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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.

Reply To Message
 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.

STEUER REEDS Importer played by Sabine Meyer

NEWLY DESIGNED "Vintage 1940 Cicero" Mouthpieces

Yamaha Artist

Reply To Message
 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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