Clarinet Resonance Fingerings

by Mitchell Estrin



Resonance fingerings (sometimes referred to as “covered” fingerings) are an essential element for achieving evenness of tone quality and proper intonation on the clarinet. These fingerings are utilized when playing the throat tones and are used to improve musical execution and effect.

The notes on the clarinet ranging from open G to throat Bb are called “throat tones” because these notes resonate at the throat of the instrument, utilizing just a few inches of the total length of the clarinet.

Good tone quality on the throat tones is difficult to achieve, as the short tube makes for a thin and nasal tone. Throat tones are also generally sharp in pitch. The tone quality and pitch tendency can be easily corrected by incorporating resonance fingerings. By utilizing resonance fingerings, three aspects of clarinet performance are simultaneously improved. First, by using a resonance fingering, the tone quality is enhanced. Resonance fingerings lengthen the tube of the instrument, thus producing a richer and more resonant tone quality. Secondly, the addition of resonance fingerings will lower the pitch of throat tones, which are generally quite sharp. Thirdly, using resonance fingerings improves technical execution of passages that go up and down over “the break”.  By having additional fingers down on the instrument, particularly in the right hand, facilitation of smooth and rapid passagework over the break can be more easily achieved. Thus, resonance fingerings improve tone, intonation, and technique. So, using them is a musical no-brainer! 

As each player’s set-up (instrument, mouthpiece, reed, embouchure, blowing pressure, etc.) is different, there are no steadfast rules for which specific resonance fingerings are best. Each player must experiment to identify the most tonally pleasing resonance fingerings on their own set-up. Also, the volume of the musical passage being performed will influence the decision as to which resonance fingering should be utilized. Clarinet pitch will lower as the overall volume increases, thus requiring less fingers to be put down in louder passages in order to achieve accurate intonation. Conversely, clarinet pitch will rise as the overall volume decreases, thus requiring more fingers to be put down in softer passages. Only with time, experience, and experimentation will a player establish their own personal best options for resonance fingerings.

 

Some suggested resonance fingerings:



Open G Resonance Fingerings

Open G 


Open G is the least sharp throat tone note. I generally keep my right pinky down on the F/C key. This slightly lowers the pitch, enhances the timbre, and has the right hand well-balanced on the instrument. For softer sustained passages, additional fingers can be added in the right hand to lower the pitch more. I like to put down my index and ring fingers (1 & 3) on their respective holes. Another good fingering is putting down the ring finger (only) on the left hand.

 

G Ab Throat Clarinet Fingerings 1

Throat G#/Ab


This is a sharp note and can be humored (lowered) by putting down the following fingers:

Left hand – middle and ring finger (2 & 3)

Right hand – middle and ring finger (2 & 3) plus the pinky F/C key

 

A Throat Clarinet Fingerings

Throat A


This is a very sharp note and can be adjusted by putting down the following fingers:

Left hand – middle and ring finger (2 & 3)

Right hand – middle and ring finger (2 & 3) plus the pinky F/C key

 


A And Bb Throat Clarinet Fingerings

Throat A#/Bb


This is a very sharp note and can be humored by putting down the following fingers:

Left hand – middle and ring finger (2 & 3)

Right hand – middle and ring finger (2 & 3) plus the pinky F/C key

 


For A and Bb, if the note is still sharp, you can also add the index finger of the right hand. This can be useful in very soft sustained passages. Ultimately, each player has to find the most favorable resonance fingerings for their personal set-up. The main message here is to use resonance fingerings! They will enhance your tone, pitch, and technique, resulting in a more beautiful musical line.

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