Intonation Problems

When I play a passage, particularly a fast passage, going up to the high altissimo register, the notes come out flat. I have tried to “tighten and smile” more, but I was told that this was really a bad thing to do. The embouchure should not have to change with the range of the clarinet. When I just play one note in the altissimo (like F), it doesn’t sound bad. But when playing sheet music, with rhythm, I still sound flat. I try to relax, but I know the flatness is inevitable.

I would appreciate any insight you may have. My setup is a Selmer CL210 (wooden intermediate) with a Selmer C85 105 tip opening (Medium close), 3.5 V12 reed and a Rovner 1R ligature. I am an amateur adult clarinet player playing in a local community band. I have played up through high school and have taken 2 years of private instruction.

Not having seen or heard you play, I will work with the facts that you have given.

First of all, the C85 mouthpiece is an excellent choice. It is perhaps the best that Selmer has produced. I know because I played one for about six or seven years, and because it is specifically designed to be played with the Selmer “Recital” clarinet, which I played for the same length of time.

The C85s seems to have a better sound, and anyone playing one on any clarinet will find it agreeable. But it is of a different bore and you will have to adjust for intonation. What I am saying is that the C85 was designed for the Recital, as I was told, which itself is a different bore than other clarinets, such as the Buffet R-13. I played the same mouthpiece that you now play and I had difficulty with it, and finally changed back to the 120 bore of the same mouthpiece which gave me my best results, as far as tuning is concerned. If you keep the 105 you will probably have to use a stiffer reed to get more resistance and to keep your altissimo “up” as they say. Use a medium hard reed with a medium close mouthpiece. If you change to the 115 or the 120, you will have better success with high notes, and be able to use more flexible reeds; i.e., “softer”.

Any decent clarinet will not have that much to do with tuning, nor will the ligature, but the mouthpiece is crucial. Your problem may not be mouthpiece. however; it could be the resistance of the reed.

Also, again I’m hearing fast passages being out of tune. Practise all fast passages SLOWLY. Most students will play flat in the high register if the passage is fast. Lots of students avoid the high register in their practise because it is rather odious to play up there, because the softer reed plays beautifully mostly, but … the high register passage appears, and the student rushes through it because it is unpleasant. This kind of practise doesn’t improve the student at all. Practise slowly even if it is high. Concentrate on evenness of tone and the flat squeal will go away. With correct and slow practise, really taking on the problem in a rational manner, your weaknesses will become your strengths.

Best of good luck in all your playing.

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