Tongue faster? Tongue better? - Read this newsletter to find out how...

Sent Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Clarinet Mentors
For clarinetists who want to perform more easily and beautifully
In This Issue                                           July 25, 2012              
  • A Note From Michelle Anderson - The ideal outdoor summer concert
  • Clarinet Tips - Do you have trouble tonguing? Try some of these tips to improve
  • Coming soon - Clarinet Is Easy - over 8 hours of clarinet video instruction to help you out
  • Free Training - video to help you tongue faster and more cleanly
  • Michelle Recommends - mouthpiece patches
  • New Clarinet Mentors Facebook page - please comment and "like"
A Note from Michelle Anderson

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are all enjoying summer. I want to welcome all of you who are new to the Clarinet Mentors newsletter. Many people have joined in over summer time, and I hope you enjoy the content included in these bi-weekly newsletters. I enjoy connecting with all of you through these newsletters and email communications.

Most of my professional groups do not perform much over the summer time, but I did get to participate in a lovely outdoor concert on July 14th. I was playing with the Lion's Gate Sinfonia Orchestra, and we performed a free outdoor concert in a beautiful seaside open theatre. The concert was part of the Party At The Pier Festival, and capped off a day of concerts, displays, boat tours and other nautical-type festivities. The program was all music that is fun to play, and that the audience enjoyed hearing - Overture to Marriage of Figaro, and Barber of Seville, some music from the Carmen Suite, some Magic Flute, and other classical favourites. It was one of those perfect outdoor concert evenings - a gorgeous sunset, warm temperature, a light breeze (but not so much as to blow our music away) and no mosquitos. It doesn't get much better than that!

Later this week, I participate in the 5 day intense Wind Conducting Symposium at our local university. As I mentioned a couple of newsletters ago, this is my chance to stretch myself musically at something in which I don't have much training, but that I love to do. Conducting groups is something that I am called upon to do from time to time, and I love doing it, especially with adult groups. I decided that it is about time that I got some instruction from a good teacher, and improved my skills. I am always telling my students that anyone can pick up new skills if they learn from a teacher who has a good, systematic approach to this training. Now I am testing out my theory by turning into a student myself and finding out how much I can learn in a short, but intensive course. Luckily, I have picked a fantastic teacher, and I suspect that I will learn a great deal. I'll be looking forward to my next conducting experience with greater enthusiasm after this course.

I have really been appreciating the personal messages I have been receiving from many of you. Your emails have included suggestions for topics that you would like help with on the clarinet. I am busily adding all of those suggestions into my newsletter schedule. A few of you had mentioned challenges with tonguing, whether it is tonguing quickly enough, or coordinating tongue and fingers. That is why today's video is dedicated to all of you!

I hope you enjoy it!

Clarinet Tips

Do You Have Trouble With Tonguing? (Who doesn't?...)

If you master some good tonguing technics, you will have many more tools to improve your performance on the clarinet. I can honestly say that although tonguing is one of my strengths as a performer, it is also an area of my playing that needs work regularly. I give it a lot of thought and time in my practise routine.

Our tongue is a muscle that can learn new skills very quickly. In fact, it is one of the most flexible muscles in our body. I find that if I work it out regularly, it responds quite well. In today's newsletter, I am giving you one of my "tonguing workouts" that really helps me, and has helped many of my students as well. The video that describes this system is about 10 minutes long, and gives you an introduction to this workout. This is an exercise that can give you noticeable results in a week or two. I do encourage you to try it out, and trust that if you keep at it for a couple of weeks, you will see the benefits. These benefits include:

  • much faster tonguing
  • a very clean and light staccato articulation
  • improved tone while tonguing quickly
  • better coordination between tongue and fingers

This video introduces the concept of "stop-tonguing". Rather than try and write it out in words for you, this technic is much better illustrated by example in the video. One thing that I noticed in my own playing when I started using stop-tonguing regularly was that my high notes no longer "wimped out" when I was playing staccato. Most people have a habit of slowing down, or completely stopping their blowing, when playing staccato. If you lose your air pressure, it is tricky to start the next high note instantly, and with good tone. Instead, you might notice that it does not speak, or that it is delayed. Stop tonguing allows you to stop the note with your tongue, while maintaining strong air support. This means that each note already has a good base of air support before you play it. 

