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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000413.txt from 2002/02

From: "Patricia Alison Smith" <>
Subj: [kl] Endurance practice suggestions; was What's a good book to practice rhythms?
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002 06:57:36 -0500

Dear Mike,

Good for you that you are hanging in there. Music is a great stress
reliever and I encourage a lot of my adult friends to pick up an instrument
if they didn't learn one in high school; if they did, I encourage them to
dust off their chops and start again! It does wonders for your nerves.

As to improving your endurance, you might do the same things I am doing now
to get back into shape: (I played 14 years with the U.S. Navy Fleet Bands.
I retired five years ago, and after doing other things, such as being a full
time mom, I now hope to return to school to get courses to certify as a
Registered Music Therapist)

1. First and foremost, make sure you are breathing slowly and deeply. This
will not only ensure a pleasant, deep tone, but it will also relax your
entire body. Additionally, you will find that good air support from deep
breathing that is sustained will keep you from having too pinched an
embouchure. You will end up lasting longer.

2. Don't worry about technique books as such; long tones and slow scales
of every key will surprise you, not only in endurance, but later on, you
will find your fingers will have a memory of their own. Also, you can vary
the scales and play them in patterns. Another plus is that you can learn
your scales by ear - no need to look at them in a book. Slowly, you can
concentrate on your breathing, and your finger placement. And again, this
is much more relaxing, and you will find, you will have more endurance.

3. If the reed you have is giving you a pleasant enough tone, when you are
playing long tones the length of the horn, chances are it is right for you.
All too often, we clarinetists, amateur and professional, love to play "reed
roulette" in our continual search for the perfect reed. It just ain't so!
I have found that, bar squeakiness or some other dreadful fault that almost
always presents itself the first few playing after a proper break-in period,
most reeds will give you what you want with proper care. I cannot stress
enough to listen when you play long tones and develop your own judgment. As
you listen to yourself, as well as get a good feel for your reeds, you will
find that you have developed a good judgment for what is a good and what is
a bad reed.

4. Just remember, deep breaths - pressing outward all around with the
diaphragm (you already know this). And, I would personally suggest a
smaller angle between mouthpiece and mouth. Some players play at almost a
90ยบ angle! I do not know how on earth they do it. What I find is that if I
am bunching up too much of my bottom lip over my teeth, not only do I get
painful sores, and have too much of an angle, I lose control of my sound,
and it becomes squeaky. What I do is practically flatten my lip against my
bottom teeth, then increase the angle some from there.

Another thing i have tried to lessen the pressure is to play for a few
minutes each day with a double lipped embouchure. Now, my top lip is too
thin to do this for long. However, it does make my facial muscles relax,
and it is a helpful exercise to combat that biting tendency.

Mike, I hope this has not been too much, and I hope I helped some.
Again, good luck and enjoy yourself! You may find yourself playing that
concerto somewhere!
You never know!

Patricia A. Smith


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