Altissimo Fingerings (Fingering Chart Image)

Altissimo Fingerings (Fingering Chart Image)

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Playing altissimo on the bass clarinet

This one isn’t so tough actually. First off, you need a good setup – no leaky pads, a decent mouthpiece. That sort of thing.

The rest is — you guessed it — practice. The key is VOICING. What’s voicing? It’s how you form the inside of your mouth (in particular your tongue) when you’re playing any note. THe voicing is slightly different for every note on the bass clarinet (and the clarinet for that matter).

So, let me give you an exercise. First off, you won’t be playing altissimo for a while here.

Play a high C (two lines above the staff), normally, then while playing, remove the register key and still hold that high C without letting it drop to an F. Hold it as long as you have air. Repeat. Notice where your tongue is inside your mouth. Notice how your throat feels. This is the proper voicing for that note.

Then try to play that C, this time without the register key. If you use the same (correct) voicing, then you should be able to pop that high C right out.

Now, do the same thing down a 1/2 step with a B. Repeat all the way down to G. As you get lower, it will become increasingly difficult to hold the partial without dropping down the 12th. That’s okay.

Now, back up to high C. Do it one more time.

Moving into the altissimo. Play a high C#, but with no 1/2 hole. It might be a little flat, but that’s okay too. You’re actually fingering a low A, just playing up two registers. Now, again, release the register key and hold that C#. Do this a couple of times. Move upwards to F. Don’t use the 1/2 hole, and don’t use the Ab/Eb vent key either. You want the “fundamental” fingering.

After doing this for a good 20 minutes, you’ll be bored. So quit. Do it again tomorrow.

The key to this is repetition. You want to train your mouth — your tongue and your throat — to automatically move to the correct voicing for whatever note you are playing. That way, not only will you be able to play high on the Instrument, but you’ll also be able to tongue those pesky notes right before the break (think “On the trail” from Grand Canyon Suite) without worrying about grunting or chirping.

Remember: there are no squeaks, only wrong voicings. That’s my motto.


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