Searching for universal clarinet truths

Since I’ve committed to writing and publishing a daily blog this month, I thought this would also be a nice opportunity to explore some different topics and formats than I’ve done in the past. Instead of a pedagogical post, I thought I’d get a bit philosophical today.

A few months ago, I was giving a lecture on musicpreneurship in Manitoba, Canada. (Little did I know that this would be one of my last live performances and lectures for the foreseeable future!). During this lecture, I made an innocuous remark about how there is no universal clarinet truth. I used this as a quick example to show how there are many paths towards performing, teaching, and entrepreneurship, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the existence of universal clarinet truths.

Think about it – even the tenets held by some of the greatest performers and pedagogues of our time are met with different opinions, perspectives, and points of view. Something as simple as breathing has infinite idiosyncrasies, and when you get into embouchure, articulation, or other clarinet fundamentals, the differing clarinet factions only increase.

So, I ask you – can you think of a single universal clarinet truth?

Even some seemingly obvious statements are not universal. “Reeds are the bane of our existence.” (I personally don’t think so, but that’s another blog post for a different day.) “The Mozart concerto is the best solo from our repertoire.” (It’s pretty amazing, but I’d beg to differ. *coughCoplandcough*) “Left hand goes on top.” (But what about using the right hand to facilitate easier trills in difficult technical passages?)

Even though I doubt I’ll ever arrive at a satisfactory universal truth, this question will probably plague me for quite some time, and I challenge you to think of your own universal clarinet truths.

The clarinet, and music as a whole, is not one size fits all, and the multitude of differing opinions only serve to exemplify this. As you continue along your musical path, absorb all of the information you can; consult as many teachers as possible; experiment with several possible solutions; but ultimately, make sure you reach a conclusion that is true to you.


  • Robert Monie

    The one universal clarinet truth is that no matter what kind of music you are playing–classical, folk, commercial, jazz, pop, rock, bossa-nova, electronic-experimental–the music comes first and you must serve the music; you must be the agent in making the music happen. This is true even if you are improvising in your “own” style. It’s the music people are interested in, not your clarinet or how fast you can tongue, or high you can play, or the size of your tone, or your seamless circular breathing, or the evenness of your fingering. If these clarinety things matter at all, it is only in relation to the overall shape and quality of the music you are performing. If you communicate a meaningful musical experience, you have accomplished something. As for getting clarinetists to agree on anything–forget it; they (we) never will.

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