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 C# key
Author: Tim T 
Date:   1999-08-05 14:41

I am having trouble hitting this consistently, Either I hit other keys with my pinky, or I do not cover the third hole on the first section. Either way I get the dreaded squeek.
Can I bend the C# key, or do something different with my fingers.

I have the most problem going from A or B-flat to C#.

Any help would be appreciated.

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 RE: C# key
Author: Ken Shaw 
Date:   1999-08-05 16:55

Tim T wrote:
I am having trouble hitting this consistently, Either I hit other keys with my pinky, or I do not cover the third hole on the first section. Either way I get the dreaded squeek.
Can I bend the C# key, or do something different with my fingers.

I have the most problem going from A or B-flat to C#.

Any help would be appreciated.

Tim -

I assume you're in your first year or so of playing. The problem will disappear with time and practice - just keep at it.

It's possible to bend the key, but I would go to a repair shop to have it done, particularly if you have an Artley or other clarinet made in China, on which the keys are easy to break.

Check the position of the left little finger keys by comparing your instrument with others. If the C# key is in its normal position, the same as on the other clarinets, you should probably adapt to it rather than bending the key.

You may have a problem with your left hand being rotated clockwise, so that your left index finger knuckle wraps around the Ab key. If so, you need to bring your hand back to a straighter position, so that your ring finger and little finger have less of a stretch.

Dee made an excellent suggestion a few months back. Set your left hand position from bottom to top, rather than top to bottom. That is, start with the little finger on one of the keys, and then put down your ring finger, adjusting your wrist position so that your forearm and the top of your hand make a straight line. Then add your middle finger, index finger and thumb. This will feel odd at first, but you will adapt quickly.

Try to keep your left ring finger close to the hole, so that it knows "by radar" exactly where to go. Your little finger can't do that, since it has to take care of four keys, but once again, you need to do this with as little movement as possible, and get your muscles to memorize exactly where each of those four positions is.

It's easier said than done, but you have to learn not to press down hard on the ring finger hole or the little finger keys. Play a C, first ledger line below the staff, and hold it for a few seconds. If you can then see a definite imprint on your left ring finger tip, you're pressing too hard. Back off until you learn exactly how little pressure you can use without causing a leak. Then practice using the minimum force. Fairly quickly, you will become aware of the fingertip in contact with the hole. (Try a couple of light swipes of sandpaper on your fingertip, like a safecracker, to increase the sensitivity.) You will then come to depend on that feeling of contact, rather than high pressure.

Along with not pressing on the hole, it's very important to not bang your fingers down. It's easy to jab at the C# key with your little finger. This wastes motion and energy, and also, as you have found out, tends to jar your hand and pull your other fingers around on their keys.

Practice going from C to C# and back, moving the little finger down and up as slowly as possible, so that you get an intermediate smear. Then gradually speed it up, so that it is just quick enough for a smooth transition, using as little pressure as possible.

Then practice going from B to C# and back, once again starting so slowly that there is an intermediate tone, and gradually speeding up until the transition is smooth. Always keep the finger movements small, the finger speed slow and the finger pressure light.

Try doing this in front of a mirror, so you can watch for wasted finger movement.

You won't master this in a few minutes, or even a few days, but after a week or so, you should have the problem licked.

So - go home and practice. Then come back and tell us how you're doing. The clarinet world is waiting for you.

Ken Shaw

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 RE: C# key
Author: Don Berger 
Date:   1999-08-05 17:52

Since no one has yet responded, I'll try. Its quite possible that your C# [presume its at the bottom of the staff?]is poorly adjusted, at least for your hands-fingers. Yes, you might be able to bend it safely, but I'm sure all of us pro or am repairpersons would suggest taking it to a competent shop or teacher so as to do it right [for you] and not get into a breakage or interference problem. Re: mp's and reeds, I suggest you read the many posts on the BB, and consult the many good books with clarinet in the title, such as by Brymer, Pino, Stein, Lawson, Baines, Rendall etc, in a good library or Amazon.com. Good luck, Don

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 RE: C# key
Author: Don Berger 
Date:   1999-08-05 17:57

Excellent advice, Ken, didn't know you had posted!

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 RE: C# key
Author: Kevin Bowman 
Date:   1999-08-05 21:02

I'll re-iterate one point that Ken made, just because I think it is an important one:

Practice in front of a mirror.

Most students don't know that they are moving their fingers in strange ways (causeing squeaks and such) until they look at how they are positioning them in front of a mirror. Pianists can see their fingers in front of them, clarinetists can't - so the mirror is indispensible. Even after 25+ years of working on my clarinet technique, I keep a mirror on my stand so I can quickly check finger movement and (most importantly) embouchure. Even after you develop good muscle memory in you fingers and embouchure, it's easy to develop bad habits unless you constantly inspect and correct your movements. Even professional ballet dancers practice in front of a mirror.

Also, I'd like to second Ken's advice of slow practice. Slow repetitions, if done correctly, improve muscle memory. Don't just practive slowly because it's easier - put as much concentration into the task as possible. When you play slowly, aim for perfection in the smallest details. For example, one interval I find myself spending a LOT of time on is top space G# to A# a whole step higher. This is a difficult interval to play evenly as it involves the LH pinky (probably my weakest finger) and involves trading keys between two hands - plus the pinky and ring finger often don't like to operate very well in tandem. So I practice this interval, both rising and falling, VERY slowly and listen for a seamless transition between the two notes - no intermediate notes, no stuffy tone. I concentrate on getting the fingers to move at the right time. The slower you go, the more you realize that you're also trying to overcome "harware" problems, too (because the RH trill key want to open faster than the LH G# key closes) so I am also incorporating my particular instrument in my muscle memory training.

Hmmm ... guess I got a bit long-winded there - sorry.
In summary:
1) use a mirror
2) practice slowly
3) be a perfectionist

good luck, and have fun.

Kevin Bowman
Clarinet and Saxophone Instructor,
Rochester Conservatory of Music, Rochester, MI
Saxophones, Clarinet and Keys,
B-Side Blues Project (www.bsideblues.com)

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 RE: C# key
Author: Rick2 
Date:   1999-08-06 04:57

A good exercise for both pinky fingers is simply to slurgoing from key to key in a circular motion four or five times around, then switch directions for four or five cycles, then change hands and repeat.

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 RE: C# key
Author: Jim Carabetta 
Date:   1999-08-06 14:01

Practicing in front of a mirror is indispensable! I have a full length mirror set up in my lesson room, and one in my own practice area.

Practice the tones at the "break" using throat B-flat, R-pinky B-nat, L-pinky C, R-pinky C#, D, L-pinky C#, R-pinky C, L-pinky B-nat, and then throat B-flat. Then repeat the section but start with L-B-nat, alternating pinkys up, and then back down, in reverse pinky order.. all in front of a mirror of course. As an aside, in evaluating my own style, I find that I "rest" my L-pinky on the B-nat key; ever so lightly, without pressing that key, I can feel the key, and my little finger is orientated that way.

I find that chunks of the chromatic scale work best to start off with, to develop "muscle memory". Then take that troublesome fingering (C# in this case) and go from every tone on the horn to that C#, aiming for what Kevin called a "seamless" transition. Lo E,C#,Lo F,C#, etc., up the chromatic scale.

For finger positioning, and to help curb the "fly-away" fingers, take 2 lyres; instead of using the middle joint, put one on the barrel joint and one on the bell joint. Run a long piece of scotchtape between the posts over the holes a few inches above their surface. The object is to play and keep your fingers under the tape. It's a Rube Goldberg method, but it's effective in illustrating the need to control finger motion.

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