Dismiss Notice
I hate the colors. What do I do?

At the far bottom of the page, on the left, is a menu or link that says, "Forum Default." Click on that and choose a different Style.


Discussion in 'The Clarinet Family' started by defector, Dec 28, 2013.


    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    If you are moving from something else to the clarinet, that's not an uncommon problem. The solution is to banish the thought that you can do it without help from a clarinet teacher familiar with embouchure issues - saxophone experience can be a negative here.
  2. I think I'm seeing that now. I'm getting a much better sound out of the sop sax and reaching higher notes. I can't get any sound out of the clarinet at all when going for the first B with the register key, nothing, not even a nasty squeak. I jusy end up with a light head.

    What do you mean about saxophone being a negative? Is it looked down on by clarinet players?

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Although that is the opinion of far too many clarinet players, the problem actually lies with the relaxed embouchure used on the hybrid horns. Although the mouthpiece used on a saxophone resembles that of the clarinet, the control of the clarinet reed by the lips and jaw requires a significantly different arrangement of pressure, tension and seal than does that of the saxophone.

    Starting out with a relatively slack set of musculature and mastering the saxophone does not give you a good platform from which to start blowing on a clarinet. The rigid "smile" that you see on classical clarinetists is really a carefully arranged and balanced way of restricting the reed's vibration to the limited range needed for the classic clarinet tone.

    To be fair, many clarinet players have some trouble adjusting to the saxophone's embouchure as well. However, for those trained first to the clarinet, it's a matter of slacking off, not tightening up. For most, using less tension rather than more is a much easier proposition.

    I have problems when I have to make the jump from baritone (with a great big, loosely controlled slab of a reed) to the clarinet. Or, horror of horrors, to the tiny little Eb soprano clarinet, as I have had to do during runs of the 1970s show Company, where you go from a big, blasting R&B-ish dance number (with not one but two baritone saxes pumping away - it gave the bassoon player something to do) directly to a very exposed sequence of Eb clarinet solos in "Poor Baby".

    (The solos are made more demanding by starting high in the instrument's range, then descending through a series of intervals down to the lower end of the horn. I have heard the solos taken on the soprano saxophone (there is a cued part for the Bb clarinet, for those clarinet players fortunate enough not to have been introduced to the Eb instrument, so transposition skills are not necessary), but, truth be told, the result lacks a certain "charm" afforded by the tiny little Eb instrument. No, really - it really does...)

    Sondheim (or his arranger) even had the gaul to put a horn change in the middle of the tune, where you switch from Eb clarinet back to baritone for thirty bars or so of very subdued background tones, and then right back to Eb for a final, drawn out take on the solo's theme.

    (At least the arranger saw fit to allow an extended phrase of silence in which to sit and contemplate what you were going to have to accomplish at the end of the tune - I always sat through that period with a sense of dread, fearing that my poor, over-worked lip was going to think it was still playing baritone when I made the entry in the upper register.)

    It is at times like those that I wished you could manually adjust your embouchure with an arrangement of screws and knobs. But, it ain't gonna happen - you have to make it work with what God or evolution gave you.

    And, there are some practitioners of the clarinet (Aker Bilk and Ted Lewis come to mind here) who have gotten by with a very loose variation on the clarinet embouchure. That method has had its adherents in the past, but they have always been on the outside of the clarinet world looking in. If you watch (rather than listen) to folks like Pete Fountain play, you will note variations in their facial posture at times as they "bend" the notes. But, their variations are based upon the basic clarinet posture in the first place, not as the foundation of their embouchure.

    And, while you are dealing with the differences, remember it could be a lot worse. You could be having to switch from oboe to saxophone. I've always taken this as the reason for the invention of the rothphone...
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2014
  4. Thanks for your answer. I'm going to put the clarinet away fro a while, and when I've got a few extra pennies, go and get someone who can play it to show me what I should be doing, and also to evaluate what I have bought, just in case that has something to do with it (but I doubt it - probably me, trying to do it myself). The sax I bought is a known brand, albeit a student instrument - Earlham.

    I have no problem keeping my lower lip taut. It's string from playing the trumpet, however, I do find that my top lip automatically moves to what I believe is a double lip embouchure, as soon as I stop paying attention to it. Seems to work for the sax quite well.
  5. Tell me more about this hybrid embouchure. I've just looked closely at Acker Bilk and he does seem to be playing with a saxophone embouchure. Certainly it isn't anything like the one in the book that doesn't work for me. I don't really mind looking in, rather than being in. I am a brass player after all. Doesn't mean I can't peek from time to time (so long as you don't tell anyone).

