Dear Mr Friedland,
I recently came acRoss your Clarinet Corner and find it a veritable haven of useful advice! I do hope that you are still answering questions.
I used to be a relatively advanced player in high School, getting high marks in all the Associated Board exams, playing in a regional youth orchestra and so on. For a few years during university I let my playing lapse somewhat and am now playing more again but am frustrated that my standard and stamina have, inevitably, decreased! I have two questions really. Firstly, what would you consider the best ways for a player returning after an absence of 6-7 years to improve in terms of dexterity, articulation and stamina. I currently play in a community band but do not feel challenged and would like to get into a higher-level orchestra.
My second question is regarding my instrument. I currently play a Yamaha 64 – I know they are no longer made, I believe the current equivalent is the YCL-650. After talking to various people and doing some research, I basically have the itch to upgrade to something like an Opus or one of the new Leblanc Backun models. My current instrument has a few small issues — sticking pads, water bubbles under certain pads after playing awhile (I have tried to have both of these issues dealt with, with no success as yet) noisy keys, poor intonation in the higher register and my main gripe, the difficulty of playing the middle B. I have read in various places recently that Yamaha does not make the best instruments, but I wonder if many of the above issues could be fixed. A new instrument is obviously no small investment, but one that I would be willing to make it if it was likely to improve my playing or make it more enjoyable.
I would be grateful for any advice you can give Me. Many thanks for your continued assistance!
Returning to playing the clarinet is something to first determine just where you were when you left.
This starte with rediscovering your embouchure through playing long tones in the low register. This is to be done thinking about the sound you are making , the comfort of your embouchure and the satisfaction you are deriving as you play and listen to you’re playing. Everything you play should be judged by you, your ear and your mouth. Attacks and releases are to be considered and I general, this requires a good bit of concentration. Play these notes mezzo-forte and for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes. Then stopping to rest and to recoup. Then go on to some melodic studies, which are in general legato and pleasing in sound. Always be aware of the sound, attacks, embouchure and fatigue within the embouchure which should be minimal. The endurance will come later as well as the stamina. Keep it accessible to your embouchure and to your technic. This is the kind of slow pace I would advise.
As to clarinet,the 64 is a good instrument depending upon how much of a beating it has taken.
Consider an overhaul, which you can get from a fellow who goes by the name of “hornfixer” and is named Paul Heimann. He has done fine work for me, very reasonably. He knows how to do a good job. I recommend him highly. If you are considering purchasing an instrument of quality, I would suggest the Opus above all others. The Backun influence and ability have just been arranged with the Leblanc company and to me he has not show much of a luster of ability as yet.He may, but note that his prices are unusually high, and the provenance of his ability has not been shown as yet.
The Opus, Concerto, Sonata were all designed by his predecessor, Tom Ridenour, who is currently marketing an ebonite clarinet with the best scale in the industry at a very low price
Stay well, and be good to your work and in it too.