What to listen for and strive toward with clarinet sound

Dear Dr. Friedland:

What a wonderful web site. I have gained much insight about clarinet playing and technique just by reading the questions and responses. My question refers to a response to “Jennifer’s” concerns about returning to playing the clarinet after many years. You advised her to begin by playing long tones for 10 to 15 minutes or so, rest,and then play something melodic legato. I too am rediscovering my old friend the clarinet after many years. I have recently joined a community band. Most of the members are brand new to music, a few are like me, returning to music instrument playing after a number of years. The music is fairly basic at this point and I feel able and would like to take on more challenging music.
When I am at home practicing, and I practice every day, I spend a great deal of time hitting the scales before turning to my assigned music to play with the orchestra. I am trying to begin my return to the clarinet by “teaching” myself by progressing from whole notes, to half, quarter, eight, and sixteenth notes, and so on. Any problems with going on to scales like this and working on my dexterity and fingering? Am I getting ahead of myself. It is amazing how much of music in general and clairnet playing comes back after so many years. thank you for your time and response.
Hello and thank you for writing, and for the compliment,
For me, dexterity is not the final solution but simply a part . Perhaps legato is a more important part of the equation for it is a part of the sound, the single most important aspect of the clarinet.Sound is the reason we play this instrument and not another woodwind.
Combined with its ability to play legato so beautifully and in general to make sounds which are as close to being vocal production is the ultimate goal of the clarinetist.
I think all else comes after.
At an audition, the sensitive listener will always pick up the most human sound of all the players.
The ability to convey vocal quality is perhaps a more concise way to phrase it.
The voice is the most beautiful of musical instruments. Yes, because of course it can convey words, however the range of emotions, different emotional qualities cannot be approached by others of the orchestra.
All of the aspects of the instrument you mention are important, however your ability to convey musicality, the listener raising his or her eyes when they hear you express that “certain” quality will always win out over; speed or dexterity, tonguing or velocity are all by products.
Try the Hamelin book of scales following directions. The Steivenard scale book will assist you with rhytmic problems in scales, and the simple melodies to be found in the Rose,Book I will aid you considerably.
Think free-blowing for choosing a mouthpiece.Avoid many or most Selmer and Van Doren mouthpiece because though good, they tend to be a bit sharp. Clark Fobes makes many very decent mouthpieces which are easily avalable.
There is no such thing as a “step-up”mouthpiece. Some very inexpensive mouthpieces play as well as one costing 500 dollars. There are many other fine mouthpiece makers with products as well. Richard Hawkins is one of the most respected.
All of this is of course subject to many opinions, but always let your ear be the judge.
You will only be able to play to the amount of sensitivity with which you are blessed, as we are all.

good luck, Sherman


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