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Sudden resistance

My Buffet R-13 suddeny developed a resistance to blowing in all notes above the break. Notes over the break also sound poor and some, especially G3 and above, are unstable. This is happening no matter what reed I use. My mouthpiece is a VanDoren M15. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Have you checked for a leaky pad or for tonehole blockages?
Yes I have. There do not seem to be any in either of the main joints. It's very frustrating because all the joy of playing is gone. It's taking so much effort to produce notes that all other considerations, i.e. dynamics, etc. are lost.
If the problem has appeared suddenly then something about the instrument has changed. The obvious first choice is a leak, and the second choice is that something in the keywork has gone out of adjustment. Re-examine your pads using a torch to illuminate the hard-to-see areas. Check the actual condition of the pads, one could be torn, damaged or loose. If this doesn't yeild the culprit then the problem could be one of adjustment. Adjustments don't normally change spontaneously without cause, so look for bent keywork or missing pieces of cork.
There are four most obvious places to check. These are at the top of the instrument, where the relationship of the G# key and the A key is important. The G# key should be lifted by the A key just after the A key starts to move. This is regulated by the adjustment screw on the G# key. Also at he top of the instrument check that the register vent is not blocked or loose. This can be done with a pipe cleaner.
At the centre of the instrument the relationship of the linkage between the upper and lower joints is critical and at the bottom of the instrument the adjustments around the crows foot under the right hand pinkie keys is vitally important. If you don't know your way around the keywork and are not confident that you can do this then you need to take the instrument to a tech or have it checked by another player who knows their way around the mechanism.
As I don't know anything about your skill level or knowledge of your instrument it may be that this advice is superfluous, but take it for what it's worth.
Tony, I found there was some lint in the register vent. I think I was able to clear it all. It made some difference, but I think there is still another issue. Guess I'll have to take it to the local technician. Thanks for your help.


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
The old "standby" leak test for clarinet is to take just the top joint close the bottom end with your hand, cover all the holes with your fingers and blow in the top. If there are leaks in any of the pads you will be able to feel the loss of air pressure or hear air escaping. The same can be done with the bottom joint although it is a bit more awkward. On the lower joint it is easy to blow open the Eb/Ab with not a lot of pressure, so it is better to suck the air out to create a vacuum, and see how long that holds.

In my experience the "culprits" to check when everything is stuffy or resistant are the RH side "trill" keys---especially the top two. You might even have a friend hold those pads tightly closed as you play to see if that makes a difference. I have even heard of a well known Traditional Jazz clarinet player who put plugs in those toneholes so they wouldn't be a bother. I have even diagnosed leaks by cutting small squares from a small zip lock bag and placing those under the spring closed pads, doing the "leak test" and removing them one at a time to isolate the problem.

Another possibility that I hate to even mention is a crack in the barrel or near the top of the upper joint. Sometimes these are visible to the naked eye, but often they are not. If you think you have spotted what might be a crack you can put a small amount of dish soap over the area and do the "blow test" described above and look for bubbles. Good luck. Hope you find the problem.
Try putting a piece of plastic food wrap (Saran Wrap, Glad Wrap, etc) under the pads one pad at a time starting from the top of the instrument, test playing it as you go. If it still has the problem then remove the wrap and move down one key. If you reach a point where the instrument works OK then you have found the leak.
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