The clarinet is blessed with the largest range of the entire woodwind family. Our responsibility? The clarinet follows a logical fingering and keywork system. Things quickly turn from straightforward to clunky and confusing once clarinetists venture above the upper break above high C into altissimo-land. Then all bets are off. These are the points I use with my students.
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For each note they are listed from the generally most useful to more specialized. Many other fingerings are helpful in trills and tremolos. Feel free to ask me for advice. Reeds : Vandoren, Vandoren V12, Vandoren German Cut, Grand Concert, Zonda or Olivieri depending on the facing specifications of your mouthpiece and the tone quality that you want Top of page Embouchure Develop a "pointed chin" embouchure so you can control the force of the bottom lip against the reed.
Use a mirror to check your chin position. Stretch your top lip against your upper gum and then push your finger down and off the teeth with the top lip. This action will put the chin muscles in correct position.
Experiment to find optimal amount of mouthpiece and reed in your mouth. Play with the pressure point of the bottom lip on the slightly thicker, stiffer portion of the reed by taking minutely more reed into your mouth. Do this by slightly rocking your bottom lip down the reed. The space between your top and bottom teeth will widen. Be aware if you are biting don't do it! For best tone quality use only enough jaw pressure to prevent the note from being flat and to hold the mouthpiece steady.
Top of page Tongue and Throat Position In general, when playing the clarinet place your tongue in a high position say "EEE" with the sides of your tongue against your gums or teeth in the top back of your mouth, making a narrow passageway between your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Blow cold fast air like blowing out a candle. For altissimo use a slightly more open throat say "ahhhh" a little bit.
Practice alternating between e" and a" using the same fingering LH: T,R,2,3. RH: Eb key for both. The tip of the tongue is used gently for articulation. Top of page How to Practice Altissimo Practice slowly and listen carefully.
Use an electronic tuner to train your ear, lip, and throat. Play chromatically ascending long tones. Slowly practice one octave chromatic scales progressing higher and higher. Extend the range of your scale and arpeggio practice.
Play altissimo passages one octave lower to confirm you are playing the correct altissimo notes also listen for intonation. Play consecutive altissimo notes with the most logical and uncomplicated fingerings that work well together. Invent your own fingerings. Play flute and violin music. Play contemporary music. Listen to recordings that use altissimo. Ridenour, Thomas, Clarinet fingerings, A comprehensive guide for the performer and educator.
Kenosha, Wisconsin: Leblanc Corporation,
The Complete Guide to the Clarinet Altissimo Register
The American clarinetist Henry Gulick writes of classifications for altissimo register pitches. One classification that is widely employed by professional clarinetists is what Gulick calls "long fingerings. As a result, long fingerings require overblowing of lower pitches. The longer tube length that is in play produces thicker, darker timbres that are generally more secure at loud dynamic levels Example 7. Altissimo fingerings in a second classification produce pitches from overblown throat tones, without the left thumb covering the back tone hole Example 8. Since such a short tube length is employed, these pitches tend to be thin and bright. A third classification includes fingerings that use both the thumb hole and register key as vents open thumb and depressed register key Example 9.
Clarinet Fingering Chart
Select a pitch in the chart below to see its clarinet fingering. You can hear an audio file to listen to the pitch. Alternate fingerings are given when available. These interactive fingering charts will work on iPhones, iPads, and all portable devices.
Interactive Altissimo Register Clarinet Fingering Chart