Week of the squeak

5 Apr

 Playing the clarinet without squeaking

Last week’s blog post failed to materialise. 

This was partly due to a combination of poor time management, and the arrival of my latest gadget: a Kindle.

Reading – especially while on the move – has become a huge pleasure, especially now that all books, no matter how long they are, can now be no heavier and no bigger than a Kindle.   And who knows, the next Kindle book I download may well be one about learning the clarinet… 

Right, but back on to this week’s topic: squeaking.

About a month after I started learning the clarinet, I found I was squeaking regularly every time I practised.  It was very disheartening to produce that ear-splitting squeak and it felt like the more I tried not to, the more I made the clarinet squeak.

 I thought I’d ‘grown out of squeaking’, but was dismayed this week to find that it has returned with a vengeance.  And it seems to have taken on a new, shriller intensity than I remember it having all those months ago.

Why does a clarinet squeak?

I had no idea why, but tutors and others have made suggestions that have helped at various times:

  • Wrong reed strength
  • Not enough mouth piece – in your mouth that is! 
  • Mouth piece too far in your mouth 
  • Holes not covered properly
  • Wrong holes being covered
  • Mouth piece not being kept still

How to stop squeaking while playing

Reed strength.  As a beginner starting out with a very soft reed, such as a 1.5 (as I did), with regular practice, it won’t be long before you need a stronger reed as your embouchure improves and your muscles become stronger.

 Not enough mouth piece in your mouth.  The answer is to push the mouth piece in a little further to give your top teeth a better grip on the top of the mouthpiece.

Mouth piece too far in your mouth.  Do the opposite of above.  It will also mean you have enough clearance to tongue those notes using the tip of your tongue at the top of the reed.

Holes not properly covered.  The clarinet can be unforgiving, and even the tiniest gap on a hole that should be covered can deliver a sharp squeak. 

Wrong holes being covered.  Sometimes covering the wrong holes will have no effect, will deliver the wrong note or an enhanced note sound, but not always!

Mouth piece not being kept still.  With so much going on – the holes, the note reading, the blowing, the embouchure, the mad scramble to get to the right key can result in a mouthpiece slipping around.  For best results, hold it firmly without clamping too hard.  A mouthpiece patch can also help – and reduce the vibration to your teeth. 

I am going to work through this list today in the hope that I can see off this week’s round of squeaking.

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