Speedier tonguing, and reeds, reeds, reeds!

Sent Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Clarinet Mentors
For clarinetists who want to perform more easily and beautifully
In This Issue                                           February 20, 2013   
  • A Note From Michelle Anderson - NEW! Free personal mini-lessons for you!
  • Free Training - a thorough look at stop-tongue staccato
  • Clarinet Tips - What kind of reeds are you using?
  • Michelle Recommends - explore Legere reeds
  • Clarinet Is Easy - step-by-step video lessons to help you improve your clarinet playing
A Note from Michelle Anderson

Hello Everyone!

A big welcome to all of you who are reading the Clarinet Mentors newsletter for the first time.  Thanks for joining the community, and I hope you find great value here for your own clarinet playing! These newsletters are sent to the Clarinet Mentors community every two weeks, usually on Wednesdays, and are designed to help you play the clarinet more easily.

I am excited to announce a new Clarinet Mentors project that will give me the chance to interact with more of you, and you a chance to share knowledge with  many others in the Clarinet Mentors community. I have started a new, free, mini-clarinet lesson site at:


Here's how it works. I would like you to think of one area of your clarinet playing that you would like help with. This could be general, such as "better tone", or very specific such as "playing the C-F altissimo combination in Stars and Stripes". You record a brief (under 3 minutes) video of yourself demonstrating your challenge, and Michelle will give you personal feedback on how to improve it. These videos will be shared with the entire Clarinet Mentors community via a free webinar in March. Don't be shy! One of the ways that we best learn is by watching others go through and overcome the same challenges that we have ourselves

I will give feedback to everyone who uploads their question by March 1. Stay tuned for details on how to access this great new video resource.

Meanwhile, I look forward to a really fun chamber music program this weekend where I perform clarinet trios with colleagues on piano and cello, as well as a concert with my 45 piece wind ensemble. After a very full weekend of concerts,  I have one day to rest and then I begin rehearsals for the Magic Flute with the Vancouver Opera Orchestra. Busy, but fun! (For those of you who read my dilemma last issue about preparing a piece that I wasn't a big fan of, I'll let you know how it goes after my performance this weekend.)

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

Free Training - Stop Tongue Staccato
Stop-Tongue Staccato - one method for playing staccato notes well, and a system that can really speed up your tongue for brilliant, FAST, articulation.
It seems like sometimes, clarinet challenges come in clusters. For whatever reason, several clarinetists that I encountered in person this past week had trouble tonguing quickly and lightly, or did not really know how to play staccato. Some of these players were high school students at a set of workshops I was leading, but many were some of my well-trained, experienced students, whose tongues had gotten "rusty" due to inattention. I think that at times, we all could use some dedicated staccato practise to keep our tongue in shape. (Ideally we always include some exercises related to this in our fundamentals practise, which should make up one-third of our practise session.)
In today's video, I present a system, with a worksheet, for mastering stop-tongue staccato. Now, I have posted a video about stop-tonguing before, so some of you will recognize some of the content. However, this new video has better sound quality, and goes into much more detail than my previous one. The worksheet will give you something concrete that you can add into your own practise routine. You can download the worksheet at:

Enjoy this video, and be sure to comment on the video on the YouTube page if you enjoy it or have questions. I'll be checking those comments and responding to them. You may find some noticeable differences immediately as you use it, but I find that usually this technic is most effective after a couple of weeks.
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: http://www.facebook.com/ClarinetMentors
Clarinet Tips 

What kind of reeds are you using? Does it really make a difference?

There are many things to be said about reeds, and the truth is that reeds have a huge impact upon the tone and response of our clarinets. You want to ensure that you are playing on the proper strength (which I will discuss in an upcoming newsletter), and that you have a good quality reed.

What makes a good quality reed?

