Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
 

Author Topic: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?  (Read 400 times)

Offline LarryS

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 526
  • I'm getting there...
    • View Profile
    • My Music Tree
Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« on: December 14, 2020, 12:12:48 PM »
I can play at a low volume but I then get a lot of air in the tone. Is it just a matter of getting a really tight embouchure, and does that come with time?
You don't stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing.
My music blog:
The Music Tree


Clarinet Pages are go!

Offline Dibbs

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 147
    • View Profile
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2020, 02:22:54 PM »
You could try a slightly softer reed.  I wouldn't say tight but you do need a firm embouchure.  And it really should be embouchure rather than increased jaw pressure - no biting.   Abdominal support, blowing from low down,  is very important.  You actually need to make just as much effort to play quietly as to play loudly. 

It's hard to explain what support is and many, many confusing words have been written about it.  I'll just leave you with the rather crude but unforgettable advice a professional trumpet player gave me when I was a kid - "It's a bit like forcing out a shit". 
« Last Edit: December 14, 2020, 02:26:43 PM by Dibbs »

Offline Dibbs

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 147
    • View Profile
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2020, 03:44:01 PM »
And the air noise sounds worse to you than it does a couple of yards away.

Offline LarryS

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 526
  • I'm getting there...
    • View Profile
    • My Music Tree
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2020, 12:13:05 AM »
Thanks. I'm aware of air support thanks to my learning of recorder with Sarah Jeffery's videos.
I have one reed, a Legere 2.5, and an Rico cane reed, same equivalent strength.
You don't stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing.
My music blog:
The Music Tree


Clarinet Pages are go!

Offline modernicus

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 421
    • View Profile
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2020, 08:43:00 PM »
I've found playing from playing a hard reed on a really resistant setup and trying to minimize fuzziness, especially at low volumes and on lower notes, of course you start with a foundation of breath support, but I find if I concentrate on pulling not only my lips at the corners to form a supported embouchure, but farther back onto my cheeks to create a better "tunnel" to focus the air, it really helps. I have no idea if this is correct playing or not, but it works for me, so frankly, I don't care.  FWIW, I heard myself playing on a recording the other day and it sounded great- I was even surprised.  If I was any good at anything else on the clarinet, I'd be really happy!
« Last Edit: December 16, 2020, 10:05:29 AM by modernicus »
If you ain't got 'em, that's why you need 'em...

Offline windydankoff

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 368
  • Put a BLACK • HOLE in YOUR galaxy!
    • View Profile
    • Black Hole Clarinets
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2020, 09:58:54 AM »
I like everyone's advice here, especially the trumpet player's.

On my Bb and C clarinets, I use a soft reed on a low-resistance (large bore) instruments. I have no trouble playing softly with a soft embouchure. My G clarinet has a greater resistance with a small bore. To play softly, I must tighten my embouchure much more. EITHER WAY works. The trick is coordination of lips to breath. Standard lesson books advise playing long tones from soft to loud to soft. That helps teach you to synchronize your embouchure to your varying diaphragm pressure. If you can keep the PITCH constant, you got it right and the tone will take care of itself.
Windy at BLACK • HOLE Clarinets
"User-Friendly" clarinets in Bb and C
http://www.windydankoff.com/black-hole-clarinets.html

Offline LarryS

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 526
  • I'm getting there...
    • View Profile
    • My Music Tree
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2020, 03:35:53 PM »
Someone in a Facebook group suggested playing with fast but controlled air. If you play with slow air, which is the natural instinct to do, you get a lot of air because the pressure drops.
You don't stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing.
My music blog:
The Music Tree


Clarinet Pages are go!

Offline Dibbs

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 147
    • View Profile
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2020, 02:25:04 PM »
Oh no!  Not the fast and slow air thing.  If it works for you fair enough but it's never made much sense to me.

Here's how I see it.

Support is about maintaining and controlling the air flow regardless of what happens downstream.  i.e. variations in resistance from the instrument (including embouchure) do not affect number of cm3 of air pushed though the instrument per second and you have control over that flow rate.  It's like a low impedance source driving a high impedance load in electronics.

For a given flow rate, the speed of the air depends on the the size of the aperture it moves through.  Presumably the fast/slow air people are talking about the speed it passes through the tip opening of the mouthpiece (I may be wrong. I don't really understand this concept).  So, if you want it to go faster you can either make that opening smaller or push more air through.  So which?  Pushing more air through the same aperture will result in an increase in (sound) volume so the only option is to reduce the aperture.  That'll make the note go sharp so you'd have to compensate with voicing. 

Earlier, I said that you need to work just as hard to play quietly as to play loudly.  Are the fast/slow air people saying the same but in a
 (to me) weird way perhaps?

Some people talk about hot and cold air.  That really is a mystery. I have no control of the temperature of the air coming out of my mouth.

I don't really mean to have a go at fast/slow - hot/cold air proponents.  It's just that they make no sense to me personally.  If these metaphors work for you then that's good, but I think they have little grounding in physical reality. 

