Chewing a Hole through her lip….painful and needless.

Great site!

I have played clarinet 14 years over the last 30, and recently purchased two books: C. Baermann Complete Method for Clarinet and Virtuoso Velocity Studies for Clarinet by Kalmen Opperman. When I first opened them, I thought I’d made a mistake and ordered flute books; some of the notes are on Mars. I found a fingering chart for all these screeching notes I had previously not known existed, but practically chewed a hole through my lip playing altissimo G# and A.

My questions are: Are these notes possible for most normal human beings? If so, how often would I use them outside of these books I purchased and extending all my scales even further than before? (in my brief career, I never came across any of these killer notes) I would really like to take my ability as far as it will go (something I should have decided years ago, I reckon), but I’m not sure this is a healthy direction (or sane, for that matter) to go.

Thanks for your help!
Well, many friends do as you do. You include the solution to the problem in your initial note. Now, what do you suppose it may be? Very simple. You are as you say, “chewing a hole” through your lip, which is the ultimate no-no in playing the clarinet which, I must admit can give one plenty of problems as you pursue its illusive goals.

Not seeing or hearing you play, makes it a bit more difficult, however I can give you a reference to a question I answered several weeks ago which is called “Copland, the altissimo register” (archives). That may help.

I need to know what kind of reeds you use and mouthpiece as well, and you may as well tell me the horn make also.

But first and foremost, you must take on this challenge with extreme deliberation: that means very slowly and critically, listening to yourself constantly and yes, criticizing your own progress, not an easy thing.

Do you take lessons with a clarinetist? If not, that is a problem, really it is. Not a band teacher, but at the very least a teacher who plays and can make a good sound on the clarinet.

I was fortunate enough to have this when I started and I must say that I will always remember my first lesson and even more the absolutely incredible sound my teacher, my first teacher made.

For a student with a good ear, I will say it is worth a year. At least.
Besides biting, what else are you doing? Do you take more mouthpiece in when in the high places? if so, that is wrong, and will lead you to horrors unimaginable.

Do you play on american reeds, like Rico or La Voz , etc? Wrong. These reeds play well initially, however they die quickly, are too thin in manufacture to play in the high register and are not the correct reed for an ambitious musician.

Do you practise in this high register for more than 10 minutes at a time? That is the worst thing you can do, something akin to suicide by reed.

Practise(with THOUGHT) makes perfect, but just whacking away at the horn is useless. Know what you are going to practise and practise only that, even if it is one note. You need a success, no matter how small, and then stop and play something else after you rest.

That is enough for now.

good luck, s


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