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How to play high notes on clarinet

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Playing high notes on the clarinet can be a challenge for many musicians, especially beginners. However, with proper technique, practice, and understanding of the instrument, anyone can develop the ability to produce clear and beautiful high notes. In this article, we will explore various techniques and tips that will help you improve your ability to play high notes on the clarinet.

Proper Embouchure

Embouchure Basics

The embouchure is the position and control of the lips, jaw, and facial muscles while playing the clarinet. To produce high notes effectively, it is crucial to maintain a firm and focused embouchure. Here are some key points to remember:

a. Lip Position:

Keep your lips firm and slightly rolled inward. This helps create a smaller aperture, enabling you to produce higher frequencies.

b. Jaw Placement:

Ensure that your jaw is relaxed but firm. Avoid clenching or tightening your jaw, as it can restrict airflow and affect your tone quality.

c. Facial Muscles:

Engage the muscles around your mouth and cheeks to provide support and stability. However, avoid excessive tension, as it can hinder flexibility and control.

Practicing Embouchure Control

To improve your embouchure control, you can try the following exercises:

a. Long Tones:

Start with low notes and gradually move to higher ones while sustaining each note. Focus on maintaining a steady and controlled sound throughout.

b. Lip Slurs:

Practice slurring between different notes, both within the same register and across registers. This exercise helps strengthen your embouchure muscles and improves flexibility.

Air Support and Technique

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Playing high notes requires excellent breath support. Diaphragmatic breathing allows you to maximize your lung capacity and control the airflow. Follow these steps to practice diaphragmatic breathing:

a. Stand tall or sit up straight, ensuring good posture.

b. Inhale deeply, expanding your abdomen while keeping your chest relaxed.

c. Exhale slowly and controlled, focusing on a steady and consistent airflow.

Voicing and Tonguing

Voicing and tonguing techniques play a vital role in producing high notes with clarity and accuracy. Consider the following tips:

a. Voicing:

Imagine the shape of an “ee” vowel sound while playing high notes. This helps raise the position of your tongue, creating a narrower air column and facilitating higher frequencies.

b. Tonguing:

Use a light and swift tonguing technique when playing high notes. Avoid excessive tongue pressure, as it can hinder the free vibration of the reed.

Finger Technique and Altissimo Range

Finger Placement and Accuracy

Proper finger technique is essential for playing high notes accurately and efficiently. Pay attention to the following aspects:

a. Finger Position:

Keep your fingers close to the keys and press them down firmly. This helps minimize the distance between the pads and the tone holes, allowing for better control and intonation.

b. Finger Movement:

Practice lifting your fingers quickly and efficiently to enhance speed and accuracy. Minimize unnecessary motion and maintain a relaxed hand position.

Altissimo Range

The altissimo range refers to the highest register on the clarinet. Developing the ability to play altissimo notes requires patience and practice. Here are a few tips to get started:

a. Voicing and Embouchure: Maintain a focused embouchure and experiment with different tongue positions to find the right voicing for altissimo notes.

b. Fingerings: Learn the appropriate fingerings for altissimo notes and practice them regularly. Start by playing simple melodies in the altissimo range and gradually expand your repertoire.

Practice Strategies

Scales and Arpeggios

Regularly practicing scales and arpeggios is crucial for building technical proficiency and familiarizing yourself with different note patterns. Focus on scales that encompass the upper registers of the instrument, gradually expanding your range.

Articulation Exercises

Articulation exercises help improve clarity and precision in playing high notes. Practice staccato, legato, and various tonguing patterns, paying attention to the evenness of each note.

Repertoire Selection

Choose pieces or etudes that incorporate high notes to challenge yourself and apply the techniques you’ve learned. Gradually increase the difficulty level as you progress.


Playing high notes on the clarinet requires a combination of proper technique, embouchure control, breath support, and practice. Remember to approach the instrument with patience and perseverance, as mastering high notes takes time. With regular practice and the application of the techniques discussed in this article, you will gradually improve your ability to play clear and beautiful high notes on the clarinet. Happy practicing!

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