Offline LarryS

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 526
  • I'm getting there...
    • View Profile
    • My Music Tree
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2020, 03:16:07 PM »
Re warm v cold air. This is a piece of advice I use for recorder players. Recorder needs to be played with slow, warm air, and I say to people blow on the back of your hand. If it feels cold then you're blowing too fast for the bottom notes. If if it feels warm then you're on the right track.
You don't stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing.
My music blog:
The Music Tree


Clarinet Pages are go!

Offline TMHeimer

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 59
  • Newbie!
    • View Profile
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2020, 02:34:14 PM »
I admit I have never gotten seriously into the factors present to produce the sound.
I play on a Vandoren 5RV mouthpiece using Vandoren 2.5 reeds and have no problems loud or soft.
Of course, it is said that playing softly is more difficult, so I presume having a good reed makes it easier.
When you speak of airy sound playing softly what do you mean exactly? I assume you aren't talking about air escaping from the sides of your mouth.
The Most Advanced Clarinet Book
tomheimer.ampbk.com/
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
(click on the book image then on PDF for samples)
"Boreal Ballad" for unacc. clarinet solo (advanced)--available at
Sheet Music Plus

Offline LarryS

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 526
  • I'm getting there...
    • View Profile
    • My Music Tree
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2020, 03:09:51 PM »
I admit I have never gotten seriously into the factors present to produce the sound.
I play on a Vandoren 5RV mouthpiece using Vandoren 2.5 reeds and have no problems loud or soft.
Of course, it is said that playing softly is more difficult, so I presume having a good reed makes it easier.
When you speak of airy sound playing softly what do you mean exactly? I assume you aren't talking about air escaping from the sides of your mouth.
Well its kind of like air going into the instrument, but less of it coming out as sound. Its like sound with air as accompaniment.
You don't stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing.
My music blog:
The Music Tree


Clarinet Pages are go!

Offline TMHeimer

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 59
  • Newbie!
    • View Profile
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2020, 02:20:48 PM »
In trying to think of what you mean, I may have had something similar with the first Legere reed I bought. It was a 2.5. The sound wasn't very good, maybe "airy"? I was advised to get one that is 1/2 strength softer than the wood reeds I use, so I got a Legere 2. This works well for sound (well, as good as a plastic reed can I guess). That may be something to consider, or maybe trying various wood reeds/strengths.
The Most Advanced Clarinet Book
tomheimer.ampbk.com/
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
(click on the book image then on PDF for samples)
"Boreal Ballad" for unacc. clarinet solo (advanced)--available at
Sheet Music Plus

Offline modernicus

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 421
    • View Profile
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2020, 04:18:01 PM »
In trying to think of what you mean, I may have had something similar with the first Legere reed I bought. It was a 2.5. The sound wasn't very good, maybe "airy"? I was advised to get one that is 1/2 strength softer than the wood reeds I use, so I got a Legere 2. This works well for sound (well, as good as a plastic reed can I guess). That may be something to consider, or maybe trying various wood reeds/strengths.
Yes, I think you've got the idea!  The other components of the clarinet, like the design of the mouthpiece make a big difference in this as well as the resistance of the clarinet itself in determining how easy it is to play quietly, in my opinion- especially without sounding fuzzy/airy.   I play a lot on a Vandoren 3.5 traditional reed mounted to Selmer HS* oval table and early 90s Yamaha CS Bb clarinet.  The reeds are very hard, and this setup is resistant at every component and physically demanding to play- honestly it isn't a lot of fun, but it's easier to get a sound like what I hear from the pros in recordings.  It takes almost max effort and concentration at every moment, otherwise you get a very airy and lackluster sound, especially at lower volumes on, say the throat notes, etc...Again, if I was any good, it would be bragging, but technically I suck.  What I really have fun playing in a setup is a well broken in Vandoren 3 or maybe even softer, on an old G. Langenus mouthpiece I have, and my 1st Eric Petterson clarinet.  It has a big bore and very small flare at the bottom (apparently has a counterintuitive effect), and practically plays itself by comparison- at any volume.  In this type of setup, you've got to focus more on breathe CONTROL, rather than the physical effort of blowing, focusing the air, etc... to control dynamics and sound.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2020, 04:47:05 PM by modernicus »
If you ain't got 'em, that's why you need 'em...

Offline LarryS

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 526
  • I'm getting there...
    • View Profile
    • My Music Tree
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2020, 07:06:34 AM »
Clarinet is often not a joy to play. It often feels like trying to force water out of a long garden hose.
You don't stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing.
My music blog:
The Music Tree


Clarinet Pages are go!

Offline Airflyte

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 842
  • CONNoisseur of Vintage Ebonite
    • View Profile
Re: Is there a trick to playing quietly ?
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2020, 08:13:24 AM »
Clarinet is often not a joy to play. It often feels like trying to force water out of a long garden hose.

Air should flow right out of the horn. Is your clarinet in top playing condition?

A good reed is joy to play.

"The Clarinet - in a class of its own"

Visit Phil Pedler's Clarinet Pages NEW website!
https://sites.google.com/clarinetpages.net/clarinetpages