New Clarinet, only 8thnotes, then 16ths,then ………….

August 24, 2006

Hi Sherman

I’ve recently bought a new Leblanc Concerto II B flat clarinet, and I am writing to you to get your views on how to break in a new clarinet. From what I can gather from other sources, playing it too much in the beginning, could lead to cracks, and this of course makes sense. But how much is too much? I’ve had my new clarinet for only three weeks, but must admit that it’s tempting to exceed the 15 minutes per day that most “experts” seem to set as a limit. I presume that it’s best to play only a few minutes per day in the beginning so as to let the clarinet get gradually accustomed to moisture and temperature changes and generally to being used, but how long
should one stick to just 15 minutes per day? On occasion I have already played for longer than that, but never for more than about 25 minutes.
Besides cracks, what other bad things can happen to a wooden clarinet if it’s overplayed in the beginning? What about oiling the bore? I haven’t done it on any of my clarinets (yet), because there seems to be so many different opinions as to whether and why it should or shouldn’t be done, and it’s all rather confusing for a non-expert like me. What is your take on this? My new clarinet is really lovely, the only slight problem is it’s very tight to assemble, especially putting the top and bottom joints together. I’m hoping
this is going to become easier after awhile; the last thing I want to do is damaging it by gripping too tightly around the keys to put it together (and take it apart). My other clarinets were also a bit like this when new, but got easier to handle after a while. How long should it take for the cork on
the joints to “settle”? As always, thank you for responding to my clarinet queries. I appreciate your help very much.
Best wishes,
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First, it is my personal feeling that if a clarinet is going to crack it will most probably at some future time.
The only way to bring one on so-to-speak is to put your horn in thetrunk of a car when the temperature is below zero, take it out and immediately play it while it is still cold.
As far as playing a new one too much, I would only go along with that to an extent, for instance 30 minutes twice a day, making sure you
dry it out after each session.
This is all conditional based upon where you live and the humidity or lack of same.
I tend to play new instruments to death, but then again playing new
instruments is more fun than anything of which I can think. Not buying them , just trying them.
When I was teaching in Montreal I simply always had a new horn to play, and I played many concerts on them, and even recorded a couple of “cuts” on my records with new horns. As a matter of fact I wish I had kept several, or at least more than I did keep.
The joints not fitting is a different problem, one that I find upsetting actually. A top rank technician ought to be shown the horn, I would think.
You are playing an expensive instrument, very wll-designed, so I would treat it well, but after that it should stand the test of frequent playing.It is not a car, where you only play 8th notes for the first few weeks, then 16ths, and finally 32nd notes. But I am joking of course.
Oil the clarinet by putting only a bit of oil on your swab, about once a year. I knew a student who ruined a clarinet by soaking it in olive oil

Best of all good luck with your horn and all that you pursue.

sherman

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Mouthpiece,what is good? Managing reeds on mouthpiece

August 22, 2006

Dear Mr. Friedland:

I would like to start off with a million thanks to your effort put in to this site, it is really very helpful to us.

My question concerns mouthpiece. And I am a intermediate clarinet player. Sometime ago, I was recommended this mouthpiece called Ralph Morgan by one of my friends. I was told that it could produce a much better tone than my current mouthpieces, the Vadoren B45 and 5RV lyre. So I want to know that is this mouthpiece really good? And what are your recommendations for good mouthpieces to be used with Buffet Prestige and Vandoren 3.5 Reeds that can produce more dark and warm tone?

And another thing is that doesn’t more reed in the mouth (not exaggeratedly) = better tone quality or more range of notes? Is this wrong?
Thank you very much
———————————————–
Hi:
Thank you for your inquiry and for the compliment. I try to serve all with the knowledge acquired (hopefully) of a long and continuing career.
The mouthpiece you mention is good….IF you like it and it plays well for you,if is easier to find reeds for,if it is intune, and helps you produce the sound that you have in your head, as well as assisting in your articulation.
If all of these things are achieved with the Morgan mouthpiece for you, then you should get one, however keep in mind that each mouthpieces of a particular maker play differently, so be sure that the best one for you is the one you buy. In a few words, you have to like it, and it has to make you sound better.