  • A well-balanced cut - a symmetrical reed plays much better than an irregular one
  • High quality cane - we pay more for higher quality cane because they truly sound better, and often last longer
  • One that is stored and treated properly - a good reed case will reduce warping as the reed dries. - breaking a reed in properly helps it to last longer
  • One that is not worn out - every time that we play on a reed, it gets a little bit softer. Eventually, it will not respond with the resonance and vibration that you need. There is no set formula for how long one reed will last, but you should always be rotating between newer and older reeds so that you have an accurate comparison of when the old one may be wearing out. (Many people play one reed until it is decrepit, and wonder why their playing is not working so well. If you pick up a newer reed and sound great, you will quickly want to get rid of the decrepit one!)
I currently have three videos on the Clarinet Mentors Youtube channel that give specific reed care pointers for those of you that want more details. 
Meanwhile, I often get asked "What kind of reeds do you use?". I'll tell you what I use, and what about 80% of my more advanced students use - the Vandoren V12 reeds. Again, equipment is a personal choice, and depending upon your mouthpiece, some reed types will work better than others. My other advanced students either use the Vandoren Rue 56, or the Rico Reserve Classic reeds. Most of these advanced reeds are pricey, and frankly, the quality can be quite variable. In a box of 10, I am happy to get 4 performance reeds, and 2-3 "practise reeds". I end up throwing a few "stinkers" away. Nonetheless, the good ones, are really good. If you are using the most basic level of reeds, I highly recommend that you try a better quality one. A good intermediate level reed is the Mitchell Lurie reed series by Rico. I recommend them to all of my less-experienced students. They do tend to run a bit soft, so if you play on a 2-1/2 regular reed, you would likely need a Mitchell Lurie 3.
If you haven't tried a better quality reed, I highly recommend it. Just remember that one or two reeds may not truly be representative of how that reed works for you. You likely want to try a few before you decide (in case you grab a "stinker" out of the box first).
Michelle Recommends - Legere Synthetic Reeds
Yikes! I never thought in a million years that I might be recommending a synthetic reed. I am a true, self-professed "Cane-Snob". I have never yet found a synthetic reed that plays as well as a good cane reed. That is still true...
However, lately, under some special circumstances, I have been recommending the Legere synthetic clarinet reeds to some of my students. They are by far the best synthetic reed on the market. If someone is allergic to cane (unusual, but does exist), they are ideal. What I say to my students, (and this is just my own opinion), is that a good Legere reed is like a pretty good cane reed - maybe a 7.5 or 8/10. Some players regularly play on cane reeds that are worse than a 7.5/10 - maybe they are worn out, or poor quality to begin with, or warped. For those players, there are huge advantages to the synthetic reeds. They are incredibly consistent - they do not warp, they do not get softer quickly as we play on them - they can sit on a cold instrument for a long time, and play well as soon as they are picked up.  These would be great if you had an outdoor concert where the climate may be changeable, or if you play in a pit (Broadway-style) and may need a couple of instruments in one show. Or, if you simply wanted a backup reed that you knew would ALWAYS be "pretty good". I've seen students in the midst of a "frustrating reed day" where nothing seems to work, gratefully pull out their Legere reed, and finish their lesson sounding quite good. What is missing? I feel there is a very small, intangible warmth missing from the sound compared to a good cane reed, but they really are quite good. Many casual adult players are finding them very useful to play, and you may want to try them out. 
Since I do not personally play on Legere reeds, I can only give the perspective of my students, and of course, my own listening to them. My students report that each Legere reed typically lasts about as long, or longer, than a full box of 10 cane reeds. They do seem to eventually wear out, but they last a long time. As a teacher, I far prefer to hear someone on a Legere reed over a bad cane reed. As I said, the tone really is pretty good. If it weren't, I frankly wouldn't permit my students to use them in a lesson with me. (I like to listen to nice sounds!) The cost is comparable to a box of reeds, so although one reed is expensive, you receive a comparable amount of playing time from your purchase. I can recommend them as a good alternative to "everyday reeds", although I will still hold on to my "Cane-Snob" title and recommend that you use cane for your important performances! [ https://www.legere.com/products/clarinet-reeds/]
Clarinet Is Easy - Your Step-by-Step Beginner Course - Now Available! (Also enjoyed by many intermediate level players)
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:
Click the above link to find out more, and to see free preview videos. This give you a great small sampling of the kinds of videos that are included in the course. You can also try the first lesson with a 100% Money-Back Guarantee if it is not a good fit for you (and a prorated refund anytime later in the course).
About Michelle Anderson
Michelle Anderson, the founder of Clarinet Mentors,  is a professional clarinetist and teacher who currently lives in Vancouver BC. Her professional career spans  30 years and she currently 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 through online resources, and conducts the Vancouver Clarinet Choir.
Michelle Anderson, Clarinet
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