Tone Production Considerations

Research response to 1997 survey published in “Selected Pedagogical Practices of College Instructors of Flute, Clarinet and Saxophone”:

Closely related to articulation, the overall tongue and throat positions for each instrument were investigated. Data collected for question 21A suggest that the most effective vowel sounds which set the tongue in the overall correct position for flute, clarinet, and saxophone are "oo," "ee," and "ah" respectively. Throat positions for the low, middle, and high registers for each instruments were also investigated; the following two paragraphs offer observations based on the survey findings.

Several respondents reported that when playing the flute in its lower register, the throat is significantly more open than when playing in the middle and high registers. Data collected provide evidence that as the flutist progresses into the upper registers, the throat muscles return to a more natural formation and the throat is not required to be as open as for the lower register.

Although the study found that clarinet throat positions for each register are similar to those of the flute (i.e., the throat is more open in the lower register than in the high register), it was further observed that the throat is more open in the high register for clarinet than for the flute. Similarly, evidence is provided that changes in saxophone throat formation for each register resemble those for flute and clarinet; however, the overall throat formations for each register of the saxophone are more open than for both flute and clarinet. Although the findings for each instrument are alike, the subtle differences may be important for doublers to consider.


Additional research, experiential observations and suggestions:

-long tones are very important to all instruments as well as the practice of harmonics on Flute

-Flutists should consider the distance between their teeth, which should be a about a pencil width apart (teeth positioned too close or too far apart will create response/tone production issues)

-Clarinet and Saxophone – it is important to clear your mouthpiece periodically to avoid moisture build-up between the tip of the reed and mouthpiece; moisture build-up will cause an unwanted buzzing sound 

-due the cylindrical bore of the Clarinet, as well as it’s unique overtone series and tone hole coverage challenges, squeaking is more common on the instrument

-the Clarinet overblows the first harmonic at the interval of a 12th, whereas the Flute and Saxophone overblow the first harmonic at the octave

-the overall tongue position for Clarinet is higher than the other woodwind instruments (EE)

-although the overall tongue position changes slightly depending on voicing and registers in Clarinet performance, the variation in tongue positioning is much greater in comparison when playing Flute and Saxophone

-on all woodwind instruments, aurally perceive the opening pitch of a phrase to help set correct tongue positions

-resonance fingerings (for improved sound quality and intonation in the throat tone register) are commonly utilized in Clarinet performance (resonance fingerings involve covering additional tone holes and/or opening closed tone holes in both the left and right hands  in various combinations)

 Examples of Throat Tone Resonance Fingerings for Clarinet:

-the amount of lower lip coverage (single reed instruments) will affect overall tone quality:

-more lip coverage of the lower teeth will decrease higher overtones therefore creating a darker/Classical tone quality

-less lip coverage will increase higher overtones and create a brighter/Jazz tone quality

-also see the embouchure for related concepts