I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no panacea to become a master clarinetist (or any other instrumentalist, for that matter). We all have to follow a healthy musical “diet” of scales, long tones, and repertoire to improve.
We’ve all seen the gimmicky tabloid headlines promising instant results with zero time or effort (Lose 20 pounds overnight! Earn thousands from home! etc etc). These are certainly enticing, but true improvement (personal, mental, musical, physical, or otherwise) is the result of long-term dedication and commitment…
Buuuttt……I’ve discovered a close-to-instant fix that I use and share with my students. This is for those times during practice sessions when you’re not getting the results you want but can’t figure out how to fix it.
Use more air and less fingers.
When we’re struggling in the practice room, frustration causes our fingers to tense and air speed/velocity/volume to decrease. Clarinetists (and I’m assuming many other musicians) overcompensate for technical deficiencies through brawn in their hands and fingers. The result is tension in the hands, which can impede technical agility and development (not to mention create distracting key clicks). Unmonitored over long periods of time, too much tension in the hands can cause repetitive use injuries like carpal tunnel or other debilitating injuries.
There is no such thing as too much air! I have always believed that air can solve the majority of problems wind players experience. After you release any extra tension in your fingers, increase your air speed, velocity, and volume. Experiment with all parameters of your air until you achieve the desired results.
Bottom line: The next time you’re stuck banging your head on a wall (figuratively or literally, no judgement) and don’t know what else to do, try using more air and less fingers for a nearly-instant result.
Happy Friday, and happy practicing!