• Common Clarinet Tuning Mistakes

    How do you tune a clarinet? No, this isn’t the start of a band joke (although I’d love to hear your punchlines if it were). Learning how to properly tune any instrument takes time – time to train your ears, time to learn how equipment responds to adjustments, time to listen and adjust to others, and many other variables. If you’re new to clarinet tuning, you should start by reading my complete guide on clarinet tuning to learn more about how the instrument works and factors which can affect tuning. Once you’ve got the basics, make sure you aren’t making any of these common clarinet tuning mistakes: Tuning before you…

  • 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…

  • How and why musicians should leave their comfort zones

    Musicians’ lives are built around repetition. Repetition of scales, passages, auditions, performances, and years of constant hard work and dedication to their craft. It’s understandable that musicians can become comfortable and complacent after a while. However, it is important for musicians to regularly explore beyond the boundaries of their comfort zones so they can continue growing as people and as artists. Leaving your comfort zone can be simple, like working on a new style, or more pronounced, like moving to another country. (I’ve lived in three different countries, and this has definitely influenced me as a musician!) Leaving our comfort zones is actually good for us because it causes the…

  • The Importance of Musical Prompts

    One of the challenges in performance or audition situations is transitioning smoothly from one piece to another. It can be difficult to instantly switch from one style or musical character to another, so how you can practice these changes before you perform? By using musical prompts. If you’ve ever given a presentation, you’ve probably used cue cards. Instead of printing your entire speech on each card and robotically reading from them, you choose succinct prompts to help you streamline your thoughts. Or, if you’re an actor, you think of prompts or other cues to help you quickly get into character. Creating musical prompts is the same kind of idea. For…

  • 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 études 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…

  • How often should you clean or replace your clarinet swab?

    If I ask you a question, do you promise you’ll give an honest answer? When was the last time you cleaned or replaced your clarinet swab? If you’re like many clarinetists (especially younger students who are learning the ins and outs of the instrument), chances are it’s been a while. Before I share my advice, I would like to offer a huge disclaimer that I am a classically trained clarinetist – not a medical or scientific professional. If you have specific questions about germs and the clarinet, especially concerning the clarinet during the current pandemic, you should look for scientific, peer-reviewed studies for this information. Back to cleaning your swab.…

  • How to use the Pomodoro Technique in the Practice Room

    If you’ve never heard of the Pomodoro Technique, it’s a time management skill used by people around the world. This technique utilizes specifically timed intervals (traditionally 25 minutes) called pomodoros, which is the Italian word for tomato. Why tomato? This is the design of the kitchen timer Pomodoro Technique creator Francesco Cirillo used while in university. During each pomodoro, you focus your attention to work on one task. Once the time is up, you move on to another task. After completing a few pomodoros, you are allowed to take a break. There are many more specific rules which you can discover on the official Pomodoro Technique website. The reason that…

  • Ways to reduce lower lip pain when playing clarinet

    Sometimes, playing clarinet can be a pain in the….lips. Some clarinetists may experience pain in their lower lip due to extended pressure and contact with the lower teeth. Although this is normal, you don’t have to play with pain. You’ll be happy to know that there are several ways to help alleviate this pain while you play clarinet. Here are a few of my favorite products that can help reduce lower lip pain in clarinetists: (I have personally tried items marked *. I have researched and collected several different products to share with you, and I strongly suggest trying different products until you find the best solution to reduce your…

  • The Clarinetist’s Tool Kit

    During my teaching these past few years, I’ve developed an analogy I like to call the clarinetist’s tool kit. I’m not referring to the literal tools a clarinetist might need such as pliers, screwdriver, or alcohol lamp (we’ll save that for another article). Instead, I refer to skills a clarinetist should develop to be ready for any musical situation. If you have an actual tool kit, there are probably a lot of tools you rarely or never use. You probably keep these because one day you might need them. This is true for the clarinetist’s tool kit. A clarinetist must develop a myriad of tools, some of which they might…

  • Random acts of kindness ideas for musicians

    The world can always use more kindness, and musicians can offer a unique type of kindness to others. In addition to using your music as a tool to spread happiness and good cheer, you can also use your platform and community to make someone else’s day a bit brighter. Here are a few random acts of kindness ideas for musicians: Leave a complimentary and encouraging comment on another musician’s video, recording, post or other type of content Send a DM to tell someone what their music means to you Like, share, retweet, or promote the work of another musician or artist Reach out to musicians you haven’t spoken to in…