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 Grunting (undertoning) in the lower clarion
Author: Micke Isotalo 2017
Date:   2018-02-12 13:00

What could cause grunting (when two tones are sounding at the same time, the actual tone and also a lower one) only on B4 (middle line B), not any other tone? None of the four lowest pads are leaking.

I adjusted the register key to a somewhat smaller opening between the pad and its tone hole, and it seemed to help, but I'm not sure if this was a complete fix. As I've understood previously, a too wide opening of the register key may cause grunting in the upper clarion, but not primarily in the lower clarion - or exclusively on the B4. Thus I'm a bit puzzled.

Any ideas about the cause or a fix?

The above concerns a well used but recently overhauled student clarinet, an older plastic body Yamaha.

I would also like to ask about another grunting problem, on a professional level clarinet that I had for trial a while ago. On this clarinet, the grunting was mostly on e5 and the notes around it (from c#5 to g5, but mostly on d#5, e5 and f#5). It appeared primarily when tonguing (either single or double), but sometimes also when playing legato. Also in leaps from the third register down to the second register, but sometimes also when leaping from the second to the first register (then occurring on notes around low a).

This latter clarinet had a very wide bore, measuring 15,95 mm at the upper end of the upper joint and 15,25 mm at the lower end, but I don't know if this had anything to do with the grunting.

The problem was the same with two different mouthpieces, a Maxton HH1 and a PlayEasy A'.

Any ideas about a cause or fix also in this latter case?

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 Re: Grunting (undertoning) in the lower clarion
Author: Brad Behn 
Date:   2018-02-12 19:03

Regarding grunting and the INSTRUMENT:
1. Check to make sure you have a good seal. No leaky pads please.
2. Upper LH notes (especially on A clarinet) are notorious offenders. A register tube which has been slightly shortened can help, or even better, use the standard pad but reduce internal volume by placing the head of a thumbtack on your "cork" register key's pad in such a way as to let it protrude inside the tube. (note: a tack with too great a volume displacement will lower pitch of your throat Bb to much, and make an airy/stuffy sound on Bb and long B).
3. Tonehole voicing can help improve response, but this is best left for an highly experienced clarinet acoustician. Slight undercutting, and pad-height (regulation) adjustments, and pad beveling (chamfering) can allow for improved airflow and aid in both response, and pitch.

Regarding grunting and the PLAYER:
1. Make sure to properly voice your embouchure in such a way as to achieve OPTIMUM reed vibration. In America we teach a firm embouchure with an "Ee" vowel shape inside our mouths, and with fast wind.
2. Supported wind is most essential.
3. My teacher Robert Marcellus instructed a "firm upper lip" to aid in control and grunt issues. Of course the upper lip has nothing to do with the "contact patch" - where the tire meets the road - so-to-speak, however the lower lip moves sympathetically in this scenario - firming up, creating a more efficient reed vibration, and better platform for control and subtle lip pressure where nuance is essential.
4. IMPORTANT - voice your playing so the sound is focusing as far forward in your mouth (feeling).

Grunting and the reed:
1. Make sure the reed is vibrant and lively.
2. Make sure the reed isn't too light or too firm.
3. Make sure the cane of your reed allows full and natural blow through with good zing. A reed that is dull sounding lacks sufficient vibrational integrity for optimum response.

Grunting and the mouthpiece:
1. IMPORTANT - make sure your mouthpiece properly focuses the sound. It should be centered, resonant, and focus as far forward in mouth as possible (feeling)
2. To that point - make sure your mouthpiece's facing isn't too long (curve too flat) for your selected reed shape and strength. If too long, it can focus the sound too far down in your throat, making it difficult to shape your sound, and keep the grunt OUT.
3. To the above points - make sure your mouthpiece properly focuses the sound to an "Euh" vowel sound. If it sounds more "Ah", then you are getting the sound focus too far down your throat.

Brad Behn

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 Re: Grunting (undertoning) in the lower clarion
Author: Tobin 
Date:   2018-02-12 20:05

Wow, that’s a comprehensive hit-list Brad. Thank you!


Gnothi Seauton

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 Re: Grunting (undertoning) in the lower clarion
Author: Micke Isotalo 2017
Date:   2018-02-12 22:58

Brad, thank you very much also from me for your most extensive answer. Concerning the two mouthpieces they both were actually with a long Viennese facing, but also with Viennese cut reeds. The PlayEasy A' is my own, but I've not had any issues with grunting on other clarinets with it. Some of your other suggestions may however very well been the cause, such as a possible leak that I should have tested but didn't, or perhaps tone hole voicing.

