Before I get into when it is alright to blame the reed, I want to really quickly and very importantly say that a lot of times it is NOT the reed's fault! Almost all of the issues that arise in the video can be encountered by poor clarinet fundamentals as well.
With that out of the way, I want to start off with directing you to the video I just mentioned. Here is a link to a video where I go over the Top 6 Reed Issues: https://youtu.be/jsGfOAKDP9M
If you prefer reading, here is a brief synopsis of each issue:
1. Too Soft
These reeds tend to sound quite thin in the louder or higher notes, and have really unpredictable note beginnings. They may squeak and squawk, and make it almost impossible to play with a clear focused sound. Much of these same problems will come up if you are putting too much embouchure pressure on the reed.
2. Too Hard
Hard reeds just feel bad to play. It is hard to get notes to come out, you run out of air really quickly, and it takes a lot of work to sound alright....
Writing this at the end of March 2020, I am thinking of ways that I can help the clarinet community while most of the world is on lock down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Though this is particularly pertinent in these difficult times, all of these resources are fantastic at anytime you may need them!
This is a pretty comprehensive list of all of my favorite online resources for learning clarinet, so whenever you are feeling like you don't know what to work on or you need some inspiration for what or how to practice you can find it somewhere on this list!
A Little of Everything
The Clarinet Subreddit
Be careful not to get too carried away looking at all of the eclectic and interesting posts that accumulate on this page, but instead draw your attention to the resource list on the right hand side of the page. There you can find links to a ton of clarinet resources! Everything from method book recommendations to other forums, educational material, etc.
Free Education and Entertainment...
Today is the day! After a few weeks of pondering the toxicity in classical music and the reasoning behind it, today we are finally going to come up with some solutions.
So if scarcity and competition are the issues that lead to toxicity, the solution is very simply the opposite of that: abundance and inspiration.
Let's look at the example I brought up last week about the scarcity of only having one chance to nail a performance, and see how we can turn that into an opportunity for abundance.
The absolute perfect story for this is a performance in which a mistake happened, but it made the performance better!
I was at a concert of listening to a clarinet quintet. Throughout the piece the string players were quite enthusiastic about their page turns and each turn had a very noticeable snap to it, then towards the end of the piece there was a big sort of tutti section where the strings were playing on their own before the clarinet came in, and just before the return of the clarinet...
In my last blog post, we looked at all the ways that classical music is toxic, so today I want to explore why that might be.
Most of this comes down to scarcity and competition. Let's look at the examples of toxicity I listed in the previous post, again.
I have to play well enough to get a solo bow.
I have to be better than my colleagues to win an audition.
I have to accept every opportunity that comes my way or I won't get any more.
I am a failure if I make a mistake.
I must perform up to the expectations of the conductor/teacher.
I need to practice more to avoid failing.
I should feel guilty if I am not practicing.
I need to buy better equipment than everybody else.
I need to make my teacher proud.
Each of these cases come from a sense of scarcity and competition. There are only a certain amount of solo bows to go around, I have to practice more, play better, spend more on equipment than the other players. My teacher/conductor will only be proud if I reach this limited echelon of success....
A brief warning before we get too far into this. This is a sort of half baked idea, and I would really love to hear your thoughts on this. I suspect I may make several more posts on this subject, and would love to get your input. I also hope to find a positive end to this, though I do expect that would challenge a lot of the social norms and traditions.
Though music is something that is supposed to be about expression and creativity, it is so very easy for it to end up in the "very bad, unpleasant, or harmful" aka "toxic" zone. I have recently done a lot of soul searching in this regard, and I want to give an example of a sort of light at the end of the tunnel.
Recently, I had a large ensemble performance in which I had a few solos, and at the end of the piece when the conductor was doing solo bows, I was not invited to stand up.
Now I am sure your immediate reaction, is probably along the lines of "o wow, you must have messed up bad", or "that must have been so upsetting" i.e. what...
This wonderful Bob Ross GIF, in which he says, "Talent is a pursued interest. In other words, anything that you're willing to practice, you can do", was the perfect inspiration for today's blog post!
If you talk to professional musicians and ask them what some of their least favorite things to hear from the audience after a great performance is, you might be surprised by the answer.
I'm sure you would suspect that they wouldn't like to hear any criticisms because that feels bad, and though it doesn't always feel great, professionals are always interested to know the honest truth of how their performance came across to the audience.
The thing that actually annoys them the most is probably the phrase, "Great job, you are so talented!"
Seriously, any professional knows the ambiguous conception of some kind of magical talent has very little to do with their success (or failure) on the stage!
Being a professional isn't about talent, it is about hard work.
The thing that separates...
If you are consuming online clarinet content, like this blog, and you haven't checked out the Earspasm YouTube Channel. You have to go do that right now!
Michael Lowenstern makes absolutely fantastic clarinet content that is also highly entertaining. Including the video I want to share with you today, which is titled Drunk Mouthpiece Testing!
I'm sure you can tell just by the title that the video is going to be entertaining, but even better than that it is exceptionally educational.
Michael is joined by professional clarinetist Michael Norsworthy, and they go through a ton of mouthpieces and discuss a lot of information on what to look for in a mouthpiece.
The mouthpiece is one of the most important parts of the equipment, and this video is the perfect guide to what you should be doing when you are shopping for a new mouthpiece!
A couple quick things from the video if you don't have time or interest to watch the video.
1. Try many different mouthpieces. Different brands, models, and...
It is officially 2020, and I can't wait for you to discover what your clarinet journey has in store for you this year!
If you are one of the dedicated people reading this, then I think it is a strong possibility that you have something about improving at the clarinet in your New Year's Resolution, which is great!
However, I want to make sure that your clarinet resolution is something you can stick to and something that will bring you success. Here are some resolution Do's and Don'ts that will help you make the most of your playing in 2020!
Don't Practice More
I know this may sound crazy, but simply resolving to practice more isn't going to maximize your growth in 2020. Sure you may practice many hours throughout January, but it is only a matter of time before your practice habits return to normal. Simply resolving to practice more is too generic and will most likely not have long term impact on your playing.
Do Change Your Practice Habits
Changing your practice habits is a much more...
With Christmas coming up next week, I think it is the perfect time to talk about what to give clarinet players for Christmas, and what to put on your Christmas list to improve your clarinet playing.
Unfortunately, my answer isn't super exciting, but it is super important.
Reeds are the perfect Christmas gift for a clarinetist. They are decently affordable, and you can never have too many of them!
I know you were probably hoping I would tell you to get a new clarinet or a fancy ligature or something like that. I know how you clarinerds obsess over equipment!
Honestly though, reeds are your most important piece of equipment, and having an abundance of reeds, so that you can work through and find the best ones that work reliably, will allow you to practice and perform at a higher level.
So tell everybody your favorite brand and strength of reed and hope that Santa fills your stocking with them!
Happy Practicing and Happy Holidays!