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Difficulty going over the break?



This developmental milestone happens early on in clarinet, and is notoriously tricky.


The 'break' is the end of the first register (called the chalumeau - low/first - register) and the second register (called the clarion - high/second register). It requires a clean shift from one to the other, where you can be going from one key down, to many keys. If done well there shouldn't be any squeaks and there should be smooth transition from one register to the next... easier said than done.

Here's some tips:


  • Establish a good hand position. Fingers should always be in a rounded and arched position - not flat. This way they can move quicker.
  • Use the pad of your fingers to close holes, not the tip.
  • Stay close to the keys - don't flap fingers. Again this just slows you down.
  • Depress the keys gently - don't smack the keys, it's unnecessary and creates false accents.
  • You don't want to hear the articulation, or see much movement. That's the sign of a great clarinettist! 
  • LH position - Angle the index finger upwards so it is always touching the A key. Practice using the side knuckle to depress the key.
  • LH thumb - point the thumb upwards, resting the tip on the register key at all times
  • Hit the holes accurately - sounds obvious, but by not being too high you will get an even seal of the hole. You can use a mirror to help.
  • If an interval is awkward, practice it. It can be helpful to imagine you're doing it in slow motion.
  • Keep a steady air flow - and don't change your embouchure. When you feel anxious about a difficult note or interval it can create a mental hurdle and physical tension; practise with your eyes closed, thinking about the breath and the embouchure not changing. 
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