Tips for Crossing the Break, Part 1

Updated: Mar 3, 2019

Welcome to my first blog! It's March, so you know what that means.....Spring Break!! But before you go, I want to discuss that OTHER break. Yes, the dreaded ACROSS the break.


By now you've probably already been working on this (and several are still struggling), or you are very close to doing so. This was something I always dreaded teaching until I finally sat down one summer and figured out exactly why it was so hard. Then I made a plan to make it easier. And it worked!


Learning to cross the break is not a one day lesson. It's a process that begins on the very first day of instruction. Everything you do from that day forward will either make or break (pun intended) crossing the break. I call it "ACROSS THE BREAK". I know some like to call it the "register change" so it doesn't sound so ominous. But I tell students that it's called "the break" because if you're not doing it correctly, there will be a break in your sound. If you follow a few tips I'm about to outline, it won't be hard at all. Well, ok....some never get it no matter what, but this makes it easier for more of your students.


Tip #1: One of the most important aspects is hand position, particularly the thumbs. Thumbs in the wrong place do not provide good hand position for the rest of the fingers.


The photo on the left shows correct position for the left thumb. Check to see that thumbs are not completely vertical or completely horizontal. Try it yourself to see what doing it wrong does to the fingers in your left hand. This angle also makes it easier to go from the thumb key to the register key and back.


The right photo shows correct position for the right thumb. ( In this picture, my "model" has her thumb on top of the thumb rest because she has very small hands.) If the thumb is pushed too far past the thumb rest, it makes covering the right hand tone holes very difficult. (There is a lengthy discussion of hand position in the Teachers Edition of For Clarinets Only)


Tip #2: Another critical part of the process is developing a good foundation for the right hand. Don't even attempt crossing the break until students can seat each finger of the right had correctly and keep them where they belong as they use the right pinkie for low F. Until they can do that, trying to go from second space A to long B will just frustrate your students and YOU! I introduce each finger and give lots and lots of practice before added the next finger. Then we work on different combinations of those fingers. Here's a sample.




Tip #3: And lastly (for now - you've got to go pack!) the key that leaks most frequently on a clarinet is the long B. The leak is usually more prevalent using left B than right B.


Happy Spring Break Y'all!


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