I was a clarinet major in college. After graduating, I taught while working toward advanced degrees. On completion of the doctorate, I accepted a University position and spent my professional life conducting opera, musicals, and the major choral/orchestral works. Sometime after retiring, I decided to play the clarinet again. I got an old Bundy Resonite; couldn’t make a sound, not even open G,( no doubt due to 64 radiation treatments I had endured for a cancer in my mouth.) I kept at it, however, and made progress. Bought a Buffet R-13. Its in perfect condition. Presently using a VanDoren B-45 mouthpiece with a #3 Rico reed. Can get around the horn now pretty well, from low E to A above the staff. Pretty good sounds, nice, musical legato. Thereafter, frustration!!! Bb, B, and C are under pitch no matter how much I firm-up the embochure. I can journey up to G, but with a shrill, thin, ugly sound. Ugh! (I once ate the Clarion register for lunch.) I have tried a VanDoren #3 reed, but cannot activate it well on lower pitches. Not worth the musical, phrasing sacrifice. Can you help? Mouthpiece suggestion? Reed? Anything (but giving up)? Thank you for any suggestions.
Panama City, Florida
———————————————————————The first thing I will suggest is certainly not to give up. Certainly not after all you have been through and the distance you have come since your illness and return to the clarinet.
I would venture several solutions to the frequently heard dilemma of flat upper register, but without seeing and hearing you play I must tell you that you most change to a reed with more heart to it, and that would be anything but a Rico #3, which if an ordinary Rico will play well for only a little while, and will certainly give you little in the upper register which even that will diminish and become exceedingly thin, exactly the situation you describe.
There are other cuts within the Rico reed rubrick that at least purport to give you more support in the upper register, namely Rico Royale to begin with and they have others as well. There is a great player named Morales who has become their spokesperson (kind of like the lovely ladies that speak up and represent the various perfumes.) He is a wonderful player and so they bring out their various different kinds of cuts of reeds and they are better than the ordinary Rico upon which you are playing (and eating with your clarion register). Their reeds are designed to to sell, just like the perfumes.
I would investigate these different cuts, and do ask for one with more heart.
Now, you mention that you tried “a Van Doren reed”. One doesn’t just try “a” VD red, one tries more than one, even many more. But they do get played by most clarinetists, a fact that has remained for many years. And, I think they are better now than before.
The B45 mouthpiece is also played by many folks, but that is probably not your problem.
I would think that you need to take a bit more of the mouthpiece into your mouth so that you are allowing more reed to vibrate. But that means just a small amount, or else you will be extremely sharp and experience many extraneous unpleasant sounds. Remember you want more reed vibrating ,so without sacrificing your embouchure just take a small amount more. When you first attempt this, the feeling will be uncomfortable, however you will become accustomed to it. You should experience an immediate or gradual opening of the sound in the upper register.
I congratulate you upon getting through a career within the academy and surviving both that and your illness, and I wish you the best of all things: a lovely and vibrant and intune upper register.
most sincerely, sherman friedland
Thank you for your response and suggestions. Very helpful!!! I remember back in the forties and fifties, we would buy a box of reeds and then get out the sandpaper. Is that still necessary? I just bought a box of 10 VanDoren #3s, but only one came even close to my liking. I soaked a few overnight in a glass of water. Some help, but not much. A future article by you in the Clarinet Corner about reed selection and care would, I think, be interesting and beneficial to many. Thanks again.