Rest Your Chops!

Hi. I’m 13 (almost 14) and have been playing the clarinet for about 2 and a half years. I have two questions:
1. Even though I’m pretty good, if I play for a long time I can’t seem to have all my breath into the mouthpiece. Some of it escapes through the side of my mouth and makes a like ppptttt sound. Why? How can I avoid this?
2. I can play up to F in the 3rd octave and am wondering how to play even higher.

The first one about the loss of air around the sides of the mouth is a wonderful question and THAT is because you answer it yourself. “If I play for a long time”. Change that to “too long” and you already have the answer. Don’t rush the progress of your embouchure. And since you have the ability to discern the sound, simply disallow the leakage of air. I believe that it is possible to eliminate the air leakage simply by concentration in almost all cases. If you will rest for a bit when the leakage occurs and then resume in about 15 minutes, is it better?

Probably it is. You probably like the clarinet so that you just keep on playing. Remember, rest your “chops”, and try not to get into bad habits. There are many students who do not discern the problem or allow it. Rest will usually solve it. Do NOT try to pinch or tighten anything. As long as your jaw is pointed down, you will be fine.

The answer to number 2 is almost the same. Practise the high register for the least amount of time. Do NOT concentrate on playing higher and higher when you are young. Concentrate on playing with the most beautiful sound you can imagine in your head. And remain with that beautiful concept of tone throughout the clarinet. Everything e v e n and beautiful. Forget about high, F is high enough for right now. There are only a few more notes in the practical range of the instrument. Most of what you will play is always much lower. That is the really lovely thing about the clarinet: that cool, round, limpid, fluid sound. That is what to strive for. The high register will come … all by itself. I remember well the playing of one of the great players of our time, Harold “Buddy” Wright. I heard him play in Washington when he was principal during the 50’s and in Boston, and I knew him slightly. No matter about that. Unquestionably his was the sound, the most beautiful sound I have heard, all through the instrument. And when he played in the altissimo register, he always played softly and easily. You will never hear stridency in his quality of sound. Get his records; they are still available. He played the clarinet as correctly and as easily as it can be, and he sounded that way as well. Remember, easy up high. Make it lovely, never loud.

Bye for now.

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