As to the amount of reed in the mouth, this is a very tricky issue. It can be true that more depth of tone is possible, but if you take more mouthpiece into your mouth in order to get more reed in, you may make the serious error of too much, and you will be quite sharp and also squeak considerably.

If you take more lower lip with reed into your mouth, the same is true and you need not experience any kind of discomfort.

However this issue is very personal and there are many personal factors involved.

I hope I have been of some help.

best wishes, sincerely,
sherman


Auditions, the moment of truth

August 16, 2006

Hello Mr. Friedland,

First let me begin by thanking you for this wonderful resource. I come to your site often for new ideas and approaches to playing the clarinet.

I am a mater’s student at Boston University, currently studying with Ethan Sloane. I’ve been putting alot of emphasis on working on the standard orchestral excerpts in preparation for taking auditions, etc. I would like to know what an audition committee is looking for during an audition. Also, how forgiving are they for little mistakes that might occur due to nerves, etc.

My second question is about air…I’ve noticed that when I play a small little stream of air can be heard/felt coming out the sides of my mouth. Its not terribly noticeable to an audience, but is this anything to be alarmed about? I’ve often heard other clarinetists do the same thing.

Thank you for your time!
——————————————————————-

Hello Peter:
Many thanks for your letter and comments. They are deeply appreciated. It is very gratifying to be able to respond to both young , and more experienced clarinetists, and entering professional, and even more.

In the case of audition committees, I’ll begin with a story of a student of mine who took an audition for the second clarinet position of the Denver Symphony . This was a number of years ago.

He related to me during his preparatory lesson that this audition would consist of requests for certain excerpts. If during the audition you heard a bell ring, that was the end, and you were dismissed, no words, nothing, just the bell.

My student than played a number of the standard orchestral excerpts that are usually asked for at auditions:
Beethoven Pastoral, Third, Eighth, and Fourth, Mendellsohn Italian,Reformation, and Midsummer Nights Dream.

When he played the scherzo, I stopped him telling him that he was not playing in time, which was true.
“Time” is the single most important thing that is listened for, that is to say ones sense of rhythm and their execution.

No, he didn’t get the job. I asked him how far he had gotten and he responded, “to the place you told me they would ring the bell

In his case, it was deserved because he was unusually cocky and didn’t play all that well, and an audition is the “moment of truth” for a clarinetist, the Scherzo from the Mendelssohn being the perfect place .
So, they do not let little things go by, not at all has been my experience, not at all. Or specifically, at an audition the committee is totally unforgiving, nothing is allowed to “go by” as you have asked. There are so many people who go to these audtions that they have to be this way. Which is not meant to be a deterrent. Aim for and achieve perfection.
“Nerves” are not allowed. Everyone is under the same pressure.

As to your second question, you can eliminate the small leakage that occurs at the sides of your mouth. It is a matter of concentration on the specific sound and from where it emanates, then stopping it.
You must and you will. I did, using that concentration, and as I recall it is a habit that has been allowed to go by , and those are the things that must be eliminated. That is not to say that it will keep you from success in the orchestra , but it is all a part of the clarinet, or better, the clarinet business. I perhaps could help if I could see you play, but the best idea is not to allow it.

I hope this has been of some help.

