A big welcome to all of you who are reading the Clarinet Mentors newsletter for the first time. Thanks for joining this 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.
Today is the first day of spring here in Vancouver (and the northern hemisphere). Happy springtime to all of my northern friends, (and happy fall to the rest of you). I just completed a super busy concert schedule, and have a bit of a break. This will include a family holiday to a nearby hot springs resort later this week. I'm looking forward to some down time. I use these times to look at new repertoire that I want to play and perform in the next year. If there is any new repertoire that you have discovered that you like, please let me know.
Enjoy your clarinet this week, and thanks for being a part of my community!
Time to Tune-up Your Embouchure
I believe that it is very important for us as musicians to constantly be checking our basic systems. We all tend to slip, slowly, into bad habits if we are not giving ourselves reminder tune-ups from time to time.
Today, I would like you to have an embouchure tune-up (even if you are a very advanced player). I am sure that most of you already know what a good embouchure should be, and yet, we all tend to slip out of that over time. I look for trends in my students. This week, I had three students, all reasonably advanced, who were not doing a great job at keeping the corners of their mouth wrapped properly around the mouthpiece. One of them was working on a very advanced piece that featured a great deal of extreme altissimo notes. When we added the focus of "corners in", his ease with those high notes was immediately improved, and his overall sound quality was much warmer. This is the aspect of embouchure (along with sliding too close to the tip of the mouthpiece) that most often gets a bit lazy over time. I like to check my embouchure thoroughly every few months. I use the equinoxes and solstices as a chance to notice all of my main habits. Are they on track? There is no particular reason I choose these dates. They are just easy to remember. If anything is off track, I will ensure that I have add some focused exercises into my warm-up to get back on track.
Today's video also has a printed worksheet that gives you some exercises that you could add into your warm-up routine. I want to emphasize that this is important for all levels of players. The warm-up has an easy, intermediate, and advanced version. Enjoy!
Download the worksheet here:
|This video provides some great reminders on the best embouchure shape to produce a warmer, freer, clarinet tone ...and focuses on bringing your corners in around the mouthpiece for easier sound production.|
Free Training Video: [ https://youtu.be/HYo6R-BaDP4 ]
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
Modern technology is so great. It allows us to communicate world-wide, in ways that we couldn't imagine previously. I'd like to start a mini video-lesson page at the Clarinet Mentors website that stars YOU. 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 I will give you personal feedback on how to improve it. 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.
How do you do this? The simplest way is to just record yourself on your smart phone, tablet or computer, and then go to the link below to upload your video. If you have the option to save it as "web-ready" it will be a smaller file, and will load more quickly. Go to this webpage, and simply load your video.
Be brave! You'll get great feedback from me, and I guarantee you that your challenges are not unique. We can all learn from other's challenges. As soon as I get a few videos, I'll post responses where the Clarinet Mentors community can share ideas. I look forward to creating a mini learning centre with many of you participating.
There is one gadget that I really like and recommend - having a good clarinet stand to hold your clarinet upright if you need to set it down during rehearsals. At home, I have a ridiculously sturdy one made by Herb Blayman, which features a heavy cast iron base, and then pegs for three clarinets. That works for me and my students, or I can fit my A, Bb and Eb clarinet all on there (which I sometimes need for some orchestral concerts). There are also Blayman single stands available. They are not portable, but they are great to leave set up in your usual practise location.
There are two fold-up, portable stands that I really like. One is called the Pack-A-Stand, and it has four plastic legs that fold up to fit entirely inside of your clarinet bell. A similar one is by K&M, and had metal legs (a bit sturdier, for sure). The K&M one also folds up to fit into your bell, but it does stick out of the top of your bell by about 1/2 inch. You need to have a clarinet case that will allow room for a extra post coming out of the space where the bell joins the next piece. If your case won't accommodate this, then the Pack-A-Stand is a better choice.
I use these all of the time in rehearsal. If your instrument is set down horizontally on a lap, or the floor, you tend to get more water dripping into your keys. Merely standing it up on the bell is precarious, as one little bump will tip it over. These stands reduce such accidents greatly. The portable ones are quite inexpensive, and easy to carry.
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. I believe that these lessons can save you hours of grief by giving you the best practise systems that have worked for hundreds of clarinetists. 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 (including some free preview videos):
If you are curious about this, you can also try the first lesson with a 100% Money-Back Guarantee. If it is not the right style for you, you get your tuition refunded, no problem.
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.
Thanks for reading this biweekly newsletter.
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
As a member of Michelle's Clarinet Mentors community, you will receive invitations to special live online trainings, the Clarinet Mentors newsletter which has video lessons as well as recommendations on helpful clarinet gear. There is no charge to join, and you can un-signup very easily if it is not a good fit. If you haven't signed up for the community before, you are missing the regular Clarinet Mentors trainings!