Problem with squeaks

by Seth
(New Jersey)

Hi Chris --- I've been playing the clarinet for about two years now, and I still have problems with squeaks. I have checked the keywork and pads, rotated reeds, balanced the reeds, even switched mouthpieces, and the problem persists, so none of those seem to be the cause. My guess is that something is wrong with my embouchure, but darned if I can figure out what it is. Squeaks just seem to appear out of nowhere at random, and I can't even purposely reproduce them. The best I can tell is that they seem to happen most often at the start of a note.I had hoped that with practice and more experience, the squeaks would disappear, but that hasn't happened, and I find it very frustrating and disappointing. Even an occasional wrong note or two isn't as bad as a squeak!! Most clarinet books don't discuss squeaks in detail, or else just say that they are "unwanted overtones" or are the result of sudden changes in air pressure inside the mouth. That's not real helpful! If you could post a section on your website devoted to "Squeaks: Their Causes and Fixes," I'd much appreciate it -- and I'm sure lots of other 'squeakers' would, too! Seth



Thanks for the question. There are literally thousands of reasons to squeak and practicing clarinet will help you overcome this. From what you have explained, I can give you a few tips.

First of all I've gone through the same situation. I remember playing a concert and getting through all of the tough licks, then, time for the whole notes. SQUEAK!!! It was right in the middle of the long tones and where the heck did it come from?

I believe the number one reason for squeaks on clarinet is opening the mouth. So, it is an embouchure issue. You must improve the stability of the embouchure. Don’t move it around or open up for any reason. You set the embouchure, bite down on the mouthpiece and reed, close the lips down, and blow. So, think about this, do you keep a steady, firm embouchure or vary it?

You might vary the embouchure and not even know it. In my example above, I was rock solid through the hard stuff but probably relaxed my embouchure on the whole note allowing a squeak. Releasing the pressure from the reed is a perfect condition for squeaking.

Other reasons people loosen their embouchure is when they descend below the break or doing any kind of large descending interval (either slurred or articulated).

So, next time you squeak, stop and analyze this. Did I loosen the mouth? Did I drop my jaw?

You say that when you squeak you cannot recreate it. Probably when you try to recreate it you are more solid with the embouchure on the second try and the squeak does not occur.

Okay, condition number two that you mentioned, you squeak when you start a note. Many times people squeak at the beginning because the articulation is too hard. You slam the tongue on the reed. Sometimes, people do not set their embouchure completely before they start the sound.

For example, you are in a hurry and do not have the instrument up to your mouth in time. You bring it up fast, put it in your mouth and start blowing. The flurry of activity means you slam that tongue onto the reed and it is an explosion of sound.

BAM!!! Sound. Not just…


So, with the rush of activity, you end up chirping or squeaking on the first note.

How do I solve this? Completely set your embouchure before you blow. Place your tongue lightly on the reed (tip of tongue to just below the tip of the reed). Take in air from the corners of your mouth. Close the corners of your mouth. Start blowing air while the tongue is still on the tip of the reed. While the pressure is built up in the mouth, gently release the tongue so the air can travel over the reed and vibrate. Do this every time with a solid embouchure and your squeaks should decrease dramatically.

Why not every time? Well, all of the thousands of other reasons to squeak: a poor reed, a chirpy mouthpiece, a leaking pad, not covering tone holes, etc…

But, if you improve the stability of your embouchure and the start of your articulation, you should be well on your way to lowering the percentage of squeaks.

Remember to visit any of the embouchure, poor embouchure, articulation and other fundamental tabs in the navigation bar on I hope this helps and keep in touch.


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