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Reaching Clarion C And Above with a strength 2.5 Reed?

Discussion in 'Bb (Soprano) Clarinet' started by bjazz, Nov 12, 2016.

  1. Hi Guys,
    I am playing on a Yamaha 4C and occasionally a Hite Premier Mouthpiece and until recently I have tried to use a strength 3 exclusively. But after some issues with my new clarinets I have been advised to drop down to a 2.5 reed. I have am using the new Vandoren Juno student reeds and the Rico Plasticover, both in a 2.5 with both named mouthpieces, they are great until I try to start playing the high C and above. My Highest note is the lowest altissimo E which I can hit with a vandoren 3 reed and Plasticover 3.
    But I keep failing with the 2.5 reeds. Is there any tip that you might have for achieving these notes more consistently with a 2.5 reed, if it's even possible? any ideas much appreciated.

    cheers again,
  2. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Are you taking lessons with a professional teacher ?
    What "issues" are you having with your new clarinets (plural ?) ? .. oops, just checked .. the B12 thread.
    I'm gong to assume that your clarinet isn't in need of any type of repair, because if there are problems it could make playing a problem depending upon the issues.

    It sounds like you are building up your embouchure / playing ability and are still learning.
    harder reeds do make it more "easy" to get higher notes, assuming your embouchure is good and you are not pinching. If you pinch high notes are easier but in detriment to the tonal quality.

    A good method to learn higher notes is long tones. For instance start to play a G at the top of the staff.
    and hold it for 10 seconds. make sure the tone is steady and constant.
    Then play a G# and hold it
    then an A, Bb, B, then C and C# and hold each on.
    Pay attention to not only that you are covering the toneholes completely (for the ones that are) but also do not change your embouchure and start biting or anything.

    If you practice this technique with a 3 it will help build your embouchure, assuming it was properly taught and your airstream technique progresses too.
  3. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    I also recommend practicing the above with a digital tuner. Make sure that you're playing in tune. It's really easy to play higher notes sharp.
  4. Thanks Pete, Firstly yes this is a new clarinet I am playing on which thankfully is totally sound!! I can tell where it's me behaving strangely or the instrument, and I think I am sure that this clarinet works fine.
    I guess then you are saying that my 2.5 strength reeds are not going to allow me to reach these notes with any consistency then? This is a shame because they are a lot more free to play in all other respects. I have heard people say they stuck with only 2.5 reeds and played throughout with them, that's why I cannot see why I would need to use a 3 strength reed to reach those high notes. Maybe I'm missing something. Thanks for your input, if it has to be a 3 then it has to be a 3!

  5. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Benny Goodman used 1.5s. He played pretty high.

    You don't necessarily have a reed problem. That's more something to talk with your instructor about. I also can guarantee that Steve's recommendation will work.

    I used to play Vandoren 3.5 reeds on saxophones and clarinets, including bass sax and contrabass clarinet. Vandoren reeds are generally about .5 strength harder than other ones (I've not bought reeds in, oh, 13 years, so YMMV). It's just what I was comfortable with. It's not something I'd recommend to, well, anyone. Except maybe to point and laugh because they can't make a sound.
  6. Thanks Pete,
    and I see what Steve wrote about the 3 strength reeds, and it makes sense I suppose, My embouchure is ok at this level and I am always checking it during play and re addressing it every time to make sure the rules are being stuck to, So I guess it comes down to the true compared strength of reed brands and my embouchure playing strength.
    Time will tell I guess. (I'll try not to pinch to get up high).
    Thanks for your help.

  7. The advice you've been given is good, but mouthpiece selection also has a lot to do with what results you can achieve. The Yamaha 4c and Hite Premier are both good "middle of the road" student mouthpieces, but it may be that they are not the best choice for what you're trying to do. As has been said previously on other threads, reed and mouthpiece have to work together and you may be able to achieve what you want with another reed/mouthpiece combination. When I first played my present setup (Clark Fobes San
    Fransisco CF+) I was suddenly able to easily reach notes that had previously eluded me.
  8. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I thought about advice on mouthpiece and reed.
    But, other than the plastic-cover, he had generally good quality mpcs and reeds.
    The yamaha and hite are generally quality manufactured mouthpieces. Doesn't the Hite allow for a softer reed from it's design (been a long time since I've tried one).

    I wouldn't want to lead him on a wild goose chase of swapping mpcs and reeds at his experience level.
    Something much better performed by a private teacher.

    Once you start swapping mpcs you need to learn more about how the mpc was designed in the Tip Opening and Facings and baffle. Generally the shorter facing, larger tip you use a softer reed. ==> http://www.clarinetperfection.com/clmpcTypes.htm
    and how the reed which are all cut differently in length and depth, and even the part of the cane that was used can make a reed vary a bit, in addition to the type/quality of veins can affect everything.

