In this issue:
Hello to all clarinetists in the Clarinet Mentors Community! I enjoy sharing new clarinet pointers and tips with you, and this newsletter deals with a very important topic - How do we recover when we really mess up? How do we avoid beating ourselves up and deciding that we are unfit to play clarinet, and that we should never be heard again? How do we recover from mistakes faster, and cope better with our inevitable errors? Today's video lesson deals with this topic using a real life example from a recent set of mess-ups that I made, and how I dealt with them.
On another note, my apologies for the long delay between newsletters. There have been many illnesses with older family members in my life, and sadly, some who are no longer with us. This is part of life, and family has taken priority over some of my usual video-making and clarinet sharing. I hope that you enjoy today's lesson, and I hope to get back on track with sending you more regular content in the coming weeks.
In the midst of my chaos, I have managed to play two operas already in 2018, recorded a movie soundtrack, and rehearsed some chamber music. It makes me appreciate the healing power of music when times are stressful!
Thanks for being a part of my community!
What do we do when we really mess up on our clarinet?
How do you handle it when you really mess up in a performance? I made a couple of big mistakes in a performance recently. There are common reactions that we can have as musicians at this moment. Initially, a feeling of panic, and then a very colourful string of internal curses, and potentially, a lot of mentally beating up on ourselves so that we just don't feel good about our playing. I think there is value in putting it out there as a "learning opportunity" for others. Ideally, when I play in a chamber music concert, I like to feel like I know the music so well, and I have prepared so thoroughly, that I can really just focus on the musical expression and communication with the other musicians in performance. I do feel like I prepared this piece well in advance. However, sometimes, when I really feel like I am in "the flow", I forget to do "mundane" things, like count rests. In this case, I was performing a Brahms Trio and I was really trying to just enjoy every note, focusing on the expression and colour that I wanted to add to the music. At one point, as I was not playing, I was enjoying Heather's cello playing so much, that I completely lost my place. I mean completely - I had no idea where to come in, and a vague idea that I was supposed to be playing. This is a terrifying feeling. It is also one of those crucial performance moments where we have a choice on how to proceed. I know in the past, I would have done some pretty powerful internal cursing of my own ineptitude, using language to myself that I couldn't print here. While beating myself up, I'd probably make even more mistakes, and then curse more intensely (in my own mind). I'd feel awful, I'd know I had let down my trio, the audience, and probably somehow everyone in my life. (Sound familiar? Musicians are great at being self-critical and catastrophizing.) I don't want you to have this experience (even though I am certain that you can relate to this).
I have consciously worked on ways to come back from catastrophies. What helps me most of all, is to immediately re-focus on "What do I want the next note to sound like?" This is a really important and useful question to train ourselves to ask in those tragic moments of messing up. In that moment, I need to really dig deeply into the music, the pitch, the timbre, the blend with other instruments and put all of my intention on only the next note. I can beat myself up later, once the concert is complete (and I have done a bit of that, but not nearly as much as I used to because at least I can feel like I recovered in the moment, which is a small victory). In this particular performance, I also had a couple of other mini-catastophies - an obvious squeak, and a wrong note. Sigh. Nobody wants this in a performance, but if it happens, we can be committed to making "the next note" as musical as possible. At the end of the day, I can say that I made some mistakes that I wish I hadn't. However, I had a few "next notes" that I really loved. I also got to play an incredibly beautiful piece of music with some very expressive musical partners. Life doesn't get much better than that in the big picture. I've definitely had performances that were cleaner, and when we played it again the next week, things went much better for me. However, I know so many musicians who beat themselves up more than is probably deserved. My hope is that whatever your level of experience is as a performer, you can relate to some of this, and be gentle with yourself. At the end of the day, making beautiful music is a treat, and we owe it to ourselves to try and enjoy every note, especially "the next one". Thoughts from all of you? I'd love to hear what you think about this.
Today's free training video contains my thoughts and strategies on how to recover when we mess up, and also gives you a video of me messing up big time (ACK!). I hope you enjoy it! Click here to watch this training
Articulation Types | Clarinet - Dr. Kornel Wolak
Dr Kornel Wolak is a fine clarinetist and teacher who has created a fascinating resource book on clarinet articulation. Working with the Speech-Language Pathology Department at the University of Toronto, Kornel was able to use their special imaging machines to see what actually goes on inside our mouths when we tongue. The graphics are stunning, and really help us to understand articulation better. He covers many kinds of tonguing including single, double, triple, lateral, slap, flutter and more. Although he intends this to be a resource for teachers who have to explain these technics, I think it is also really valuable for players. You can buy an electronic or printed copy here: https://kornelwolak.com/shop/.
Did you know that Michelle Anderson of Clarinet Mentors has created several step-by-step courses to help you play the clarinet better? Do you want to improve your tone, or move your fingers faster, or play high notes better? Check out all of the courses (which all have free samples for you to learn from) by clicking the button below:
Thanks for being a part of my clarinet community! Feel free to email if you have questions, comments or things you would like to see in future newsletters. I hope that you enjoy great music with your clarinet playing this week.
Michelle Anderson, Clarinet Mentors
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