Covered tone holes for small fingers . Not the answer.

Dear Mr. Friedland:

I have two students (8th grade/girls) who are twins.  Both have very small hands making it difficult to cover the tone holes. The lower octave is manageable but the have never been able to playpast the break when they are only partially covering the tone holes.  When they get to HS I suggested
they try bass clarinet but they really would like to continue on regular clarinet. Do you know of any
student model Bb clarinets with covered tone holes or could you offer any suggestions? Thank you
K. Crotty

Dear KC:

Prior to locating a clarinet with covered holes, let me suggest that this is not a problem concerned so much with the size of your twins fingers than it is one of simple development .
If they can play the lower octave, they will be able to play the upper, for the fingering is the same. Really, it is exactly the same and it is difficult for any beginner to learn to go into the clarion register of the instrument, in fact it  only means the opening of the register key with the left thumb. But, the fingers have to learn to stay in their positions and this only comes after the proper instruction. What they need is a private teacher or someone who can point them in the correct direction, however it is mostly a problem concerned with breathing, coordination and confidence and it does and will come in your daughters cases. Iy may come a trifle easier however there is only one student instrument available. Should you decide on its purchase,you are forever wedded to that instrument and there is no other alternative. There is an instrument with covered tone holes, however I cannot find a listing for it.
Good luck, Sherman Friedland  


One Response to Covered tone holes for small fingers . Not the answer.

  1. danop says:

    I agree with Sherman Friedland’s comments about it being “mostly a problem concerned with breathing, coordination and confidence.” I also agree with the comment that “if they can play the lower octave, they will be able to play the upper, for the fingering is the same.”

    Many method books teach the upper register very quickly. Some students can handle it, and others (like your students) can’t. I’m quite familiar with this problem. You might want to try writing out some short exercises, starting with whole notes, that approach the upper register very slowly. Have them try going from low B-flat to the high F. Can they hit this high F? If so, have them practice several whole notes on this pitch. Once they’re confident with it, have them practice going up to G and down to E. Once they’re comfortable with high E, F, and G, slowly take them down to D. Don’t rush things. Once they can play the D–and here’s where it gets tricky for some students–have them play C. Once they’ve mastered this, you can try the B-natural.
    Once they’re comfortable with all these notes, you can try going in the other direction. Very slowly, in whole notes, have them try to cross the break from A to B-flat to C.

    I’m guessing that when these girls were first introduced in their class method book to these high notes, they struggled. Because it was hard, they didn’t practice much. Now, it sounds like they’re behind, and I hope they haven’t given up. If you’re a band director, consider letting these girls drop everything else for a couple weeks to devote their complete attention to the clarion register. Are they the type of student who will seriously practice? If so, I bet they will be comfortable above the break within a few weeks.

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