The required musical skills out on the marching band field are the same as inside a concert hall, band room, or studio. But playing the clarinet in this outdoor setting—as described in my first Sectionals column (“I Can’t Heeeear You!” from November/December 2007)—seems “akin to squeezing a bicycle horn in front of a freight train.”
All that brass! All those drums!! All that crowd noise!!!
And unlike, say, a trumpet, the clarinet sound comes out all the holes instead of a single central exit point. Even the two notes that actually do come out of the bell are directed at the ground.
“So how do we compete?” you ask.
Reconsider Your Reed
In that first editorial entry, I gave you several high-minded concepts such as providing breath support from your diaphragm, sending the air through the tube and aiming at a target across the way, and rounding out your embouchure while keeping the muscles tight.
Want a little secret to more sound and projection? Lighter reeds!
Yup, lighter. Why do people keep pushing the myth that “the better you get, the stiffer the reed you must use”? (See “Reed Myth Busters,” May/June 2016.)
Benny Goodman played a #1-1/2, and there was no problem hearing him over his 18-piece band. I’m playin’ a #2 and was the lead instrument in a five-piece band for more than a decade at Walt Disney World.
Use Online Resources
Moving down a half strength may be too much initially, so check out the excellent reed strength charts on the Vandoren or D’Addario (Rico Reeds) websites to compare the other cuts of reeds they produce. You’ll see incremental choices.
Don’t bite, and you’ll find that your altissimo notes will pop out just as easily and with less pressure. If you round out your oral cavity, the low register sounds woodier. You may notice the throat-tone A and Bb no longer sound so stuffy and weak.
Now go scare the trumpets!