Cross the Break More Easily

Sent Thursday, January 10, 2013

Clarinet Mentors
For clarinetists who want to perform more easily and beautifully
In This Issue                                           January 9, 2013        
  • A Note From Michelle Anderson -  Happy New Year
  • Clarinet Tips - Break new reeds in properly
  • Free Training - Crossing "The Break" - how your fingers can work much more easily
  • Michelle Recommends - reed cases with a glass storage surface
A Note from Michelle Anderson

Hello Everyone & Happy New Year,

A big welcome to all of you who are reading the Clarinet Mentors newsletter for the first time.  These newsletters are sent to the Clarinet Mentors community every two weeks, usually on Wednesdays. Enjoy the clarinet tips and pointers that you will find here!

I enjoyed some fantastic holidays with family and friends all over the country. I took a bit of a holiday from my clarinet, and now am reminded of how important organized routines are as I get my clarinet playing back in shape. It is always useful to have a regular and mindful practise schedule (especially following a very un-mindful holiday)!

I'm wondering if anyone out there might be interested in signing up for an online group clarinet lesson with me. I don't really have space for private students, but a group lesson would consist of 8-10 people of roughly the same level signing up for a series (maybe 4 for starters) of one-hour group lessons. I would give a live webinar lesson on a different topic each week, and feature either live mini-lessons with each of you during the webinar, or you could send me a video of you playing clarinet and I'll give you feedback. Each participant would get individual feedback from me throughout the set of lessons, but the feedback would be shared with everyone. That way, you would learn from the experiences of others (without putting yourself on the spot). If this might interest you, please send me an email and let me know. If there is enough interest, I"ll put together a more concrete plan. It would be a great way to share ideas with a group of you, and for you to share ideas with clarinetists of a similar level of experience.

Enjoy your clarinet this week, and thanks for being a part of my community!

Clarinet Tips

 Breaking In A New Reed For Longevity and Better Sound

Many people do not have an organized system for breaking in their clarinet reeds. They will play much better, and last longer, if you "break them in" properly. Reeds reach a point during a practise session where they become waterlogged. A visual clue is that the tip of the reed becomes a bit transparent. An audible clue is that the sound gets a bit stuffy, and you feel like you need to blow harder to get the job done. When a reed becomes waterlogged, it won't vibrate as well. You will need to let the reed dry out until the next day to work properly. Ideally, we don't want to play our reeds to a waterlogged state. A brand new reed gets waterlogged after about 10 - 15 minutes. It will gradually play longer, but I find that most reeds will only play well for about 75 minutes in one day. If you have an event where you will be playing more than an hour in one day, you should be prepared to switch reeds throughout your playing sessions.
Here are some pointers that will help your reeds perform better:
  • Play a brand new reed for only 10 minutes on Day One
  • On Day Two, play it for 25 minutes
  • On Day Three, play it for 45 minutes
  • After that, no more than 75 minutes in a day
  • When you finish playing a reed, let it dry for a bit on a flat surface, with the flat side facing up. Reeds tend to warp with the edges curling up, and it is better to have them curl toward the mouthpiece face than away from it
  • Invest in a reed case that presses your reeds onto a hard, flat, surface as it dries
  • Wet your reeds before playing them in a small container of water
  • Check out the Clarinet Mentors Reed Tips videos for many other pointers on how to adjust your reeds for better performance
Free Training 
Moving from A in the low register to B in the high register (or "Crossing the Break") more easily...
Many people share with me that they find it challenging to move easily between the low register and the high register, particularly from throat A to the B above it. My How To Play High Notes - part One video does give you some advice on how to improve air support and embouchure in the high register. However, if the high register generally works pretty well, and you just have trouble moving between the registers, it is likely a fingering issue.
Today's free training video is a long one - 15 minutes - and comes with a detailed Finger Workout handout ( There is so much more that I could say about fingering, but these teachings specifically target improving A-B. The handout does have some more advanced finger patterns and I recommend that all of you try them out. If you want to jump around in the video, the YouTube description will tell you where each item falls within the video. 
Enjoy this video, and be sure to comment on the video on the YouTube page if you enjoy it or have questions.
Link to the Youtube video which demonstrates the finger technics to move better between registers
Click on the image above to view this video. I have more videos currently in production. If there are topics that you would like help with, please send me some suggestions. If you are on Facebook, you can post your comments at:
Michelle Recommends
Reed Cases with a Glass Storage Surface
A good reed case can help prevent your reeds from warping, and keep them at a good humidity level. There are some beautifully handcrafted wooden cases at artist price levels. A good mid-range case will be like the Selmer case featured below. It will have a glass surface for the reed to rest on, and some kind of padding in the lid to press the reed down as it dries. These larger cases may not fit into your clarinet case, but they do help preserve your reeds.
If you just want to go one step above the plastic case that your reed comes in, LaVoz makes a two or four reed holder called a Reedgard. They are hard plastic, inexpensive, and small enough to fit into your clarinet case. This is better than storing them in the cases that come inside of the reed box. If you have never tried a better case, you may be pleasantly surprised at how well your reeds respond to a better storage system.
Clarinet Is Easy - Beginner Course - Now Available!
How To Solve Your Common Clarinet Frustrations and Play Clarinet More Easily
I firmly believe that if anyone has the "recipe" for how to play clarinet, things are really relatively easy to do. Most of our frustrations come from inadvertently learning bad habits along the way. With that in mind, I have created for you a 10 lesson course for beginners (and self-taught intermediate players) that gives you the tools to truly learn the clarinet easily, while avoiding all of the most common frustrations that can plague us. The lessons have great content, and are presented in a video format so that you can watch them again and again. If you would like to play with more ease and have a clear understanding of the fundamentals of clarinet playing, you can get more information on the Clarinet Is Easy course here:
About Michelle Anderson
Michelle Anderson is a professional clarinetist and teacher who currently lives in Vancouver BC. She has been a professional performer for 30 years and plays regularly with the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, the Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the West Coast Chamber Music series. She has performed with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Touring Orchestra and many other groups. Michelle currently specializes in teaching adults to play clarinet more easily and quickly, and conducts the Vancouver Clarinet Choir.
Michelle Anderson, Clarinet
Thanks for reading this biweekly newsletter.
Helping you to find success on your instrument with sound teaching techniques, and useful learning systems.


Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.