Why do I sometimes get a “grunt” sound when I articulate the notes around a high C?
Sometimes just fingering high notes is not enough to get them to respond without an undertone, or “grunt” sound – clarinetists must actually adjust their voicing (throat position) so that they are able to tongue the note with a response that speaks right away. To improve this, try fingering an open G, but overblow the note to produce an altissimo D – it may feel like you’re opening your throat and blowing warm air as if you’re just about to yawn. Then try going down the clarinet chromatically tonguing each overblown note as you go, without using the register key. It’s fun to play “Mary had a little lamb” starting on overblown B-natural (fingering first-line E-natural). Once you get consistent with voicing these notes without using the register key, then add it again but keep the same feeling with your throat. If you still have trouble, you might try a slightly harder reed, or try playing the high note and while still playing it, release the register key to see if you can keep the high note up for as long as possible before it jumps down. Hopefully after trying these exercises, your high notes will respond much better and the grunt will be gone! Let “voicing” help you find your voice!