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 Extraneous Clicking
Author: Ben 
Date:   1999-09-13 19:38

In the past few days, I have been using tape recorders, so I can listen to my clarinet playing. One of the biggest problems I have with my sound is the attack. Every time I start a new phrase, or tounge a note, the reed creates a rough clicking sound. Strangly, I do not notice this very much while I play, but it sounds quite bad on recording.
Is there any way to reduce this clicking? Could it be my embouchure, tounging technique, reed, or mouthpiece? Any info or ideas are appreciated, the more the better

-Ben Legg

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 RE: Extraneous Clicking
Author: paul 
Date:   1999-09-13 20:02

My keys do it a lot, too. Since I have a recent vintage pro grade horn, I have to attribute this to my own lack of fingering expertise as an adult novice. Now onto a tougher problem.

I have had several discussions about the extraneous noise problem with my professional tutor throughout the years. It seems that part of the problem is possibly one of perception. Some of the extraneous noises just can't be totally eliminated. Some folks believe that the clarinet was not necessarily made for high tech recording up close with the mike almost touching the bell or mp, etc. Rather, they believe that the clarinet's best environment is on stage with the audience sitting quite a distance away. (You can easily see the classical performer's viewpoint here.) This can be a hotly contested point, but perhaps it's a good place to start with your problem. Try backing away from the recording device's microphone a bit. If you are in a small room, try placing the mike across the room instead of right next to the clarinet. Then, try playing for a while and listen for the extraneous noises in the playback.

Make sure for your recording that there is no condensation build up on your reed or inside your horn's bore. Swab it out well from mp to bell so you can get the best tone and sound with a warmed up horn that's not gurgling.

If none of the above seems to work, you might need to think about softer reeds, more air support, or some combination thereof to get the reed to speak quickly enough to effectively eliminate the undesired noises. Ditto for embouchure and tounging accuracy.

Also remember, lots of folks (like me) would gladly trade your occassional clicking reed noise for fewer squeaks and fewer key clicks, and especially for much less gurgling.

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 RE: Extraneous Clicking
Author: STuart 
Date:   1999-09-13 20:49

Dear Ben,
To answer this over email in admittedly presumptuous, but I think the answer might be hidden in your post. While the term "attack" is used when describing sounds, I think it may not be as useful when discussing articulation. The semantics of attack imply a different process than that needed for clear articulation. Good articulation is based open a foundation of a healthy air stream. If you think of the toungue as interupting the air as oppossed to striking or attacking the reed, you allow the air flow to continue as remain steady -> the foundation. try blowing out a breath, from down low in the "belly", and simply interupt the air with your tongue - using as little movement as possible.
Like I said before, this could be WAY off cause I have no idea what your click sounds like, but chances are it has to do with your airstream, and your toungue putting too much meat on the reed. Good luck, please tell me if this helps or if its way off or whatever,

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 RE: Extraneous Clicking
Author: Kevin Bowman 
Date:   1999-09-13 21:15

A couple of things:

First, I call the tape recorder a "truth machine" - it does not lie. Use your recording to discover what your audience hears then try to make adjustments to improve that sound.

Having said that, I'll say a few things about recording the clarinet. The clarinet is probably one of the more difficult instruments to record. This is due in part to the clarinet's eextremely complex harmonic structure and in part to where the sound comes out of the horn. I'll offer a few suggestions:
1) use a good microphones. The cheap $20 mic you get at Radio Shack will not accurately pick up the entire spectrum of the sound of a clarinet (and adds a lot of background noise to boot). I have had good results with Audio Technica 4051's and Electovoice RE20's (both are in the $600 range). You will get decent results using a couple of Shure SM57's (at about $100 per mic) - see below for using two mics.
2) if you are using a single mic - place the mic on a boom stand about 2-3 feet away from your clarinet. Aim the mic at the lower section from above, at about a 45 degree angle. Remember that only a very few notes actually speak from the bell of the clarinet - all the rest speak from the tone holes.
3) if you are using two mics (the best scenario) place one mic aimed up the bell from about six inches away and the other mic aimed at the connection between the upper and lower joint (right above your right first finger) from about 3 to 6 inches away, perpendicular to the clarinet (straight _down_ at the finger holes). Now you will need to do a little work to adjust the mix of the two mics (balance the levels) but the result will be better recording response across the entire range of the clarinet.

