Getting a Good Sound

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I am 18 years old, and I have been playing the clarinet for four
and a half years. I now play a Yamaha instrument, but I don’t know
the model because it belongs to my high school. I have been
working on an etude for an audition and I am having some problems
with the technical aspects of it. It is arranged by C. Rose. It is
in 4/4 time, at a speed of quarter note=76. In second measure
there is a 16th note passage which is repeated throughout the
etude. The notes are: F on the fifth line, 3rd space C, G right
above the staff, 3rd space C, A-one ledger line, 3rd space C, B
above the first ledger line, 3rd space C, and high C as a half
note. I am having trouble getting a good sound from the 3rd space
C (sometimes even getting a sound at all!). I have tried playing
this bar slowly, in order to gain more control playing it, and I
have tried to play with my fingers extremely close to the keys.
Both of these have helped somewhat, but when I play it up to
speed, my sound is worse. I would ask my teacher at school for
help but it is summer vacation and she is not available. My other
teacher at school has always told me that I don’t “play out”
enough, that I should use more air, do you think that could be the
problem? I would really appreciate any help you had on this topic.

Thank you,

Patty

Dear Patti,

Thank you for your letter about the Rose Study.

The difficulties you speak of are very well-known to me,
especially these studies, and most especially this particular one
for it is one of the most famous technical and, even much more, it
is a study in sound and legato that every sincere clarinet student
must learn.

This is not an easy study, nor are these Rose studies easy at all,
and most are studied for their difficulties having to do with the
making of sound and legato.

First and foremost, this particular study is to be played very
slowly, and you speak of the measure that is most difficult. It is
always subdivided; that is to say, instead of , let’s say the
quarter equaling 60 on your metronome, it is the eighth note that
gets the slow beat.

This makes the playing of the 16ths a study in connections, not
one of technic. Each 16th is to be played with tonal and technical
security, and the only way to do that is quite slowly. Yes, it is
almost impossible to play and yes, the C on the third space
doesn’t come easily, but that is because you have not played it
slowly, very slowly.

For an example, just play from F to C, really slowly and do not
move until you have got it down perfectly; that is to say, an
equal sound for each note and an immediate connection from the F
to the C. If you play it too fast it may or may not speak. What
you want is for the note to speak immediately, and this is NOT a
matter of chance. Here is where you work out one of the most
difficult aspects of playing the clarinet or any wind instrument:
the beautiful and seamless connection between each note. NOT what
happens on the F and on the C , but how you get from one to the
other and the legato that you begin to develop while practising
this difficult interval quite slowly.

This is what the clarinet is all about; not fast or speedy
playing, but that bell-like beauty that probably attracted you to
the instrument in the first place. If your music teacher is a
brass player, it is simply not the same. There is nothing more
that I can say about this one measure. It comes at the beginning
of the Rose Studies and is one of the most difficult because , as
I have said, it teaches you the very essence of clarinet playing,
that of legato and not playing the notes, but how you make the
connection.

If I were your teacher, I would instruct you to begin to learn to
make these connections, but always slowly, and never to “get
through” the exercise in one practise session or a few minutes.
The Rose Studies are for many clarinetists, like reading “War and
Peace”, something not terribly easy to get through, but once
having done so, never ever forgetting because of the learning
experience.

Now, that is about enough of Rose. Read this a couple of times, to
make sure that you understand that these connections are to be
practised always slowly and with keeping track of each movement
you and your embouchure make. Make sure your hold on the clarinet
doesn’t deviate and the support must also be equal; yes and check
your finger and hand position to make sure that you are “in
control” of all that I have mentioned. It is the only way to go
about the Rose Studies and , by the way, the real road to the
clarinet and its deep musicality and beauty.

Best of luck. Take your time; you have plenty of time and never
rush.

Most sincerely

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