A big welcome to all of you who are reading the Clarinet Mentors newsletter for the first time. Many people have signed up for this newsletter from our Facebook community, and I hope you enjoy the bi-weekly tips and pointers that you will find here.
For me, the beginning of September represents a return to many of my usual performing and teaching duties. For most of August, I had lovely family holidays, with a bit of teaching and performing mixed in for fun. Later this week, some of my regular musical groups begin rehearsing, so I am back into my full practise routines. That includes the warm-up exercise that I shared with all of you in early August. I encourage you to add it to your practise routine.
A few people have asked me what the music is that plays at the beginning of some of my YouTube videos. It comes from a chamber music piece entitled the Kegelstatt Trio, by Mozart, which was written for clarinet, viola, and piano. The sound snippet is from a live concert last May with my colleagues in the West Coast Chamber Music concert series. I've posted the recording of that video to my YouTube channel. If you want to hear some Mozart, you can find it at:
How To Play High Notes More Easily
The extreme high range on clarinet, or the altissimo register, is often one of the scariest areas to venture into as a clarinetist. Let's face it - those notes can sound pretty shrieky and shrill. Most people run into problems on these notes for two main reasons.
One is that their body has an unconscious reaction to the sometimes bad sounds they hear, and the physical response gets in the way of playing the notes properly. This can take the form of backing away from the note with the airstream. I often hear students putting in a complete break in their air right before they try an altissimo note. They don't even realize they are doing it. I'm sure at some point, (likely when they were first learning these notes), they made a horrible squeak, and part of their brain said "Oh-oh, we better just back away from that note in the future". That part of our brain is pretty powerful, and may have set up a habit that continues for years. Stopping our air before an altissimo note is one of the most harmful habits that we can create, since wimpy air will make the note much harder to play. We need to approach the altissimo with a fearless attitude, and blow with full, fast air.
The second physical reaction to watch for is that when we are concentrating, and trying very hard, we often clench our muscles, including our jaw. This will unintentionally cause us to bite down on the reed, inhibiting air flow and vibration. This reaction, again, makes the notes harder to play.
What we want, is a very round embouchure, with the corners of our mouth really coming in to the sides of the reed (as if we are squeezing the sides of the mouthpiece). This helps to prevent biting.
There are many, many tips and approaches to improving the altissimo register. Today's training video will touch on a couple of things that should help you play these notes more easily. Please enjoy this issue's video which focuses on embouchure, and provides you with an exercise that can really help you figure out what to do with your mouth as you venture into these highest notes.
(By the way, if you missed the How To Play High Notes More Easily Part 1 video, you can find it at https://youtu.be/tFWlx57f82A.)
How to play the altissimo register with more ease and confidence
This video, which is just over 10 minutes, gives you valuable pointers on how to play the highest register on clarinet more easily.
This video some pointers on how to play the extreme high notes on clarinet, the altissimo range, more easily. All of the pointers in the High Notes part 1 video also apply to these notes, but this adds extra tips unique to the highest register on the clarinet. There is an exercise listed here that will help you train your mouth to feel much more comfortable and familiar in navigating the altissimo notes.
Free Training Video: [ https://youtu.be/HaDJbypAN34 ]
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: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Clarinet-Mentors/237380966382664
This book by Thomas Ridenour is my favourite resource for high note fingerings. I highly recommend it if you have any extreme high notes to play. There are many fingerings for each altissimo note, and excellent comments about the response and recommended uses for each one.
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.
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