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Clarinet Technique

There are many points to be aware of when we consider the subject of clarinet technique, such as embouchre, breath control, stance, fingering etc.
  Most of these points are much better dealt with in a 'one to one' situation with a good teacher,  but there are certain issues concerning fingering and support of the instrument that are sometimes overlooked by beginners and intermediate players.

    The position of the right thumb on the thumb rest needs to be on or above the knuckle joint. It is not unusual to see inexperienced players holdings the instrument near the base of the thumb.
   This can cause the instrument to be unsteady when playing the open notes such as middle G or A, but it also causes the right hand fingers to be excessively bent in order to cover the tone holes. This tends to have a cramping effect on the fingers, with resulting reduction in flexibility and freedom of movement.  

     Excessive finger lift  is also a common problem with beginners.
  Obviously, the farther that you lift your fingers from the keys or tone holes, the farther they have to travel back again.
     This has the several disadvantages of  - causing the instrument to become unsteady, considerably inhibiting fingering speed and smoothness, making accuracy of finger placement less reliable, as well as looking most unsightly.
   Finger lift should be certainly not more than a centimetre away from the key or tone hole.
   Try playing a scale, or something simple in front of a mirror so that you can watch yourself.

     Excessive finger pressure will also seriously affect your playing. 
If you are tense, in an examination situation or performing in public, there can be a natural inclination to press the fingers down harder.
   This will again reduce flexibility, speed of movement and good tone production.
   There is a finite time taken to tense the muscles for extra pressure on the keys - and also more time again to release that tension.
   Needless to say, this will severely affect your co-ordination and smoothness of fingering.
   But it also has the effect of de-sensitising the finger tips, making good coverage of open tone holes less reliable.
   It can also produce a flattening and spreading of the finger tip, and with really excessive pressure, a sliding effect, which puts you in great danger of inadvertently touching the various small levers which are placed between the keys.
  This can cause a fractional opening of the related pad, resulting in very poor tone quality - or worse!

     Alternative fingerings are there to improve efficiency of fingering, not to make life more complicated.
   Use of the correct alternative fingerings is considered almost as a 'black art' with some amateur players, who attempt to use their 'favourite' fingering for Eb/Bb, B natural/F# and C etc.etc  to the exclusion of all others.
   With a little study of alternatives, passages that may appear difficult can become comparatively straight forward. 
   The next time you look at a new piece it's well worth considering what other fingerings are available for various notes. Any decent fingering chart should illustrate most of these.

   Some of the main things to consider when using alternative fingerings are _
     'does this reduce the amount of finger movement required'
     'will this prevent a 'crossover' (i.e. putting one finger down whilst simultaneously lifting another).
     'does this make the passage sound smoother'

   However, one must beware of using 'trill fingerings' in normal play.
  (A trill being the alternating any two notes in rapid succession ).
   These fingerings, although very useful for trilling for example between A and B across the 'break', are not suitable for normal use, as in many cases the quality of tone and/or intonation is not sufficient.


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