The Clarinet. Teaching Chalumeau to Clarion

Most readers know that the clarinet developed and evolved from an earlier instrument called the Chalumeau. It as an instrument which was quite a bit shorter and consisted of only about an octave and a bit and simply didn’t overblow. The sound was similar to the Chalumeau register of todays clarinet. Quite soon , it was learned that that the instrument because of its inner bore overblew a twelfth instead of an octave as the recorder and other cylindrical instruments. When a key was installed on the back of the instrument and opened the bore the notes emitted were about a twelfth higher. This was the greatest single thing that ever happened to the clarinet and it set the stage for an instrument of an incredible range and palette of color: the clarinet of today.
Now as teachers, we are charged with teaching the entire range of the instrument from bottom to top and somehow the connecting points between the chalumeau and the clarion registers require teaching a combination of breathing and key manipulations to make a smooth and even transition.
Because we go from playing notes that require few if any fingers placed on the clarinet to all or most of them with the register key open, it is somewhat of a difficult manipulation.Sometimes this transition is called the “break”.Also this register key has developed into being used for the middle Bb, and is note on the instrument. The proper Bb vent is located on the clarinet but not in a convenient place in which to be able to play passages smoothly and with velocity, so it is used only occasionally. placed perfectly ,. In the end, the Bb is stuffy and usually a sharp note. It has developed an unfortunate reputation and is frequently called the break in the clarinet.
Whomever mentioned not mentioning the word BREAK should be commended,as this connotation can spread terror especially if explained by a teacher who may teach in this manner.
Whomever says leaving fingers on in order to make “it” easier is incorrect. Of course, if the throat of your clarinet is sharp as many are, this may in fact mask the problem, but it doesn’t lower the pitch that much, if at all. It dulls the notes quite well, making technic even less even.
Starting on the note above, the middle B is OK, but really doesn’t solve the problem. The problem is after all, going from the A to the B.
What does help is making quite sure that the most important finger is placed correctly in going from A to B.
Which?
The index finger of the left hand. This finger leads all of the others in leaving the A spatula and rolling to the first ring on the left hand.For young players or those that have trouble with A to B even in a professional situation (yes, there are those), practicing only moving cleanly from the A to the first ring will really help.
Than, do this while adding the rest of the fingers and it should be much smoother and more facile. Of course, it may not happen immediately and there needs to be real understanding of the concept and practice as well, however that initial sealing of A to B using the index finger of the left hand as the connecting point is the beginning of the end of the problem. In time, one can develop a perfectly smooth crossing making an even and pleasant sound as one makes the change from chalumeau to the clarion register.

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