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Tips on How to Play High Notes on Bass Clarinet

Updated on April 27, 2012

When you start learning how to make bass clarinet, the notes (especially notes over the break) can be difficult to get out. They may not be speaking at all, or they might squeak often. Whatever your issue, there's a solution!

If you're having trouble with notes from the first B over the break and up, then the problem could be a variety of things. If they aren't speaking at all, you might want to try tightening up a little bit, so that the reed will be able to vibrate more. If your embouchure is already very tight, then you can loosen up, also to help the reed vibrate more. It would also help for you to move the reed down on your mouthpiece. You could try a smaller-size reed (ex. if you're on a 2 1/2, use a 2), especially if when you try to play, the air seems to pass right under the reed. Make sure that before you start playing, your reed is completely soaked.

If the notes are very squeaky, that's a good start. Keep playing them squeaky, until you gain the muscle control in your mouth that you need to reign your sound back in. The muscles will come with more playing- practice makes permanent! Once you can tell that your embouchure is more muscular, practice saying the letter "M" tightly while playing- this will help you be sure that you have the right idea, even if the details aren't perfect. With bass clarinet, there is no "exact" way to play it. You should do what feels right for YOU, and what gives YOU the best sound, while still taking the basics into account.

Next time you pick up your instrument, be sure to soak your reed completely before starting to play. Warm up your instrument by playing long-tones and scales for at least 5 minutes, so that, when you start playing your actual pieces, your reed is ready to go. That way, the high notes should speak easier. Good luck!


A few more tips that may help you

  • Get a better, more professional mouthpiece (Fobes, Hawkins, Morgan, and Grabner are GREAT, but they all cost over $200. You can't go wrong with Yamaha, Selmer, or Bundy!)
  • DON'T USE CHEAP REEDS. If your reeds cost less than $10 per box, then you need higher quality reeds. Out of all your choices, I'd recommend Vandoren. try www.vandoren.fr
  • Press the thumb key hard when trying to play the high notes. Imagine that you are shoving the mouthpiece into your mouth, and put lots of pressure into it.
  • As strange as this one sounds, press your butt into your chair as hard as you can, and your feet into the floor. The more pressure you have in the lower half of your body, the more pressure it will take off of your chest, making it easier to take big breaths and easier for the air to pass back into the instrument.
  • Fix your posture. Start by sitting on your chair how you normally would, and then stand up. Your playing-position should be the point right before you stand up. There shouldn't be any tension in your legs, but your back should be totally straight. This will make the last tip easier, and it will still help with letting air pass.

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      Me 2 years ago

      It helped soooo much!!!!

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      Bass Clarinetist 20 months ago

      Yes! thank you person!

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