Call it what you like – sliver key, banana key (as I learned it in middle school), fork key – I’m talking about the key between the second and third tone hole of the right hand. This key is used for high D#/Eb, top line F#/Gb, and low A#/Bb. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but by changing one tiny detail, you can improve your response and technique.
Does this passage strike fear in the hearts of my fellow clarinetists? (For those that don’t know this excerpt, it’s from Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsody for Clarinet.) Have you ever squeaked on this D#? Had a stuffy or delayed response? It’s probably because you’re not using the correct part of your finger for the sliver key.
Normally, clarinetists should use the pads of their fingers to fully cover the tone holes. However, when using the sliver key, you should use the tip of your right hand ring finger (closer to the nail than the knuckle) close to the base of the key. Why, you ask? This is one instance when we don’t want to cover or obstruct the tone holes. If too much of your finger is covering the second and third tone holes, it will muffle the sound or make a delicate responsible difficult. (The same concept also applies to the similar sliver key of the left hand.)
As they say, the devil’s in the details. Happy Friday, and happy practicing!