Dear Mr. Friedland,
I really love your website, and admire how you give so much of your time to help those of us studying the clarinet.
I am a clarinet major at university and I have a problem with
performances. Although I go into exams and recitals very well prepared, knowing the work backwards, I still get a little nervous. This manifests in an extremely dry mouth. Having a dry mouth is not only uncomfortable — it severely compromises my tone!
I have read the suggestion to try biting your tongue to produce more
saliva, but that doesn’t work. I keep a water bottle close by and take sips between movements and works, but that doesn’t help for very long either.
I am at a total loss, and my teacher cannot think of any way to alleviate this problem. Do you have any other suggestions? I have my final recital in November and am very keen to try and overcome this problem.
There are two ways to get rid of your problem and probably both will work.
The first is to perform many times, because while the fear or whatever it is
that causes lack of saliva will remain to an extent, you will learn how to
cope with it, for each of us suffers from the nervousness brought one by
public performance, especially early in ones career. It is a fact of life ;
some admit it, others do not .
The more you perform the better you will play as far as dry mouth is
concerned. Having water near you doesn’t help, however it does broadcast to
the audience that you are concerned about the problem or some problem,
something which I do not care to do. I want the audience to know nothing
save for the beauty of music being emitted by the clarinet They are really
not concerned about your agony, really, it is a good way to think. You have
to get by it and reach the music and get it to your audience.
For years I did not move so much as a muscle during performance because of
what I just have said. Now I move but just a bit. So, the answer is to try
to climb above it somehow and that is best achieved by experience.
There is another way in which I can make a suggestion for your
consideration: There is a reed made and patented by two Phd’s that recreates
the reed in a synthetic, one of whose aspects is that of wet cane. It works
very well, and many players use it.
I have a person who thanked me profusely for the suggestion, a retired
musician who had mouth cancer and was left with an inability to produce
saliva. I suggested this reed to him and he thanked me profusely for the
suggestion, as he called it a bonus. It is called “Legere”
Put it into your browser and you may read about it and order as well, should
you so desire. It is only a bit different and you must get exactly the right
strength but it lasts much longer than conventional cane and is more
consistant. I have tested it for several months, had the chance to perform
on it and was totally satisfied as was my audience.
This was for a teaching position and I was given the position based upon my playing.
Good luck J. on your recital and all futures.