• Clarinet Double Lip Embouchure: Overview, History, and Significance

    To double lip, or not to double lip, that is the question (at least for many clarinetists)! There are few topics of debate which spark such spirited discussion among clarinetists as the decision to use a single or double lip embouchure. If you don’t already know, a single lip embouchure is one in which the lower lip covers the lower teeth, and the upper teeth make contact with the top of the mouthpiece. In a double lip embouchure, both lips (upper and lower) are curled over the teeth (again, both upper and lower), and the lips – not the teeth – make contact with the mouthpiece. This embouchure is like…

  • Questions for Musical Introspection

    This blog post originally appeared as a digital clarinet studio lecture for the Iowa State University clarinetists. The last few months have been a whirlwind of emotions for everybody. I’ve been feeling a bit introspective lately (and I’m sure I’m not alone), so I thought I’d share some of the questions I’ve been asking myself and my students. While the world feels like it’s temporarily on pause, now is a great time to take a step back and consider your role as a musician and how you can use your music and your experiences going forward. Here are a few questions I’ve been musing over the last several weeks. Feel free…

  • The Clarinetist’s Companion to Daphnis et Chloé

    If you’re on the orchestral clarinet audition circuit, chances are you’ve encountered the second orchestral suite from Daphnis et Chloé. This suite is from the one-act ballet (or choreographic symphony, as Ravel himself described it) premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 1912, and it has haunted challenged clarinetists ever since. The original ballet is about an hour long, but Ravel created two orchestral suites which can be performed with our without a chorus. The second suite, our topic of discussion today, is more commonly performed and features the recognizable “Danse générale.” Without further ado, let’s dive into some tips and tricks to help you prepare this challenging excerpt!…

  • How to relearn the clarinet after an extended break

    One of the great parts about playing clarinet is that it seems like everyone you talk to knows somebody who plays or played the clarinet. Once others discover that someone plays clarinet, they’ll usually reply, “Oh, my mom/dad/sibling/aunt/uncle/grandparent/–insert relative or friend– played clarinet!” The problem is that many of these clarinetists discontinue their studies when life gets in the way. I realize that not everyone is training to become the next superstar clarinetist (is that even a thing?), but it seems like such a shame to give up a fun hobby which can be a great outlet for self-expression and even cardio activity! I know most of us are stuck…

  • Musical Inspiration from Leonard Bernstein

    This blog post originally appeared as a digital clarinet studio lecture for the Iowa State University clarinetists. For this week’s studio class, I would like to share one of my greatest musical inspirations with you all. Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was a true Renaissance man – conductor, composer, pedagogue, author, and cultural icon. He made classical music accessible to the general public and used it to promote peace and break down barriers around the world. Here are a few of my favorite videos of him discussing teaching, classical music, and many other subjects which are still relevant today. Teachers & Teaching Young People’s Concerts – What Does Music Mean (Part 1…

  • The Complete Guide to Clarinet Articulation

    There are more than a few…controversial…clarinet topics. Once you learn the basics, you learn that nothing is really as basic as it first appears. One of these hot topics? Articulation and tonguing. This is why I’ve waited so long to publish this complete guide. I’ve done guides on tuning, resonance fingerings, long tones, and other clarinet fundamentals, but discussing articulation to an audience of predominantly clarinetists seemed a bit ambitious, to say the least. Please note: Before we dive into this complete guide, I want to make it very clear that there are many different articulation beliefs, philosophies, fundamentals, and concepts in the clarinet world. Ask a room full of…

  • Keeping Time: A Short History of the Metronome

    I am a self-proclaimed metronome maniac. You’ll always find a metronome clicking methodically away throughout my practicing routine, used both as a speedometer and as the rhythm police. It helps me keep time and gain speed as I learn new pieces, and I feel strange when I practice without it. Long story short, I love metronomes. Even though I love music history, I’ve never given much thought to the origins of my trusty practice companion. Imagine my surprise when one of my students told me that the “inventor” of the metronome actually stole the design from someone else! Obviously, I had to investigate this sordid history… If we’re being quite…

  • The great singers (and how singing can help your clarinet playing)

    This blog post originally appeared as a digital clarinet studio lecture for the Iowa State University clarinetists. Singing is one of the most natural forms of music-making (and also one of the oldest). When you sing, you have no instrument, reeds, mouthpieces, ligatures, or any unnecessary equipment to bog you down. Granted, it takes a well-trained set of lungs and other specific vocal skills which can take many years to perfect, so singing is not quite as easy as many people seem to believe. I believe that listening to great singers and incorporating singing into your personal practice is an important part of any instrumental pedagogy. Singing can help you…