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I only know what I have seen of Aker's puss, so you have the same amount of information on the method that he follows as do I. There are more than a few who ridicule the Welsh Wonder, but they are probably jealous of his career, as he has been a fixture for many, many years.

    Like Lawrence Welk, Bilk's schmaltz is what it is. Those who dislike it would probably be offended if one of the fans of the Bilk style were to diss their favorite style (something like bop, for example). But, that's just people being people.
  7. Ho hum. Turns out my clarinet was a bit out of alignment. I took it to Hanson Clarinets and they fixed it for me. However, it's still on that back burner as I have rather taken to the soprano sax and want to get proficient at it before tackling the different fingerings of the clarinet. Acker will have to wait. Sidney is all the rage now.

    I'm going to get a teacher to start me off on the clarinet when I've settled in properly with the sop sax. It's harder, obviously!
  8. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Admin and all around good guy. Staff Member Administrator

    When starting a new instrument, work hard with overtones, intervals, and long tones. It will take a while to get a sweet sounding instrument to add to your stable of playables. There is nothing worse than a musician who is proficient on the instrument technically, but much less so on the quality of the sound. Remember, if you hate long tone practice you can use ballads with a sound track like Aebersold which will also help with intonation sleuthing. Enjoy!
  9. Merlin

    Merlin Content Expert/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I had a Clarineo gifted to me by the former Canadian distributor. It's fun...and might make a good starter for kids...but I think of it as the answer to a question no one asked.
  10. Already there! My latest (and I hope last) comeback on trumpet I used a lot of ballads from Hal Leonard, Guest Spot and Music Minus One, so I have all that to use now, for my 'new' instruments. I'm doing fine with them on the sop sax and now my clarinet has been tweaked, I'm getting the higher notes out of it.

    I've always been big on sound and tone. I know the sounds I want.
    From what I gathered from my Internet research, the Clarineo was originally destined for young learners with small hands. The weight of a traditional clarinet was quoted as being a problem. I find this odd, especially as a brass player, because a clarinet is lighter than the smallest cornet in a brass band - the Eb soprano, yet young kids play all variety of instruments and just get on with it. Maybe these plastic trumpets and trombones will change that, but I wouldn't touch one with a bargepole!

    The Clarineo is also in C. Most of my music is in Bb, some in Eb, but a C instrument is pointless for the reasonably large amount of music I have. Obviously, most of what I have is for Bb instruments, along with the backing tracks.

    So I agree: having got a real clarinet, I really don't see the point in what amounts to a toy instrument in a key it shouldn't really be in! I started this thread, but I am not going to buy one. No point now, and I can play 'Stranger On The Shore' with vibrato on my liquorice stick, so... :p
  11. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    While the weight is less, the method of support is different. Brass instruments are "cradled" in the hand, while clarinets are carried so that all of the weight is on one finger.
  12. ...or even one thumb.

    Cornet/trumpet players have bent right pinkies because of the ring on the leadpipe.

    But I do get what you are saying.

    So, you are in favour of the Clarineo?
  13. Me again...

    Glad I didn't get a Clarineo after all, and contrary to what should be the case, I am now finding that I can do it on my own, now that my cheapo clarinet is repaired so it plays. So much so, in fact, that I am becoming painfully aware of the quality of my dodgy Chinese crappynett and am looking to upgrade.

    Kudos to all you clarinet players out there who manage to get your fingers round one of these things so fast! I don't know how you do it!
  14. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    I actually forgot to mention this. My oversight.

    Changing Merlin's quote around a bit, the Clarineo is answering a question that's already been answered: plateau clarinets.

    A plateau clarinet is one that has all the holes covered. This makes it much easier for those folks with little fingers -- or hand/finger problems -- to play because you don't have to be as accurate in pushing down the keys. However, a) they've all been discontinued. Right there is an answer to how popular they were. And b) covering the keys does make the horn slightly heavier. I know that any weight differential on any instrument is a sticking point for someone, no matter how little the difference actually is. I'd love to say that someone should make a beginner clarinet out of a lighter plastic or carbon fiber or something, but I think the reason why you don't see that is because the market's way too small.

    I'm all for getting kids into music. I wouldn't start with the Clarineo. I think learning on a "real" clarinet has more benefits. Just an opinion, though.
Our staff's websites: