There are a number of reasons why your clarinet might squeak, and it almost always seems to happen at the most inconvenient time. Whether it’s in the middle of a really important clarinet solo, your senior year recital, or even just in your own individual practice, clarinet squeaks can distract you and your audience members from your performance. Here are several remedies to prevent your clarinet from squeaking.
Instrument condition. If your clarinet’s pads are not properly sealing or if its keys are out of alignment, the chances of it squeaking are greater.
Remedy: Make sure you schedule an appointment with a professional woodwind technician every six months, or whenever you notice something’s not feeling right, to ensure that your instrument is in proper playing condition.
Reeds. Make sure that your reeds are in good condition and that they are not chipped or cracked. Damaged reeds are a leading cause of clarinet squeaks. A balanced reed is important to make sure that it vibrates evenly and doesn’t squeak. To know if you have a balanced reed, check that the “V” shape on the reed is even by holding it up to the light to see if each side is shaped the same. Also, if you hit the reed too hard with your tongue, it can produce a squeak. Finally, playing on dry reeds or with incorrect reed or ligature placement on your mouthpiece can also lead to squeaking.
Remedy: Try a variety of different brands of reeds to see what works best for you, and don’t play on cracked or chipped reeds. Make sure to keep your reeds moistened and place the reed and ligature on your mouthpiece correctly.
Hand Position. If you or a student have a difficult time covering the tone holes of the clarinet, it can cause squeaking. Be sure to practice and teach proper hand position, especially early on with young students, so that they do not develop bad habits. If your younger students have fine fingers or small hands (or both), it can be especially difficult for them to cover the tone holes.
Remedy: Have your students purchase a neck strap to alleviate some of the instrument’s weight from the arms. If their hands are still too small or their fingers too thin, you can try starting them on a smaller clarinet like the Kinder-Klari or a ‘C’ Clarinet.
Embouchure. An incorrect clarinet embouchure can also be the cause of squeaks. Check to see how much of mouthpiece you’re using. If you take too much mouthpiece, you won’t be able to maintain enough control over the reed’s vibrations, causing squeaks. However, you don’t take enough mouthpiece, the reed won’t be able to vibrate as it should.
Remedy: Try different mouthpieces that work with your style of playing and try to find a reed brand that complements its facing.
Air Flow. Incorrect airflow can cause unwanted squeaking. Your younger students may tend to use “loud” air, which can cause loud squeaks. When working with younger students, be sure to correct this early on by explaining the difference between “loud” air and “fast” air.
Remedy: Take private lessons with a qualified professional to help you learn the proper techniques for playing clarinet, and practice consistently.
Playing Experience. If you have not been playing for that long, you will probably squeak, as you are still learning how to develop proper technique.
Remedy: Keep practicing ☺