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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000313.txt from 2000/04

From: "Dee D. Hays" <>
Subj: Re: [kl] good beginner books
Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2000 12:45:04 -0400

----- Original Message -----
From: <>
Subject: [kl] good beginner books

> 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
> describe their pitch, articulation and rhythm etc.; or an attempt to
> communicate non-verbal meaning through phrase structures that contain
> in pitch, articulation and rhythm etc.?
> If you believe, as I do, that music is mostly about communication, a
> 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
> to the definition of technical goals, in that proper air support is, in
> 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
> articulation, intonation etc. etc., are all dependent on mastery of air
> support.
> Some beginning methods teach individual, separate notes and require
> at articulation very early on, before a young player has been able to get
> idea (and feel) of continuous air support throughout a group of notes.
> 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
> Examples of two frequently encountered problems "bred" by this approach
> (1) re-initiation of, or extreme variation in, blowing pressure with every
> new note and (2) the tongue becoming "attached" to the air stream,
> 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
> well.
> Air support and note changing are well under way before articulation per
> is introduced.
> ---Jim Pyne

These arguments sound a great deal like those that were used to justify the
"whole word" method of teaching reading. "Afterall is the words that have
meanings not the individual letters and sounds." The net results was
students who could not read any word that they had not specifically been
taught. They could not figure out words that they had not seen before even
if it was part of their spoken vocabulary. These students had the poorest
communication skills ever. Yet taking the approach of teaching the
individual elements (called "phonics") was successful and it was used
successfully as a remedial technique for those subjected to the "whole word"
approach. In reading (and writing), first you learn the elements, then
string them together to make words, string words together to make phrases,
phrases to make sentences and so on. You build one layer of the pyramid at
a time so to speak. Adults are then able to read entire phrases or more at
a glance with practice. It is only after mastering the individual elements
that they can synthesize the results to produce an intelligible written

I would view music the same way. You have no chance to master phrasing
without mastering the elements first. The instructor is the key person in
getting the student to move from individual elements to musical phrasing.
The instructor is the key person in insuring that the students develop
continuous breath support regardless of the articulation.

My own feeling is that most people try to progress too rapidly. There is
not enough drilling on whole notes to develop the feel of continuous breath
support before moving on to shorter note values.

Dee Hays
Canton, SD

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