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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000023.txt from 1997/09

From: Mike Nichols <>
Subj: Re: A student's multiple questions
Date: Mon, 1 Sep 1997 14:17:56 -0400

On Mon, 1 Sep 1997, Michael Connolly wrote:

> Question #1:
> ------------
> The question: Is this just my bruised ego talking, or was this not

It is definately unfair. It is unreasonable to expect a high school
student (or any amateur clarinetist, for that matter) to own an A
clarinet, and it is equally unreasonable to expect him to be able to
transpose music in his head, since most professional players do not do
this. (Transposition between A and Bb is a nightmare to have to think
about, since you have to add 5 sharps to the key signature and move
everything down a half-step)

When I played in our local Youth Symphony years ago, a lot of our music
was written for non-Bb clarinets--as an example, many works of Beethoven
were written for C clarinet, an obsolete instrument. When that happened,
we just took the music home and wrote it out in Bb. It was no problem.

Unfortunately, this is the sort of sad situation that happens when string
players start holding auditions for winds. Stringed instruments are all
at concert pitch, so they don't have the problem of transposition we do.
And even if they did, it is easier to transpose on a violin (where you
move your hand up one position) than it is on a clarinet (where you have
different, often awkward key combinations to think about). To a string
player, a clarinet is a clarinet.

I know this because I have auditioned in front of string players
before--they will usually judge a wind player to the same standards as a
string player (little or no concern for tone quality, and a great emphasis
on mechanical technique [i.e., fingers]). Ideally, wind players should be
auditioned by other wind players (or at least in consultation with them).
The playing characteristics of a developing wind player are very
different from those of a string player, and to judge them requires the
expertise of someone familiar with wind instruments.

I would definitely say something about this. It might be a good idea to
get your band director involved, since he, being a teacher of wind
instruments, can more authoritatively specify to what standards a wind
player should be judged.

> Question #2
> -----------
> Since I am currently studying clarinet without a teacher, I am looking for
> suggestions on a good regimen of practice, i.e. a method book, exercises, etc.

Klose-Prescott 1st and 2nd year is what I used. It's got some really
great finger exercises in the front of the book, as well as really good
scale and arpeggio studies in the back. If you want to REALLY develop
your technique, the Rose studies are good. David Hite has compiled the
complete collection in "Artistic Studies from the French School," which
is the book that they pull the All-Region/All-State audition music from
for Texas. The etudes in that book are of differing difficulty--some
relatively easy, some extremely difficult. You should be able to find
some good practising in there.

> Question #3
> -----------
> I have seen it written on KLARINET that the choice of mouthpiece makes a
> large difference in a student's learning curve. Of course, the ever-popular
> B45
> comes to mind, but how much difference would it make from my current unmarked
> generic mouthpiece? (I do use quality mouthpieces on my saxophone, BTW. An
> A25
> for concert band, and a Berg Larsen for jazz band.)

You'll hear differing statements on this. Most band directors like the
Vandoren 5RV Lyre (you'll see it abbreviated 5RVL a lot), because it's
supposedly easy to control. I've never played on one, so I really
couldn't tell you from experience. My teacher started me out on a
professional mouthpiece, the Gigliotti P34, from the beginning (5th
grade), and I still play on a Gigliotti P34 today. She never liked the
5RVL very much.

The 5RVL has a very closed facing (probably the most closed-faced
mouthpiece on the market), and the Gigliotti is probably the most open (of
the classical mouthpieces--the Vandoren 5JB Jazz mouthpiece is more open
than the P34). So they're two completely opposite ends of the spectrum.
I don't know a whole lot about the differences between closed and open
mouthpieces, but I do know that the closed ones are supposed to be easier
to control. I think the open ones are louder and have a brighter sound.
(at least mine is louder and brighter) The B45 is an open mouthpiece
(not quite as open as the P34, though)

I would definitely invest in a good mouthpiece, though. When I bought my
Gigliotti years ago it made a huge difference over the mouthpiece that
came with my first clarinet (a Selmer HS*). The ligature also makes a
difference, because some ligatures are more reed-friendly. I use a Rovner
ligature, and it works well with most reeds. I used to use the Gigliotti
ligature, but I went through a bunch of those, because I used to break the
little plastic screws. I like to try to stay away from metal ligatures,
but some people like them.

Anyway, that's my spiel on mouthpieces and ligatures.... :)

Best wishes,

Mike Nichols

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