Throat tones have the weakest tone quality and projection on the clarinet. While other registers are dark, focused, and project well, throat tones are often airy, unfocused, lack projection, and out of tune. This area of the clarinet range encompasses all the notes between E4 and Bflat 4.
Throat tones use the top quarter of the instrument (only the mouthpiece, barrel, and the top of the left hand piece) for the sound to resonate. Because only the top of the clarinet is being played, there isn’t the opportunity for the full tube to be engaged to focus the sound.
Our job as clarinetist is to match the tone quality across all registers. If close attention is not paid to matching tone, the clarinet can sound different in each register. Matching throat tones to the other registers is quite challenging. With these tips your throat tones will sound beautiful!
- The chalumeau is the easiest register to achieve good tone on the clarinet. I use the chalumeau as a model to match and compare throat tones. The best exercise is to play long tone octaves between the lowest chalumeau notes and throat tones.
- The bottom note should be held long and be mezzoforte, focused, and dark.
- Slur up an octave to the throat tone maintaining the same resonance and tone quality. This is best achieved by not changing the embouchure. Resist the urge to tighten the embouchure and pinch the reed. Tightening will limit resonance in the tone; we want to enhance all vibration because such a short section of the clarinet is being played.
- Maintaining an open throat (like yawning or saying “Ah”) will open up the sound. Be sure the tongue remains high like saying “Heeeee” and do not back off on air or air speed; fill the instrument with air through to the bell even though only the top of the clarinet is engaged.
Adding this exercise to your daily warm-up will improve your throat tones and tone quality in all registers.