Clarinet/Clarinet Basics/Fingering/Crossing the 'Break'

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Crossing the break is a major step in a clarinetist's journey into accomplishing their instrument. The "break" is the end of the first register (called the chalumeau register) and the second register (called the clarion register). The first necessary thing a clarinetist must do is to know the notes that straddle the break.

  • The first note we will learn is the middle A. For this note, leave all keys unpressed except for the key right above where your left index finger should be. Pressing this key alone should produce an A.
  • For the next note, B-flat, finger the "A" but press at the same time the long key right above your left thumb. This key is called the register key. This key, pressed in conjunction with the "A" key, should produce a "B-flat." This is the end of the chalumeau register, and the last note before the break.
  • The next note, "B" is produced by fingering a low "E" and pressing the register key also. To review a low E, there are two ways to produce this note. Finger all holes and either the bottom right fork key, or the left pinky key.
  • To produce the next note, clarion C, finger a low F in conjunction with the register key. To review a low F, there are two ways: cover all holes plus either the top right fork key, or the center pinky key.

Players need to remember that when playing in the clarion register, they should keep their embouchure as free and open as the lower register. Don't "clamp down" when you get to the next register, because your tone will suffer, and it is easy to squeak this way. A good exercize to demonstrate this is to play a low F. Have someone come while you are playing the F and hold down the register key (so that the instrument goes up to a clarion C). If you feel yourself "clenching down" on your embouchure, you are playing incorrectly. You should feel no difference in your embouchure between the low F and the C.

Next, practice going between the notes that require only keys being pressed (such as B flat or A) and that of the basic notes ( such as C, D, E, F, and G.) After practicing this technique for at least five minutes, now try going from the middle and basic G (no fingers) to the upper C (requires both hands) If you do not yet know how to play an upper C, concoct a fingering chart. In process of going from G to C, you simply put all your fingers down for the C, and lifting them up for the G. After you have mastered this, try moving on to another note, such as middle C, to upper C. After you accomplished C to C, move on to other notes that you think will challenge you. After you sit down and practice these transitions, it should seem seamless to you.