• Quick Fix Friday: Maintain the Momentum on Long Notes

    Happy Friday! Another week, another quick fix! You might think that long notes are easier to play – after some technical fireworks, you can hang out on a few whole notes and relax. If you’re guilty of doing this, you’re missing out on some nice phrasing opportunities. Let’s talk about my theory of musical magnetism for a second. I believe that all notes in music are either moving away from previous notes or moving towards upcoming notes. I think that notes either repel or attract each other, much like magnets. What does this have to do with clarinet? I hear many students who flatline or lose the momentum on longer…

  • Reed Advice for Beginning Clarinetists

    This post originally appeared on the Jellynote blog. Jellynote is a great website to find sheet music, articles, and other resources for musicians. I’ve enjoyed exploring their website using Jellynote Premium (which was generously gifted to me) the past few months, and I hope you’ll check out their website! The clarinet is a wonderful instrument, but it certainly does require several pieces of equipment, including reeds! For beginning clarinetists, selecting and caring for these reeds can be confusing, so here’s everything you need to know: Learn the lingo: Strength. Reed strength measures the flexibility of the cane, and this is typically measures in half or quarter strengths (generally ranging from…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Play Between the Notes

    Happy Friday! This week’s quick fix will help you direct your air while creating more compelling musical interpretations. If you’ve ever noticed that your sound is choppy or disjunct, it’s probably because you are slowing or stopping your air flow when you change notes. This is especially common if you are articulating notes, as the tongue can often interrupt the air flow if you aren’t careful. The quick fix? Play between the notes by focusing on creating a steady air column. Imagine this: you are riding your bike up a steep hill. You need a bit more momentum to make it to the top. Now, translate the momentum in this…

  • Clarinet History Story Time: When Heinrich Bärmann was questioned by the police

    When clarinetists think of Heinrich Bärmann, the famous Weber clarinet concerti usually come to mind. But did you know that he once had an unfortunate encounter with a Venetian canal, a petty concert organizer, and the Venice Police? This tale is recounted in the English translation of Louis Spohr’s autobiography. This entry is from October 12, 1816, and this story was shared by the German musician Aiblinger who had been living in Venice for the past sixteen years: “Count Herizo, a very rich nobleman, who, during the winter, gives a concert at his house every week, to which he frequently invites as many as two hundred persons, besought Bärmann, through a third…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Play with a slurred sound

    Happy Friday! One of the most common queries I receive is how to improve clarinet articulation. Many people focus so much on the tongue that they neglect the air. I truly believe that 90% of clarinet problems can be traced back to air, and articulation is no exception. (Don’t get me wrong – there are certainly issues that can arise with the tongue and other factors, but we’ll save those for another blog post. You can also check out my complete guide to clarinet articulation to learn more about improving your tonguing.) On to this week’s quick fix – play with a slurred sound! When I tell my students to…

  • Overcoming clarinet undertones

    Clarinet players everywhere are quite familiar with the dreaded squeak. But what about the squeak’s distant cousin, the undertone? Squeaks are easily identifiable – shrill, piercing, and distressing to any dogs in the nearby vicinity. An undertone is more subtle – it is the grunting, hollow sound that is literally under the tone you are trying to play. Undertones can happen in any register, but they are most common in the clarion and altissimo register. Just like squeaks, undertones are a completely normal part of being a clarinetist. However, if you notice that undertones are a recurring issue in the practice room, here are a few causes and how you…

  • Quick Fix Friday: No squishy lower lip

    Happy Friday! Do you ever feel like your tone is lackluster, unfocused, or just a bit blah? If so, your lower lip could be the culprit. Away from the clarinet, hold your mouth in a relaxed position, as if you were sleeping. Now gently touch your lower lip. It should feel squishy. This is fine most of the time, but not when playing clarinet. If your lower lip is squishy like this when playing clarinet, it can absorb some of the vibrations and create a duller sound. The quick fix? Make sure your lower lip is firm (but not tense!) by imitating a grimace. This will create a smoother sound,…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Follow the beam

    Happy Friday! You might be a bit confused about the title (no, I’m not referring to the beams in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, although this is a great series). I’m referring to beams in regard to rhythm. A beam is the horizontal line which groups certain notes together, such as two eighth notes or four sixteenth notes. Now, on to our quick fix: If you’re facing a tricky rhythmic passage and don’t know where to start, look at how the notes are beamed together. Most of the time, rhythms are beamed together by beat. Once you’ve found each beat, you can further break down individual beats to understand the…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Breathe from the corners

    Happy Friday, and welcome to another installment of my Quick Fix Friday! This week, I have a simple fix to allow you to take fast breaths without disrupting your embouchure. When you take a breath, make sure you breathe from the corners of your mouth and avoid moving your jaws. I commonly see students remove their jaws from the mouthpiece when they take a breath, and this creates a few issues: It causes you to have to completely reset your embouchure every time you take a breath, which means that you have a higher risk of squeaks and popped attacks. It also takes you longer to reform a proper embouchure,…