Best of all good luck in all your work at BU and at the auditions. Myself,I am from Boston , went to BU for a while and then NEC, but that was almost 50 years ago. (Oh my god!)

sincerely,
sherman friedland


In need of clarification and guidance

August 16, 2006

Dear Mr. Friedland;

I have taken much time reading your articles on clarinets, mouthpieces, reeds, embouchure, etc. I think I am now totally confused and on information overload. I am purchasing a clarinet for my 12 year old daughter, who is starting her second year of playing. I want a good instrument but cannot afford the high priced ones. To this end I plan on ordering the clarinet that you seem to be very happy with. Does this come with a good mouthpiece or should I purchase a different one? I have read your articles, you recommend several different mouthpieces depending on…….. but I still do not know which one would be best for her age and ability. One (or two) choices at the most would be helpful. Also, ligature and reeds? Since she enjoys playing and seems to be sticking with it, I plan on getting her private lessons. I would also like to know how to find a good teacher? Thank you so much for all the information that you have made available to us.

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Hello:
I am sorry for any information overload, but pleased that you have experienced erudition from reading Clarinet Corner.
It is almost impossible to be very specific regardiing age or musical sensitivity a child may have and then recommend as well.
Living in Southen Ontario as I do, I cannot give you specifics on how to get a teacher, however I would suggest that you call the closest University having a Music Department. I am sure they will be able to advise a private teacher for your daughter.
And the private teacher will have suggestions as to mouthpiece and even instrument as well. He will base these recommendations upon visiting with your daughter at their first session.
Yes, I can recommend the instrument and am happy with it, however your new teacher may have a suggestion which he considers to be advantageous for your daughter and it is his suggestion that you should take.
There are other instruments that offer quality without the hideous and useless expense of a high priced instrument.
Let your private teacher make all of these recommendations, and “go” with his suggestions.
Ligature is inconsequential at the beginning. Mouthpiece is and I would suggest the Fobes Debut, which plays well and is very economical.
Perhaps a better reed than normal Rico, perhaps the GC Rico which is more consistant.
But again, take the recommendations of her new teacher.

Best regards,
sherman friedland


Mother of an 8 yr old clarinetist–needs advice!

August 15, 2006

My 8 yr old daughter goes to an elementary school with a heavily emphasized music program (much stronger in strings than in woodwind instruments, however). She selected the clarinet to play. She played the B flat clarinet for about 4 months. Then one day, she came home excitedly with an E flat alto clarinet. The band director had asked for volunteers and she was the only one who raised her hand. She transitioned fairly well (despite the fact that the instrument was almost as tall as her). I LOVE the sound of the E flat alto, and my daughter enjoys being the only child that gets to play it.

A few things bothered me, though. I was very wary of picking up another instrument when she had not yet mastered the B flat. I also became frustrated over the lack of music for the instrument. There are few band pieces written for E flat alto, so she ended up sitting next to the tuba section and was forced to play music written for tubas.

I was instructed by the band teacher to have her “keep up both clarinets over the summer” but to “focus on the B flat.”

I finally located a clarinet teacher, who happens to be one of the lead clarinet players for our city’s orchestra (we live in a very large city). He was shocked to hear that my daughter had been given an E flat alto at such a young age. After seeing her play over time, he feels that she is having confusion between the two instruments. Because she has played the E flat alto more recently, when she plays the B flat, she takes in too much mouthpiece and holds the instrument as if it were an E flat. He feels that the 2 instruments are VERY different. He thinks she should focus on the B flat for a few years and THEN try the E flat. He says that once a player learns the B flat well, he or she can easily learn any of the other clarinets.

I know NOTHING about woodwinds (I played a brass for a year and play piano). I tend to believe what her teacher is saying, due to his long experience with the clarinet. After much thought (and talking with my daughter), I decided to return the E flat alto today. I love the sound and my daughter loves playing it, but I don’t want her stuck playing tuba parts the rest of her band career. I want to start out right–positioning, tonguing, where the mouthpiece is placed in the mouth are all so new to her now. I want her to get a firm foundation so she doesn’t have to correct huge mistakes later on.

The band director is a sax player. He just doesn’t have the time to devote to every student (and I am not sure he cares how she plays the instrument–just if she is able to play the songs). When I gave him the E flat back and explained, he just told my daughter that they would give the instrument to someone else (which of course made my daughter cry because she wants to be the one that plays the “special” instrument).

