Finding Your Voice-ing

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Finding Your Voice-ing 

by Spencer Prewitt, Eric Salazar and Jessica Harrie

One of the tricks to finding your best sound while maintaining good intonation and even tone quality between registers lies in being able reliably control the partials of the clarinet. A harmonic-based approach establishes a baseline tone quality and intonation, which allows students to be more precise in what they physically do to produce their sound.

These simple (but not easy!) exercises that should be repeated on a variety of notes. It’s best to start on open G and work your way down chromatically. Begin by only doing the exercise on the third partial (12th above the fundamental pitch – i.e. open G will squeak to a flat high D). Once each exercise for the third partial is mastered for each fundamental pitch, begin adding the fifth partial (third above the fundamental pitch). Incorporating these exercises into your daily long tone practice will give your tone more warmth and focus and help stabilize intonation.

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Exercise 1. MF dynamic, breath attack

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Exercise 2. MF dynamic, ta attack

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Exercise 3. MF decrescendo to P, no articulation

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Exercise 4. MF decrescendo to P, with legato eighth note articulation

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Exercise 5. P crescendo to MF, decrescendo to P, no articulation

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Exercise 6. P crescendo to MF, decrescendo to P with legato eighth note articulation.

These exercises might pose as a bit of a challenge without proper embouchure development. One of the most common barriers to being able to control the partials of the clarinet is biting. The lip forms a sort of pillow between the reed and the teeth. It is incredibly important to prevent this pillow from being pressed into the reed. When biting, the upper teeth clamp down more and the lower lip presses in to the reed. As a result, the tone becomes thin and strident, and it becomes more difficult to accurately voice notes. When the embouchure muscles are strong and set properly, the reed is able to vibrate freely. The resulting tone is better, presenting more overtones and flexibility.

To ensure that you avoid biting, here are a few suggestions that may help:

  • Mouthpiece patches can help create a more stable surface on the mouthpiece, preventing unnecessary fatigue and offering an “anchor” for your teeth
  • Long tones are vitally important to building stamina and if possible, should be played in each warm-up session
  • Try using double lip embouchure (putting both lips over the teeth)

 

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