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 Re: Grunting (undertoning) in the lower clarion
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2018-02-15 10:02

Often forgotten with leaks are bad joint corks. Make sure all of the joints are tight and no wobbles, including the mouthpieces. A joint cork which is rotted out taped over and wobbles is just the same as a leaking pad. I generally change these once a year or so. I also think manufacturers are at fault with regards by making these cork joints too narrow and I often widen them by removing wood then recorking with wider cork. This helps prevent wobbles and promotes much tighter seals.

If this doesn't make sense email me for some pics.

Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces

Yamaha Artist 2015

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 Re: Grunting (undertoning) in the lower clarion
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2018-03-03 18:44

As for feeling 'voicing' inside your mouth, plug the bell with a handkerchief, finger the middle line "B", and learn to make bugle calls. It is done by changing the tongue position and can help you to learn how to move those muscles.

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 Re: Grunting (undertoning) in the upper notes
Author: crelias11 
Date:   2020-01-20 00:51

I get a clear sound on my new clarinet slurring but I get undertones from G and up when tonguing. I have tried everything and no clear start to those notes.I suspect my embouchure is not strong enough yet(not sure how long it will take) The new clarinet might need some minor tweaking. I go back in 3 weeks. My tongue is high so I suspect also it is the placement of the tongue on the reed or my bassoon tonguing is interfering. I am trying to find a good clarinet teacher. I play in ensembles at 2 colleges but so far neither clarinet professor has returned my request for lessons. I just need a couple to make sure my clarinet embouchure is correct and fix my tonguing. Fingers are back to the "good old days" as long as I am slurring. I am pushing air as hard as I can. The B45 and the D'Addario mouthpieces are the worst offenders. I use a 2 1/2 or 3 reed. I have all brands and haven't settled in on one I really like yet. I have watched many videos and read tons of material on the subject. Will it just take time?

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 Re: Grunting (undertoning) in the lower clarion
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2020-01-20 03:16

In case it's of any use:


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 Re: Grunting (undertoning) in the lower clarion
Author: crelias11 
Date:   2020-01-20 04:38

I read that already. The undertones are high G up to high C maybe D. I play mostly 3rd clarinet so I don't go much higher than high C. It only when I tongue.

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 Re: Grunting (undertoning) in the lower clarion
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2020-01-20 08:34

There may be too much force placed against the reed and this is causing the air to get overly disturbed. Tonguing is NOT hitting the reed! Tonguing is actually RELEASING the tongue from the reed. The only thing your tongue can do is STOP the reed from vibrating (no dynamics are involved whatsoever). So the point is to place your tongue lightly upon the tip of the reed to stop the vibrations (only as much force as required to dampen the sound). You reengage the sound by releasing the reed.

You can shorten the note by leaving the tongue on longer. Dynamics are of course the provenance of your air. The more you push, the louder your note, The less you push the softer the sound.

..............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Grunting (undertoning) in the lower clarion
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2020-01-20 18:40

>> I read that already. >>

I've not had to address this problem (the one about subtones in articulation, not the one the OP was talking about) as an adult. I remember being bothered by it at the age of around 12, and it seemed to go away of its own accord – mostly by my being bothered by it, I suppose:-)

But since I imagine you're a more aware player, here's how I might suggest USING my old post, as well as just reading it. (I've never had to do this myself, as I explained, so I'm guessing here.)

Since we can learn how to play grunts intentionally on sustained notes, and therefore get some experience of going between grunt and high register notes, I'd start by doing that. (It's to do with tongue position and, to some extent, embouchure.)

Then, playing the grunt strongly, interrupt the sound with your tongue, producing a sequence of staccato grunts. Do the same with the upper register note, making the action of your tongue as light and simple as possible. Keep going between them, noticing the results.

The idea is that (probably) your tongue is doing something extra that belongs in 'grunt-territory' when you try to articulate WITHOUT getting the grunt. You don't need to know intellectually exactly what – you just need to let your tongue (which works largely outside your awareness) associate your imagination of the result you want with what it needs to do in order to get it.

This move – playing INTENTIONALLY what you don't want as well as what you do want – I find useful in all sorts of context.


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