• 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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,…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Set Your Embouchure Before Playing

    Happy (almost) weekend! It’s been a while since I’ve written a Quick Fix Friday, and I thought I’d refresh this series with a small change that can make a big difference in your clarinet playing! Today’s quick fix deals with embouchure and helps you create a more even sound. If you suffer from popped, delayed, or otherwise imperfect attacks when you play a note, be sure your embouchure is set before playing. If you are trying to play while still putting your embouchure in place (firming the corners, flattening the chin, or any other movements), this can lead to inconsistent attacks. Before playing a note, set your embouchure as you…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Play scales musically

    It’s been a while since I’ve written a Quick Fix Friday! Here’s a quick fix to start your weekend on the right note: Do you practice your scales (or other technical exercises) with the same musical intention as you do when you’re working on ├ętudes or repertoire? Chances are, probably not. Scales are music too, but a large number of musicians focus just on the technical aspects, ignoring phrasing, tension, and overall musicality or expression. The quick fix? Add some musicality to your scales the next time you practice. Incorporate dynamics, rubato, pacing, and anything else to make your scales more interesting to play and to practice. Not only will…

  • Quick Fix Friday: No More Peekaboo Pinky

    Today’s Quick Fix Friday concerns a fingering issue I see all the time with beginner clarinet players – the dreaded peekaboo pinky! Most clarinet and band method books begin clarinet students with easy fingerings involving only the left hand, such as bottom line E or open G. This is practical for ease of technique and response, but many beginning clarinet students are often unsure what to do with the right hand. As a result, they develop bad finger and hand position habits as they devise ways to hold the clarinet more comfortably. The most common offense I see is holding the pinky (especially on the right hand) behind the clarinet,…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Breathe Like Kirby

    I love video games, especially when I can combine them with clarinet pedagogy. This week’s Quick Fix Friday is an analogy to help younger students (especially gamers) visualize proper breathing. I’ve taught dozens of beginner clarinetists over the years, and one of the most important fundamentals they must learn is air and breath support. Many younger students aren’t using enough air, and I can only say “More air!” so many times before we both get frustrated. Enter Kirby. He (or she??) is cute, cotton-candy pink…and a breathing machine! Anyone that’s ever underestimated Kirby in SSB (that’s Super Smash Bros., for any of my non-gamer readers) knows that his gale-force wind…