Obviously, these are recommendations for serious recording. If your goal is to simply record to listen back to yourself, you may just have to put up with less quality. But realize that, although you can learn a lot by recording yourself, better recording quality takes better equipment (takes more $$$).

Kevin Bowman

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 RE: Extraneous Clicking
Author: Ken Shaw 
Date:   1999-09-13 21:18

Ben wrote:
In the past few days, I have been using tape recorders, so I can listen to my clarinet playing. One of the biggest problems I have with my sound is the attack. Every time I start a new phrase, or tounge a note, the reed creates a rough clicking sound. Strangly, I do not notice this very much while I play, but it sounds quite bad on recording.
Is there any way to reduce this clicking? Could it be my embouchure, tounging technique, reed, or mouthpiece? Any info or ideas are appreciated, the more the better

-Ben Legg

Ben -

It's hard to tell without hearing you, but I suspect that you're using too hard a tongue stroke. Are you anchor tonguing? (That is, are you tucking the tip of your tongue down behind your front teeth and holding it there while you strike the reed with the area behind the tip of your tongue?) Anchor tonguing produces a very hard stroke that can sound like a rough click.

If you're anchor tonguing, or if you're tonguing "tip-to-tip" (which is the preferred way) but just very hard, the best way is to do an exercise I learned from Bob Lowery, who was a top clinician a number of years ago.

Wrap your left and around the barrel and play an open G, at a firm mezzo forte. Lay your tongue along the bottom of your mouth, lapping slightly over your lower teeth, and raise the tip until it is just behind the tip of the reed. Then make a series of very soft "LA" movements with the tip of your tongue, **without** touching the reed. Do this until it feels comfortable. (You may find your mouth fills with saliva. Just swallow and carry on. You'll soon get over it.)

Then, take a good but not too deep breath and start the G again. Make the LA strokes, this time very gradually moving the tip of your tongue forward until it barely brushes against the tip of the reed. (This may tickle. Once again, you'll get over it quickly.) The sensation you want is that the tone and air never stop. The LA makes only a ripple on the surface of the continuing tone.

Continue this until you are confident about making only a tiny touch. Then, back off until you are just missing the reed, and move back, continuing until you are confident and familiar with how it feels and how to do it.

Once you can reliably make the lightest possible LA stroke, practice making it just a little bit more, so that it produces a very light, connected series of notes, with the tongue almost bouncing off the tip of the reed. Once again, the tone and breath should never stop.

Then move your hands back to the normal playing position and do the sequence again on the clarion G on top of the staff. When you get that comfortable, play a sequence of 8 repeated sixteenth notes at a comfortably fast tempo -- no faster than 120 per quarter note on the metronome.

Next, move a note lower, to the clarion F on the top line. Play 8 notes on F and then 8 on E. The goal is to put down your middle finger so lightly that there is no impact or vibration. Move back and forth between F and E until you feel comfortable.

Now go back to the G and work on the G to F interval. This is more difficult to do without vibration, since your right index finger has to push the ring key down.

Next, play a descending G major scale (remember the F#) down one octave, 8 repeated notes per step. Always keep the tone and breath going, with the lightest possible tongue -- lighter than you would ever play in performance -- so light a person listening would have to strain to hear it.

When, and only when, you're comfortable, reduce the number of repeated notes to 4, then to 2, and finally 1. There is no timetable for this. Keep at it until you get it right.

Then work up your various scales with this ultra-light tongue and no-vibration finger movements. Finally, move to arpeggios.


Two other things can also contribute to the problem: movement of the jaw or throat along with the tongue, and blowing a puff of air on each articulation. Look at your jaw and throat in a mirror as you play, and put your free hand on your belly to make sure you're not varying your air stream. Both of these problems should be solved by thinking of the tone as constant, and being stopped very briefly by the tongue.

By the way -- you will also have weaned yourself from anchor tonguing (if you had been doing it before).

You will of course be called on to do "hard" articulations from time to time. But you already know how to do that.

Best regards.

