Updated: Feb 15
If you're anything like me, you have days or moments when you just can't stop squeaking! You're playing a beautiful melody and then it happens. Or perhaps it's 'that' high note that always squeaks! Well, if you'd like to know some of the reasons why you squeak and how to stop it, read on!
There are a couple of reasons why we might squeak. Either we hit a key we weren't supposed to or we didn't cover a hole that we were supposed to, our embouchure (mouth) moves or we're tensing and biting.
When we first start learning notes above the 'break' (that's a B or higher) even the slightest leak can cause a squeak. Check your fingers and give them a gentle wiggle. Are you covering all the holes? Are you hitting a key you shouldn't?
Check your reed. Sometimes we can be in a rush and not quite put that reed on properly. If it's too high, too low or a little too far to the left or right, it can cause squeaks!
When we over-think 'that' note we will tense. This generally presents itself in raised shoulders, tense neck and biting of the mouthpiece. This stops the airflow and the biting pushes the pitch of the clarinet too high.
There's two things to remember here; don't bite and flatten that chin! Sounds weird but there's something to it. Often when we want to play high notes we think we need to tighten, when in fact, we need to do the opposite. We need to relax the top and bottom lips and pinch at the sides (left and right). When we bite from top to bottom we reduce the amount of space between the reed and mouthpiece, causing that melodious squeak! We also need to make sure we flatten the chin. I find that I have to touch my chin before I'm able to relax and flatten it. Maybe that makes me a kinesthetic learner!
Other Things to Consider
When we get fatigued or tired we will start to bite in an attempt to keep that embouchure. This is because we don't have the muscle to hold the right mouth shape. If you get to this point in your practice take a break! It's not going to get any better.
Check the strength of your reed. The softer the reed, the worse it is going to sound in the high register - but that's another topic all together! I like to use a Vandoren 2.5. I wouldn't recommend any softer than this if you're practicing those high notes. Also, the more use a reed gets, the softer it will become. How old is your reed?
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