Gurgling

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I am a South African Clarinettist and I play on a Buffet RC
Festival clarinet. I am preparing for a music competition in
August, but I am having a lot of trouble with my clarinet filling
up with water, especially the A and G# keys at the top, and the Bb
and G# keys on the side. This is hampering my performance because
sometimes when I play and the keys have filled up with water they
do not sound at all, or have a very ‘gurgly’ or horrible tonality.
I don’t know if this is something to do with my playing, if I am
blowing too hard (etc.) or if it is an indication that the
instrument needs oiling or whatever.

Your help would be greatly appreciated

Thanks for your notes on gurgling water. It is a problem bothering
all clarinetists and you know, it is much better than the
opposite, which is not having saliva when you need it, and
frequently can occur when you are quite tense or worried about a
problem passage. Many times during performances I have had to
“bite” my tongue in order to produce more saliva … but lest I
travel too far afield, let me say that your problem has several
different ways of repair and they are as follows:

You mention four different keys and or pads which are the most
common for attracting water (which is condensation formed during
playing). First, if you are near a repairperson, have the
offending pads changed from the normal “fishskin” pads to cork
pads which will go a long way toward almost a total solution
because the new harder and less porous cork will deter water from
filling up the tone hole Also, you must be prepared to get any
offending moisture out of the tone hole.

Keep a package of cigarette papers in your case at all times. You
use the paper by inserting it across the tone hole; that will
serve to collect the water, ending the gurgle. Also, if you have a
few seconds, open the hole and actually blow the water away from
the pad (but never toward a spring, because water on a spring can
eventually mean rust). Papers are a must at rehearsals and
performances. Some players will leave papers across “dangerous “
tone hole when they put their instruments away so “left-over”
condensation will not find its way into a tonehole.

If you will do the above, I am sure you will never have a problem
with water. I always have said, if we were meant to play we would
have been born with a little clarinet. Playing is a discipline and
keeping the “water” away is part of that discipline. You are doing
everything right, nothing wrong, just learn to use the papers, get
cork pads, and prepare, always prepare.

Best of all good luck to you, always.

Sincerely

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