Tell your clarinets this story about clarinet deodorant:
So, you know how when you’re a little kid, you don’t use deodorant. Then one day you realize that, um, how can I say this nicely.
So you tell your Mom, “Mom, I don’t want to stink.”
And your Mom says, “I have the solution! There’s this awesome tool called deodorant. If you use it every day, you won’t stink. If you forget and you don’t do it for a few days. You’ll start stinking again. Remember, if you do it every day you won’t stink.”
There’s something similar to this on clarinet. You are getting older, you’re a more mature clarinet player. It’s time. You need your clarinet deodorant.
Register studies are your clarinet deodorant.
They make you stink less.
Not that you stink now.
(Then wink/smile at the students.)
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This is what clarinet register studies look like:
Register studies are important for many reasons.
Correct Tongue Position: This is the closest you can get to seeing ‘inside’ a student’s mouth. Having a high tongue position is critical to playing with a good tone and in tune. We can check this on mouthpiece and barrel on younger students, but after the first few months of beginning band you don’t want to have to take off mouthpiece and barrel. Partly because it takes time, but partly because students tend to “fix” their embouchure on mouthpiece and barrel, and then return to bad habits when they put the instrument together. With intermediate players, you want to have them playing with the instrument fully assembled and check their tongue position. Register studies allow you to do that. If a student’s tongue is too low, they won’t be able to get out the altissimo notes, especially at the top of the clarinet range.
Correct embouchure (especially with regard to firmness): If a student doesn’t have the correct embouchure (flat chin, corners forward, correct amount bottom lip etc.) the high notes may not come out. If they are biting or not taking enough mouthpiece, the high notes may not come out. If they are flabby or not anchored on the mouthpiece, the high notes may not come out.
Improve smoothness between registers: These exercises ensure that not only is a student playing all 3 registers (chalumeau, clarion, and altissimo), but they are slurring smoothly between all 3. This helps them control the altissimo and compare the tone of all 3 registers. It also helps them improve the motion of the left thumb as it adds the register key, and the 1st finger as it either lifts or rolls off the 1st hole. (The benefits of lifting/rolling can be discussed in another post. For now, just getting the kids playing register studies is 90% of the battle.)
If the high notes come out but they’re flat, correct the same things as if they aren’t coming out. It is probably a more subtle version of one of these:
- bring tongue higher/more forward- think eee or hee
- take more mouthpiece (if it squeaks, it’s too much)
- point chin down
- corners forward
For more information, listen to this podcast on Tone/Tuning for intermediate players.
When should clarinets start register studies?
I start my beginners on “beginner registers” around November, “baby registers” around February, and real register studies (pictured above) about March.
Here are examples of beginning band registers and baby registers:
When I start them on real register studies I start with just A/E/C# and add a new one each week or so – after I go down the row and be sure most of them are having success. In beginning band they should play all 3 notes loudly – lots of air.
Review register studies in September each year and be sure students are playing them daily (similar to brass lip slurs). Encourage them to play them at home to listen for their individual response and tone which can’t be heard in a large group.
As they get more advanced (3rd year) they should start to try to play f-mf-mp on the 3 notes. This helps them develop control of the altissimo register. As the clarinet players become proficient at playing them and moving smoothly between registers, they should start to sound nice! That’s the goal.
– A resonant rich chalumeau (fortissimo)
– A focused, in-tune clarion (mezzo forte)
– A light, responsive altissimo (piano)
When should clarinets stop register studies?
Never! I played them every day through college and still play them daily. I tell my students if I could choose 1 thing for them to play daily it would be register studies. (If I could pick 2 it would be register studies and the chromatic scale.)
If you’d like more information about my intermediate (2nd year) warmup, subscribe to the CrossingTheBreak podcast on iTunes (free) or keep watching this website. The warm-up episode is coming out in 1 week and there will be a free copy of the full warm-up in the show notes.
For more information on increasing clarinet range, listen to this podcast.
How do you find time to hear clarinet register studies every day?
They only take about 40 seconds.
Obviously, you’ll want to work on them in your sectional/small group/private lesson time. But I also feel they are important enough to add into your band warm-up. I realize they don’t fit in well with most band warm-ups and get in the way of “ensemble skills,” but to me, it’s still worth it.
You can have them play it with brass as brass play a lip slur (the kids are remarkably unbothered by the sound. Really, the directors are the ones that have to grin and bear it.
You can also have them alternate with brass lip slurs. The brass play a 2 measure lip slur while the clarinets rest, and then the clarinets play a 2 measure register study (and possibly flutes play octave slurs) while the brass rest.
Those 40 seconds will be worth it to you when 3 weeks before contest your clarinets have good sounds and good tuning.
Here’s to clarinets that don’t stink!
CLARINET PODCAST & RESOURCE WEBSITE
A 1999 music education graduate of WTAMU, Tamarie Sayger held band director positions in Plano and Odessa, TX for 5 years. As a private clarinet instructor in Texas for 16 years, she has taught hundreds of students from grade 6-12 in classes, sectionals, and individual lessons. Mrs. Sayger has presented at district in-services and co-presented at the Texas Bandmasters Association convention. Her website, CrossingTheBreak.com, provides resources for clarinet teachers around the country. Her podcast, Crossing The Break, can be found on iTunes.
Other articles that may interest you:
Why My Beginning Clarinets Only Need 1/2 Their Instruments the First 6 Weeks of School
4 Clarinet Hacks – Better Clarinets in 30 Seconds