    Additionally, the player may or may not notice, which may or may not affect the way they play, of the final finish put on the reed.
    I've found the LaVoz reeds now are coarsely finished, which prevents lip movement without picking up what feels like splinters on the lips. Versus Mitchell Laurie clarinet (or Hemke sax) reeds which are thin/long student cut but very nicely finished. When my son played alto sax I initially bought some LaVoz reeds locally. Splinter city ... I bought him Hemke's after I tried some then inspected each reed.

    I had my daughter start out clarinet on a 1.5ish reed (hand finished from Vandoren 3.5s).
    This for ease of play so she can work on the technical aspects of the clarinet.
    She's now up to Vandoren 2s

    I use from 2.5s to 4s depending up the mouthpiece.
    If I'm lazy on my airstream/embouchure that reduces my reed strength by 1/2 to 1.

    Student reed cuts tend to get water logged quickly, which affects consistent longer term playability, at least for me on sax and clarinet. If I play a long solo piece they'll get waterlogged and don't work on high notes without compensating. If I play much with a lot of rests/breaks then they tend to dry out a bit and continue to play well. They do tend to affect upper note a bit flat though if I don't compensate versus harder reeds. Tone tends to be a bit thin comparatively too. But nothing a student should worry about.

    Back to the original question.
    Reaching a Clarion C should be an airstream issue especially if a B is easy (assuming all else is well) as it's just shortening of the pipe. Thus more work on long tones.
    Once you get to alternate fingerings and the Altissimmo register, where airstream is more important too, all the work down below will benefit. And if those are not attainable then a mpc/reed change may be in order assuming throat/airstream/technique are all well.

    As you build up your airstream/embouchure it should be improved enough to move up 1/2 strength.

    If you practice long tones on a 3 reed for say 1/2 hour. Then move back down to a 2.5 you should notice a significant difference in the ease of using 2.5 all up and down the clarinet. You may find that you don't need to use a 3 after a few cycles. Think of it as embouchure/airstream training.

    Many newer players are not taught proper air support which will directly affect how high they can go with no issues. Using a harder reed brings that all to the forefront and can be used as a teaching tool. Of course, if the player gets used to it then they can move up on hardness too.

    I still recall learning how to play a 4 reed on an 8 tip mpc on tenor saxophone, duplicating what Grover Washington used. Made my eyeballs pop up, and as I got older I got headaches from it. But boy ... was the tone full and woody. Anyways, it made my ability of playing softer reeds so much easier for any setup and any horn (except oboe).

    I have a box of Vandoren 5 clarinet reeds somewhere too; good for injuries such as using for splints :)
  9. Hi Steve and Tony,
    Thank you very much,
    Tony I do understand what you say but I don't feel confident mouthpiece swapping without knowing why at the moment. I do have a Vandoren 5RV and a Yamaha 5C which I have not really explored yet because there is to much to consider with general embouchure training in any case right now.

    Steve, I have taken your advice on board and already started exercising with the Vandoren 3 today on the Yamaha 4C but I didn't drop down to the 2.5 afterwards. I should have made it clear that it's the high Clarion C above the stave and then the altissimo notes that soon follow which I can't reach on the 2.5 consistently. Everything up to that C is reasonably easy.
    But I'll continue with the method you have shown and see where I get with it. Thanks very much for your advice I really appreciate it.

  10. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I assumed you meant this note

    hmm .. not very large. But 2 ledger lines above the staff. Which is RT OOO-OOO - just the thumb keys and all else open.
    btw, for comparison of air support improvement it's really important to do the 3 and then drop down to a 2.5.
    And stick with the Yamaha 4c versus 5c. The 5c is a better mpc but the 4c is an excellent mpc for learning. I think I have one around here which I could also test directly too. I had a 5c but I know I sold that some time ago.

    btw, if you read this page ==> http://www.clarinetperfection.com/clmpcTypes.htm
    half way down is a test and sample embouchure exercises from a very old book that I had from the 70s I think.
    But it 's more related to the tuning of the high notes, versus getting better at playing the higher notes.
  11. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the diagram, lol, I appreciate your help here and also very handy that you can relate to my choice of mouthpieces. The next time I do the exercise, I'll drop down to the 2.5 as well as you say. I'll let you know how it pans out in a short while hopefully.
    The page you linked to is excellent, a lot to take in at once but lots to work on which I will, I'm sure it will make a real difference.
    Thanks again!

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 15, 2016
  12. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I also wrote this quite some time ago on embouchures ==> http://clarinetperfection.com/Embouchure.htm
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