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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000311.txt from 2000/04

Subj: [kl] good beginner books
Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2000 11:15:54 -0400

First associations with an instrument may have lasting effects on the
approach of a young performer in terms of understanding "what music is and
does." Is the study of music performance, at root, the development of
technical mastery of individual events (notes) arranged by musical rules that
describe their pitch, articulation and rhythm etc.; or an attempt to
communicate non-verbal meaning through phrase structures that contain changes
in pitch, articulation and rhythm etc.?

If you believe, as I do, that music is mostly about communication, a phrase
directed approach would emphasize the integrity of the air stream, air
support etc. from the beginning, in that the phrase structure is directly
related to and relies on continuity of air support. This need not be contrary
to the definition of technical goals, in that proper air support is, in the
final analysis, vital to achieving technical mastery as well. In my view,
many, if not most, problems experienced by clarinetists are, at root,
production problems. Embouchure formation and its effect on quality of tone,
articulation, intonation etc. etc., are all dependent on mastery of air

Some beginning methods teach individual, separate notes and require attempts
at articulation very early on, before a young player has been able to get the
idea (and feel) of continuous air support throughout a group of notes. This
quickly imbeds the concept, though unconsciously, that music consists of
these individual notes strung together, rather than of phrases that will
convey meaning through changes in pitch, rhythm, articulation and dynamics.
Examples of two frequently encountered problems "bred" by this approach are
(1) re-initiation of, or extreme variation in, blowing pressure with every
new note and (2) the tongue becoming "attached" to the air stream, changing
its "focus" for each new articulation. These features are difficult to
correct even in fairly advanced students. Other problems, technical and
musical, may be related as well.

So the method of first teaching separate notes seems to me essentially
unmusical in that it ascribes a "primary" authority or importance to those
individual, separate notes. And that a mechanical, rather than musical,
approach to learning one's instrument may be unintentionally validated.

"Adventures in Clarinet Playing" by Paul Van Bodegraven handles this quite
Air support and note changing are well under way before articulation per se
is introduced.

---Jim Pyne

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