Quick Fix Friday

Quick Fix Friday: Check Your Pivot Points

Happy Friday!

What if I told you that I had a simple solution to pesky technical problems?

Good news – I do! Let’s talk about pivot points.

Pivot points are when the musical contour changes directions, or “pivots” (hence the name). For example, a technical passage can move upwards before descending or vice versa.

I’ve found that a large number of technical issues happen around these pivot points. What usually happens is that your fingers (and maybe your mind) gets used to going in one direction and can’t pivot as quickly as the music calls for. (Think of it like running down a hill and not being able to regain your momentum when you have to slow down or stop.)

This can cause technical issues, as ascending motion typically calls for clarinetists to remove fingers from the keyboard, while descending motion typically calls for us to add more fingers. These pivot points are a great opportunity to “reset” your technique to prepare for the change in direction (aka musical contour).

The quick fix? Take time to identify the pivot points and make sure you are cleanly hitting each of these. If you can “stick the landing” on these pivot points, it makes transitioning from one direction to another much easier.

Want to level up your pivot points? These can often be a nice opportunity to add a subtle rubato, which simultaneously adds a bit of musicality while helping to improve your technique – a real win-win!

Here’s a musical example from Cyrille Rose’s 32 Études where I’ve indicated the pivot points:

Cyrille Rose Étude No. 2 from 32 Études

If I notice any technical issues as I’m practicing a new piece, I always check to make sure I’m landing cleanly on the pivot points. This gives me an opportunity to regroup and reset my fingers to change directions.

I hope this helps you smooth out any technical difficulties you’re experiencing.

Happy weekend, and happy practicing!