Paul's Party Blog

Tips On Curing 'Breathy' Tone When Playing Your Buffet Clarinet

A Buffet clarinet R13 is a perfect choice for a beginner horn player.  However, you can sometimes experience problems when the tone of the notes you produce sound 'airy' or 'breathy', robbing your playing of quality and richness.  So, what causes this effect and how can you correct it?  Read on for some top tips on correcting a 'breathy' sounding tone.

'Breathy' tone

There are many possible causes of an airy or breathy tone.  Here are the main culprits, together with ways in which you can fix the problem.

  1. One factor that can cause major problems with the tone you produce is your choice of reed.  Synthetic reeds, although they last longer, can sometimes affect the quality of the tone your Buffet clarinet produces.  If you have been playing with a synthetic reed, try changing to a cane reed with a strength rating of 2.0.  Ask your Buffet clarinet retailer for more information and advice on choosing reeds.  
  2. Another potential cause of problems with tone can be a 'dead' reed, i.e. one that has been used for too long and is becoming worn out.  A new reed could be all that's required to solve the problem.  
  3. Check the fit of your reed; it's important that the reed is aligned correctly with the tip of the clarinet's mouthpiece.  If the reed is set too low or too high, it can influence the tone you produce, and can also demand more effort when it comes to blowing into the instrument.  
  4. In order to maintain a crisp, clear tone on your Buffet clarinet, you must maintain a tight embouchure.  If your embouchure is too loose, you may find that the tone you produce has a breathy, airy sound.  A common problem that affects beginners' tone is overplaying.  Until the muscles around your lips and mouth become accustomed to your embouchure, they will tire quickly, affecting your tone.  Try playing for short periods of time regularly, instead of going for long stints infrequently.  
  5. Finally, make sure that you are fully covering the holes in your instrument as you play, whilst not inadvertently allowing any of the side keys to come open.

In conclusion

The above are some of the most common causes of overly breathy or airy tone when playing your Buffet clarinet.  If you are a newbie to the instrument and you are teaching yourself to play, it may be worth investing in a few lessons to help you to hone your technique.  Have a chat with your clarinet supplier who may be able to recommend a good clarinet teacher.