Steps to Playing a Chromatic Scale on the Clarinet


Scales are an important part of the warm-up and of clarinet technique. Whether they are major, minor, or chromatic scales, they are an essential part of daily warmups and in achieving virtuosity through methodical practice. There are multiple benefits to mastering the chromatic scale. Chromatic scales are often used and performed in music, required for auditions that involve playing the full range of the instrument, and allow players to develop a deeper knowledge of the instrument. The following is a guide on how to play a chromatic scale:

What is a chromatic scale?

It is important to know what the chromatic scale comprises of and to how it works. A chromatic scale consists of consecutive half steps, can begin on any note, move to the following octave, and can be performed over multiple octaves. Become familiar with how sharps and flats are used in the chromatic scale. Typically, an ascending chromatic scale is written using sharps and flats are used when descending. The following is an example of the chromatic scale from ‘e1’ to ‘g3’:

Use good clarinet fingerings.

It is important to find good fingerings that are efficient and that use the least movement. Bad fingering choices often lead to clumsy technique. The chromatic scale can be a very difficult scale if you are not using logical fingerings that maximize technical proficiency. A fingering chart is useful because it provides multiple fingerings for different notes. These fingerings may vary according to the equipment that being used. Clarinet Fingering Chart:

Understand how the register system works.

The clarinet has a wide octave range that spans to nearly four octaves to the highest note ‘d4’. The register key located behind the top of the upper joint makes it possible for the clarinet to play twelfths when pressed. For instance, when playing the lowest note ‘e1’ on the clarinet, pressing the register key changes the note to ‘b2’. By understanding how the register system works, players are able to make better choices in their choice of fingerings.

Incorporate the chromatic scale to your daily warm-up.

Players who are new to the chromatic scale should start with one octave. When learning the chromatic scale for the first time, they should begin with the note on middle ‘c’ and move to the following octave. Once one octave is comfortable, players can gradually expand the range of the chromatic scale note by note, so that eventually they can play the chromatic scale from the extremes of the instrument.

Use a metronome and tuner.

In addition to incorporating the chromatic scale in daily warm-ups, it’s important to use a metronome and tuner, and to play slowly when first learning the scale. Chosen fingerings should not only be efficient, but in tune to achieve technical virtuosity. The Korg Chromatic Tuner and Metronome TM40 combines both functions. Experiment with different rhythmic patterns that include syncopated and dotted rhythms and increase the metronome speed gradually. This type of practice helps solidify technique while playing the chromatic scale. Recommendation: Korg Chromatic Tuner and Metronome TM40

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