As you begin to master this technique, you can try moving your fingers to the next note during the space between notes. This involves moving your fingers before you play the note, instead of simultaneously with the start of the note. This will prevent the finger bloops that happen when it seems like our tongue and fingers get out of sync.

There are many pointers that relate to tonguing, but I believe that the exercise in this video is one of the best starter exercises to improve your articulation. I really encourage you to try it, and do it regularly for a couple of weeks. 

I'd love to get some feedback from you on how this works. Enjoy the video, and get out your "fast-tonguing" music so you can measure how much your tonguing improves in the next two weeks.

Coming Soon - Extensive Clarinet Training 
The whole concept of sharing these clarinet pointers and videos with you came about at the request of many of my current students. They are enthusiastic adult performers, who wanted to access further reminders of some of the fundamental technics of clarinet on a regular basis when they practised at home. Thus began the Clarinet Mentors newsletter and website. It made sense to open this up to clarinetists world-wide, since modern technology makes this so easy. I am really enjoying sharing this information with you, and hearing about your own experiences from all over the world. My plan is to continue to offer this information to you for as long as you find it useful!
As I began working on this, and receiving feedback from people all over the world, I realized that many of you have a desire for more extensive and detailed training. The information provided at Clarinet Mentors gives you a great start on many clarinet issues, and will continue to do so. However, to get into great depth, requires the kind of time and energy that would normally come from hours of lessons with a skilled teacher. With that in mind, I have been creating two new courses for those of you that want more detailed training and information from me. The first one is intended for adult beginners, or those that consider themselves to be at a fairly basic level. My teaching philosophy is to teach the proper technic from day one to adult students. This means that I do present technics that some teachers would consider as "advanced", very early on in the learning process. Although this first course is targeted to newer players, the technics presented would be suitable for more experienced players as well. My own students know that once I start teaching, I sometimes get excited, and end up teaching way more than they expect. That has been happening with this course. My so-called beginner course was intended to be a 10-lesson starter course to take a new player through the first couple of months of playing. As I have been recording the materials, I keep thinking of new things that I should add in, and it has ended up being much more extensive than I originally planned. Oh well - it just gives all the more value to those of you that end up taking part. I have now finished recording eight extensive lessons, along with printed musical exercises, and I hope to finish the remaining materials by the end of summer. There is a wealth of knowledge here for those of you that want more detailed training. 
I'll let you know when it is available, and since I still have two lessons to go, you can let me know what topics you might like included in the lessons. Hopefully this course will be available to anyone who wants to enrol in September. I'm very excited by how much great content is already included in the course, and I hope you will be excited by it also. Stay tuned for further details.
Free Training 
This 10 minute video gives you a great tonguing workout that you can try at home. I promise you that if you do it regularly and attentively, you will notice improvements in your tonguing within 2 weeks.
Link to the YouTube video which explains tonguing technics in detail
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
Clarinet Mouthpiece Patches
A mouthpiece patch is a small piece of rubber or vinyl that sticks onto your mouthpiece where you rest your top teeth. I recommend using one for a couple of reasons. It is more comfortable for your teeth, and it reduces the vibrations to your teeth that come through the mouthpiece. Dampening this vibration helps you to hear your sound more from the ambient sounds of the room, rather than directly through the clarinet mouthpiece to your jawbone, to your ear. You should hear more of what you actually sound like to others. In some cases, a mouthpiece patch will affect the quality of your sound (usually in a good way). It also helps your teeth to stay more securely in place, which can really help with articulation. If your teeth are sliding around on the mouthpiece surface while you tongue, you are more likely to squeak, or lose your good tone.
Many people prefer the black rubber pads, which are softer than vinyl. If you have a latex allergy, then the vinyl are a good alternative. In my experience the vinyl is a bit more durable as well, but they both achieve what we want them to.
Clarinet Mentors is finally on Facebook!
I have just created a new Clarinet Mentors Facebook page to allow members of the Clarinet Mentors community to post comments and interact with me, and each other. If you are a Facebook user, please visit the site and post your comments as well as "like" this page.
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
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