Blasting in Bands……………………mistake

Dear Mr. Friedland,

Thanks for your reply, and sorry that I didn’t respond sooner. I was practicing several hours each night for the past week to prepare for our concert. Remember the youth orchestra that I mentioned? Well, the music wasn’t that terribly difficult after practicing so much; I even had most of it memorized. I was mostly practicing making my embouchure. I realized that I was using too much of my lip and too much mouthpiece. I can play with my upper lip near the tip of the mouthpiece and my lower teeth lined up with my upper teeth rather comfortably. Also, I was clamping down too much on my mouthpiece. I’ve been making a my corners slightly tighter and that helps, too. Does the position of the ligature matter? Because I tried moving it down more and, well I don’t know. It just seems like it sounds better and it’s less restricted.

I’m also a tad bit frustrated with my school band. I mean, I can certainly project my sound better after correcting my embouchure, but our band is just way too unbalanced. About half our band is brass instruments who over blow (they’re sharp, too, somehow). The flutes and oboes and their shrill out-of-tune-ness can be heard over the entire band. And the saxophones are just loud. We have eight clarinets. Three of them are bass clarinets that you can never hear. Three of them are second clarinets that are different degrees of flat, but that doesn’t matter because you can never hear them, either. And then there are the two first clarinets, which would include myself, who try our best to project and play the right notes in tune. If listen veeeerrrry closely to a recording of us, you can just barely hear a clarinet sound, mixed in with the deranged flute sound. You can barely hear the clarinets when we have a soli; the trombone section is too loud when they play a harmony part. Do you have any suggestions for this situation? Thanks, again.

A Progressing Clarinettist
Hi Anon.
I can tell you the very best thing about playing in a band made up of bad loud players. Never try to blast your way through. It will not work and the only thing you will accomplish is damage to your ears and your mouth, I dont’t know in which order.
I spent most of my early playing years playing in bands,and while some were good, with many good musicians, it is no use trying to blast your way through. I would practice thoughtfully and quietly while you are in rehearsal ,then make sure you go somewhere quiet and play for five or ten minutes to be sure you have retained the ability to play correctly.
Believe me, there is no sarcasm here.Bands do not exist for clarinets, at least not in the US.
The only band I ever played in which was beautiful was the New England Conservatory Band,back in the late 40’s conducted by Georges Moleaux, who was principal bass with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and, very curiously had won first prize in double bass, and in clarinet at the Paris Conservastory.
There were 20 firsts and 20 second clarinets, in other words, something like an orchestra but with clarinets instead of violins.
The rest of my experiences were less pleasant and musical than that first one. Good luck to you.

sincerely, Sherman Friedland


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