Advice, December 2015

Hey, so just a reminder that you are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to email me a suggestion for what you’d like me to write about on here. Or use the contact page on this website.


General advice, based on what I saw at school on Friday.

  1. You’ve got to figure out what the right angle for holding your clarinet is. I saw a lot people tilting their clarinets out a bit too much. For marching band, the general saying is 45 degrees, but in real life… that often can be too much. Make sure it’s comfortable and doesn’t smash your lower lip into your mouthpiece, because you want your reed to vibrate.
  2. Pay attention to where your fingers rest. If you’ve acquired bad habits, it’s not too late to fix them, but it will require you to put in effort. You really should put in the effort because it will allow you to play faster passages. In general, you want to do the least work possible. When you lift up your fingers, they should stay pretty close to the hole they just left, and just hover over it slightly. You can work on improving your technique by slowly playing  a scale and either looking down at your fingers to see where they go or simply go slowly enough that you can think of where each finger goes as it moves.
  3. Pinky hopping. Do not pinky hop. Pinky hopping is when you move your pinky in order to play two consecutive notes. You know how there are two fingerings for B, C, and C#, because you can either use the right pinky or left pinky? So, in order to play faster passages, it’s really important to get into the good habit of using both sides whenever you can. Sometimes, yes, it is unavoidable to pinky hop. But most of the time it is avoidable, and you absolutely should avoid it. I did a quick search and saw this website, which can provide a bit more practical examples if you want them :
  4. Practice your scales and actually learn them! Be able to play them at least in 16th notes with a quarter note equal to 60 bpm.

About learning new pieces:

  1. When you are just beginning to learn a piece, go slowly and don’t get scared. Set aside enough time to thoroughly go through it, and take breaks if that helps you. When you come to a part you can’t play at all, step back and try to count, clap it and hum/sing it if you can. Isolate that section and play it slowly but steadily. If there’s a jump between two or three notes that you slow down on every time you try it, just work on that until you can get it up to speed with the rest of it. Basically, slow down and take your time. Check to make sure you are learning the correct rhythm from the start. Always keep your beat.
  2. If you are relatively new to playing clarinet, don’t waste your time trying to learn the highest notes on the clarinet. For Festive Overture, for example, take the notes the staff down an octave. Yes, that means taking the entire section down an octave, but it’s fine. Later, you can try to learn it as it is written, but it’s more important to get what you can first.
  3. Don’t come to rehearsal unprepared! If you run out of time to learn everything, know how the piece goes so that you can at least get the soli sections, and at minimum for fast complicated sections you need to get the downbeats.


Again, this is all general advice coming from a brief glimpse of you all. Please ask whatever questions you have.

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