alternate C-sharp fingering, getting out of breath

by Stu Ducklow
(Halifax NS Canada)

Trying to learn a part that is difficult for me, written in E major, with four sharps. On passages going through B, and C sharp, and D sharp, I lose control, squeak, run out of breath and get very frustrated. I don't know if it's my embouchure but I have never been able to play the alternate middle C-sharp fingering with any degree of success. I've had my pads checked and a top clarinet repair person go over my clarinet. I've also tried other clarinets. Seems the problem is me. I get so discouraged I think of giving up clarinet entirely. It would help to know if I'm not the only one with this problem. If it turns out everybody else has an easy time with this, I'll switch to kazoo.


From Clarinet-Now.com

Hello Stu,
Sounds like you've done the right thing by having your clarinet checked out by a quality instrument repairman. My question is "have you tried this in front of a clarinet teacher?" I will explain the best I can here, but a live clarinet teacher will help you the best.

Do you have the same problems with squeaking while you play the E major scale up and down? Really give the E major scale a good work out. This is the place for you to get this technique in this range polished up.

So, if you've done that and are squeaking. My best guess over the internet is that you are concentrating SO hard on the fingerings, that your losing control of your embouchure. I would guess you are "opening up." By doing this, I mean you are opening the teeth up a little and not grabbing the mouthpiece as firm as you should.

Look in a mirror, practice your E major scale (memorized) in front of the mirror. Watch your embouchure as you go through this passage. Watch your fingers. If you squeak, try to figure out what happened. Did I open up? Did I move my fingers so much that the joggled the mouthpiece around?

Next, I have to assume this, but am going to ask anyway. You are using right hand B, left hand c# and right hand d# as the finger combination in the E major scale. Right?

Practice this in either quarter notes or eighth notes all slurred:
c#d#c#d#c#d#c#.

Now, b c# b c# b c# b c# b.

Now a three note pattern: b c# d# c# b c# d# c# b.

Do all of this slurred, do not articulate.


Play through all of this very slowly. Play so slowly that you do not squeak. Find your tempo. Let's say you can play this in eighth notes at quarter note equals 60 perfectly with no squeaks. That is your success.

Now, each day after this, try to take the metronome up a few notches. Keep doing this steadily, and you will overcome this issue.

A few more items on my mind are these. You are so conscious that you are using your left hand c# that you look down to find it (that is a major embouchure change).

You are so conscious that you are using the left hand c# that you have a major left hand movement to move your embouchure.

So, one more. You say you run out of breath. Take the exercises I gave you above and play as long as possible to build air support.

I look forward to hearing about your practice trials and success of the left hand c#.

Best. Chris

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