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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000369.txt from 2000/04

From: "Patricia Smith" <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Student motivation (or lack thereof)/ Lame Excuses
Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2000 21:48:44 -0400

Hi all. Sorry I was not more specific. Of course, this will vary in
extreme specifics from one student to another.
"First get out the horn, and CAREFULLY put it together." It amazes me how
some people find this one of the hardest of the hurdles - I do myself,
sometimes...ADHD, perhaps? Seriously now...
Then, select a reed from the rotation of reeds - I suggest beginners always
have four reeds they can play on, and to never play on the same reed two
days in a row- and place it carefully on the mouthpiece, by inserting the
butt end under the ligature until the tip and the mouthpiece tip are aligned
properly. (For intermediate students who have gone up a strength or two in
reeds, or who are newly learning how to adjust their reeds, there will be
some variance depending on each one's needs, of course)
Wet the reed, blow warn air into the horn, and Warm-up on, for beginners, an
assigned piece for warm-up. There are particular lines in the Rubank which
are all whole notes, and I assign one of these per week to be played first
every day. The student is told to check for proper adjustment of lips and
breathing, just like we have done in the lesson. I even write the
instructions down on a "prescription" to be followed by the student. This
is to be done slowly, mostly to slow the student down. Teaching students to
listen to themselves begins here, but it can only happen if they are slowed
down enough to be able to listen to themselves. Warm up for first month
beginners is never more than 2 -3 minutes.
Next are the pieces to be reviewed. These might also include those that
were reassigned for various reasons from last week. In the lesson we target
just exactly what in each of these pieces needs to be worked on some more -
and I emphasize that this does not make the student a poor player, or any
other such thing- that sometimes, some elements of playing simply take
longer than others and some pieces are so good to teach those things they
are worth repeating. I demonstrate again what part of the piece I want the
student to emphasize in his/her practice and I write that down, or note it
in the student's book. For beginners, this almost always involves having
learned a new note or note value, or a new rhythm. (This is one of the
things I like about the Rubank - the repetition by pattern). I emphasize
intelligent work especially in this area. It is imperative that the student
understand why s/he is reviewing a specific piece or part of a piece. That
will make it easier for him or her to reproduce corrections in daily
Next is the part of practice in which the student works on the new material.
I especially emphasize that these pieces should be played slowly, and
repeated several times. (I say pieces because in the Elementary Methods,
most pieces are only one line long.) Usually, we have played it through at
least once in our lesson, maybe even twice, and I always try to play these
for the student to set an example of how the piece should sound, and how
rhythms are played properly. I also show students how to break down a
difficult part - even one or two measures - into more manageable parts - as
little as two notes at a time, if it helps, and then add a note, until the
piece can be played slowly and smoothly. I do not encourage them to speed
up - they do that no matter what. During the lesson I will ask the student
to tell me what s/he is hearing and critique it - the beginning of self -
critique, which can mean a great deal of better used practice time. I also
encourage the kids to give me a call if something is really terrible for
them. No one has had to call yet.
Beginners are encouraged to end with what they like to play the most, to
save the best for last.
With more advanced students, I am somewhat more ambitious. I keep pretty
much the same format for practicing, except that I use scales - sometimes
assigning 1 - 5 scales per weeks, and all majors for the most advanced high
schoolers (I don't have any advanced ones right now - beginners and
intermediates at the moment). I include the chromatic in the lower register
in long tones for warm-up and then, as the student progresses, I will give
long-tone twelfth studies as part of the warm-up. This is done both for
breathing, and for listening for overtones in the sound, and for dynamics as
well (crescendo-decrescendo).
I encourage the more advanced students to also practice their slow pieces
first (After long tone warm up, scales, etc.), then pieces for technique,
and I insist a metronome be used as soon as the student begins to relate
counting and rhythm to each other (about midway through the first year -
this is about the point where most will know for sure they will continue).
Winding down is also important to an more advanced student. It is important
to go over what seems to be most pressing (usually a contest piece or
recital piece); then to cool off, maybe some just for fun improv (We're not
talking any budding Jazz giants here, just having fun making up something) I
feel it is important that the student be able to listen to him or herself
making music that is just for fun.
I hope this was what everyone was looking for. I try to let my students
know why they are practicing a particular piece (well, we need to learn
these two notes so you can play that piece you want to play for the recital
in two weeks) and I try to ferret out anything that is just method book
dross. I usually skip around in the Rubank or whatever book we are using
(does anyone know if I can find the DiCaprio Method in print anywhere?), and
I let students set playing a particular piece as a goal if that will 1)get
them to practice and 2) cover material that is appropriate to that stage of
I hope this was what was asked for when you asked me for details.
Patty Smith

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