Ken Shaw

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 RE: Extraneous Clicking
Author: Hiroshi 
Date:   1999-09-14 00:33

There is a good gear to properly record wind or brass instrument called Sound Back unless you have a real problem to 'attack' in stead of 'release' as STuart suggested.

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 RE: Extraneous Clicking- for Ben
Author: Rick2 
Date:   1999-09-14 04:44

BEn, if your keys are clicking too much, then you need to investigate. Anywhere that metal could touch wood (or resonite)or another key, there should be cork attached to the key. The other place that makes a lot of noise is the keywork for the left hand full tube notes. There are pegs that go into the right hand keys, and if they are loose at all, you will be rattling all over the place. If that is the problem, one trick is to wrap a little bit of pad cleaning paper over the peg before you isert it into the hole. That tightens up the hole and also prevents metal on metal contact. I don't know how much of a problem that is on your clarinet but mine is 40 years old and is a relatively loose fit, so I need the paper.

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 RE: Extraneous Clicking
Author: Jim Carabetta 
Date:   1999-09-14 12:24

I think the secret may be a combination of Ken and Kevin's post.

The difficulty in recording the clarinet, since the sound doesn't necessarily come out the bell, forces you to record along the fingering areas, picking up the inevitable clack; and determining whether the noise is tongue-related or mechanical.

Play an open G and tongue it, slowly, rapidly, then change to another tone like b-flat or A, which doesn't require a lot of finger motion along the fingerboards - if you still get the clack, it's most likely your tonguing technique; in not, finger the horn without blowing - try to determine whether the noise comes from, and make the necessary repair/adjustment/etc.

Getting good recording equipment is also pretty "sound" advice. And put one of those foam windscreens on it.

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 RE: Extraneous Clicking
Author: Ben 
Date:   1999-09-14 18:00

The help has been great. It seems I was tounging too hard. (I must have developed some bad habits this summer). I've removed most the click from over-tounging, but what remains is a puffing sound, sort of a ghosted note before each phrase or articulated note.
I think that I'm doing ok when it comes to stopping a note. My problem is that I don't know how to take my tongue off of the reed properly. I can't seem to start a new note without some undesired noises (either clicking or puffing).
I'd like to work on Ken's suggestions, but I must admit that I don't know what a LA motion should be. I'm not very good at that sort of thing. I also wonder about tounging on the tip of the reed, because that causes the reed to emmit the most clicking sound.
I should also admit that my recording equipment is fairly pathetic, but I'm just using it to improve my playing, not to make any permanent recordings.

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 RE: Extraneous Clicking
Author: Ken Shaw 
Date:   1999-09-14 21:05

Ben wrote -
... I can't seem to start a new note without some undesired noises (either clicking or puffing).

I'd like to work on Ken's suggestions, but I must admit that I don't know what a LA motion should be....

Ben -

The easy one first. The LA motion is what you do when you sing the syllable "LA." Try "Tra La La." The second and third syllables will be what you want, except as light as possible. The tip of your tongue brushes against the ridge behind your upper teeth.

Now the hard one. If you get a puff or other change in the breath when you start a note, you are 99% certain to be performing a complex series of muscle movements called the Valsalva maneuver, in which the abdominal muscles contract and push down. Everyone is familiar with it and knows how to do it. It’s the movement we make in defecating. (It’s also the movement made by women in labor.) This is completely natural and nothing to be embarrassed about. However, the Valsalva maneuver is complicated and involves large muscles that are not entirely under voluntary control and move slowly. If you do the Valsalva maneuver each time you begin the sound, you get a large, slow and uncontrolled puff of air. This enormously complicates the process of articulation. Furthermore, because it’s so complex and so slow, it is fatal to both quickness and lightness in articulation.

A quick check is to put a hand on your belly and feel for any puffing movement.

The great expert on eliminating the Valsalva maneuver from wind instrument playing was the late Arnold Jacobs, who played tuba in the Chicago Symphony for 44 years. There are transcripts of his master classes at, and These are inspiring just to read, and a revelatory to use as part of a practice routine.

This one takes a lot of work, but repays every bit ten times over.

Ken Shaw

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 RE: Extraneous Clicking
Author: Rick2 
Date:   1999-09-15 04:34

Ben, try thinking of each note as ringing a bell where most of the sound comes out at the begining of the note.

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