Tales of a Clarinet Player

I’ve been away from the computer for quite some time due to various travels and performances in New York. I had a wonderful time in Binghamton and Ithaca, performed many wonderful concerts and interacted with some really stellar musicians.

And so, here we are again, back in Cincinnati. It was a bit more difficult to re-acclimate  myself to the hustle and bustle of the city and the Conservatory – but I’m slowly getting back on track. My time away from the Conservatory was great and think I needed it on a very basic level – it was good for my soul. My two-week tour afforded me quite a bit of down time too, which is something I rarely have here in Cincinnati. It was so nice to get back to some really core basics while in New York and had the opportunity to really sit down and score study!

During one of the master classes, I talked about the importance of practicing both on the clarinet and OFF! It’s such an invaluable tool and you really gain an intimate relationship with what you’re playing when you take the time to study the piano part or the full orchestra score. For years, my score study was sort of inconsequential and I never really studied it, I mostly just followed along with the recording. That’s helpful to an extant, but there’s a cap on what you take in during that time. I spent a lot of time in front of a piano, singing parts in the orchestral score or plunking out important lines. I’m lucky in that I know how to play the piano and spent a lot of time learning the piano part and singing the clarinet line. It’s tough but you gain a more cohesive understanding of the music on a much larger scale.

Much of the work I do in lessons now is learning how to get to the next level. Sounds strange to spend lesson times figuring out how to get that next plain, but for me it’s been an essential exploration of my own personal and emotional ethos and how to apply that to my individual studies. Attention to detail and learning how to be more OCD about everything – and never settling for less than your best.

That last part is actually the impetus for my blog today. My warm-up was not stellar today and it’s partially my fault. I blew through a lot of core exercises that are the foundation for everything else. I failed to spend enough time doing long tones and immediately went right into my tonguing exercises. I made note in my practice log a few days ago that some time needs to be spent on articulation in the lower range of the instrument to maintain the quality of sound throughout all dynamic levels and styles of articulation.

You can’t achieve that if you’ve blown through your long tone exercises.

I then went to scales without fixing what needed to be fixed and found myself getting more and more frustrated with the quality of my sound through my work. This is a hard thing for me to work past because I can’t quite seem to break the mental block when this happens – resulting in my scales being as unmusical and boring as a student just learning them for the first time.

I ended up walking home, a little frustrated, and knew that I need a mental break before I go back and re-do my foundation studies for the day. I know a lot of musicians think that the core of your foundation should come from the music your playing, and I agree to an extent…but only to an extent. Consistency is a problem with many musicians, I don’t care what level you’re at, and working on the very foundation of our playing helps to foster a more consistent product.

Gross, I hate using the term product when it comes to my playing – even though we’re essentially selling a product to the audience.

Maybe I need to change things up? My foundation studies are becoming stale and I’m in need of a mental and physical change.

We’ll try that.


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