Am I making the right choice or am I misinformed? How “long” should a clarinetist work on the B flat before he/she is able to transition to another clarinet? I really think she has potential, so I want to do what will make her the best clarinetist in the end.

Thanks!
A Clarinetist’s Mom
——————————————————————–To The mother of the clarinet-playing daughter:

Well, I think that the band director is simply trying to retain a player for the alto clarinet, an instrument very seldom used and without interesting parts and while “different looking” is really not a great musical contributor to the repertoire of the band.
You have been very astute with your daughter and in taking the advice of the professional player.
The only problem are the tears of disappointment that you say your daughter experienced in having the alto clarinet taken away.
Everybody is correct and nobody knows how long the child will wish to play any of these instruments.
The child cries……and so?

Beware of Band Directors who ask for volunteers

Perhaps she should be told the advantages of staying with the Bb clarnet.
Best of regards and say hello to your daughter.
Sherman Friedland


“Is it really necessary to tongue”?……..Yes indeed

August 14, 2006

Hello again Mr. Friedland. I am concerned about tonguing. I would
like to ask you if it is really necsessary to tongue. I can make a
nice sound without it so what is the big deal with it. My teacher
said I needed to learn how to do it and others tell me all notes
should be tongued except when slurring. Is that true

Thanks
Kristin

Hi Kristin:

As far as using your tongue to start the sound of the clarinet, your teacher is absolutely right.
The reed works just like the pipe on an organ. What the reed is allowed to vibrate, it is because air is allwed to flow past it causing it to vibrate, as is the case with the clarinet.
One has to learn to use the tongue because that is the most accurate way to start the reed vibrating and making the music as you wish or as it is written.
If you do not use the tongue, you may make a nice sound, but not necessarily in the correct place, and you will never be able to get the sound to come out rapidly on repeated tonguing passages.
Initially this is difficult to do cleanly, but you must just practice slowly and it will come to you and you will be able to use the tongue in a most subtle musical way, as you wish.
The discipline of tonguing leads to the freedom of playing correctly, and of course having real control over the instrument. You can learn to tongue so well that the control you gain will make it sound as if you were simply making beautiful music. Music is always the answer.
Good luck in all your work.
Play well.
sherman


Barrel fused to joint, a common problem

August 9, 2006

Dear Mr. Friedland:

How do I take apart a barrel from the upper section when the two are absolutely immovable? Have been for several days even in a cool room. Its a 6-mos. old buffet R 13, a humid summer and prolonged, probably wet playing one day. And how prevent it from happening again? Best to you, cr
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Hi:
This is an interesting problem, one that is shared by many many players, especially those using this instrument. The binding of the barrel to the first joint is so common that many players are instructed by their teachers to never push the barrel all the way in, flush to the first joint, which is, of course, not great for tuning, however in the instance of this instrument, which is mostly sharp in the throat register, the idea has some merit for obvious reasons.
The problem occurs because of moisture and the barrel retaining moisture. If you want to guard against the problem, make sure you dry your clarinet thoroughly before putting it back in the case, really thoroughly, not only with the swab but with a small piece of absorbent material, drying the tenon specifically and fully because that is the cause of the problem.
When almost fused as is yours at the time of your letter, you can try heating the barrel ring with almost anything, for instance a hair dryer. The resultant expansion should enable you to to remove the barrel.
In future you may wish to get a different barrel. Or you could use a clarinet made of hard rubber, wherein the problem will not occur, or recur.
Good luck with all your work.
play well, sherman
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From cr:Many thanks for your very full reply. You are really indispensable. I will certainly follow your advice. The barrel has come apart in the meantime, after about four days. You do not mentioned having the joint sanded or cut larger. Is that a bad idea?
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Reaming out the barrel is not a great idea, mostly because anybody can do it, but few can do it well, and what happens if it is done too much? then you are in trouble. sherman