How to Go Over the Break on a Clarinet

The break on the clarinet presents issues due to the drastic change in timbre and fingering on the clarinet. Each woodwind instrument has its own break to contend with when learning the instrument. The clarinet break occurs between the first register, the chalumeau register, and the second register, the clarion register. Before attempting to cross the break, it is helpful to know exactly where the break occurs. On clarinet, the break occurs between the notes B flat and B natural.

Step 1

Play the chalumeau, which is the A located in the middle of the staff. This note is played by leaving all of the keys open, except for the key directly on top of the left index finger's natural resting point on the upper joint.

Step 2

Hold the fingering for A and add the register key that sits above your left thumb. This will play chalumeau B flat.

Step 3

Depress all of the main keys, including the register key and depress the left pinky register key. This will give you clarino B natural.

Step 4

Practice Steps 1 to 3 by holding each note for about four seconds. Use caution to keep your breath support firm and your embouchure loose. Players who tense up when moving from B flat to B will emit a squeaking noise or produce a pale, thin sound.

Step 5

Increase the speed by playing quarter notes at about one second per note. Alternate only between B flat and B, the two notes that create the most difficulty.


The biggest issue with going over the break is the need to go from mostly open keys to closed keys. This creates a drastic change in the perception of the sound. Practice going over the break slowly at first and then increase your speed.


Clarinet-Now: Crossing the Break []
"The Study of Orchestration"; Samuel Adler; 2002
Resources (Further Reading)

Banddaddy; Clarinets Crossing the Break; Kenneth F. Beard []


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