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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000312.txt from 2003/10

From: "James Hobby" <>
Subj: Re: [kl] [clarinet] reeds for beginners?
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2003 10:42:26 -0400

Is there a chance that we're committing one of the sins of modern society;
i.e., overanalyzing a problem? I'd just like to tickle this concept for a
minute and cite a recent example.

I really think this is a major problem, today. We've been taught to analyze
even the most insignificant things by the never-ending babble of pop
psychology. We are in such danger of getting so hung up on analysis that we
can't get anything done.

On this subject (clarinet reeds), for example, we have people who are
outstanding professionals in their own right treating the subject of reeds
for beginners as though they were picking a reed for their own next
performance. We have arguments between professional teachers and
nonprofessional (but motivated) players that is reaching a point of
stridency. (Of course, that's not too unusual on this -- and other --
lists. <g>)

Point in fact, the old saying is correct: If it works, it works. Attrition
rate over bad reeds? I doubt that it's a problem anywhere there is a
competent teacher, whether s/he played clarinet or sousaphone. Bad reeds
make an easy whipping boy for out of adjustment or poor quality instruments,
parental indifference (and lack of knowledge), unwillingness to practice,
and yes, even the occasional incompetent teacher. In 45 years of
"clarinetting", I have never seen a student quit because he had bad reeds.
Almost every one who dropped out went to one of the above reason list, or to
the student simply finding that they didn't want to play the clarinet -- and
a lot of reasons play into that, but again, I can't think of a student who
said, I've decided I really don't want to play clarinet because I'm unhappy
with the reed.

I have a new student -- had two lessons, so far. Her only problem is that
she (sixth grader) has fairly small fingers, and has some small problems
covering right tone hole for C. I followed my standard procedure:

Check the horn. (Basic Bundy) Touch up the corks a bit, show her how to
grease the corks. Explain the different parts of the instrument, what to
hold -- and not to hold -- while putting the instrument together. Show her
how to put the reed on the mpc. Take the reed off and have her do it, while
emphasizing to not rub the reed against anything. I then used the mpc only
bit. Explain how much mpc & reed to take into the mouth, how much of the
lip to fold over. Then we play the mpc. First try: squeak. Too much mpc
in mouth. Show her where the reed and mpc separate and have her put the lip
there. Second try: good note -- or as good as a mpc can make, by itself.

We put the instrument together, watching the bridge key. Put on the mpc
cover and teach the first lesson in basic theory, showing how to read the
fingering chart inserts.

We then pick up the clarinet and start trying to play. Surprise! A good
clear G comes out. We talk about breathing, etc, and start to read the
book. By the end of the hour, she can play G, F, E, D, and C. (Here comes
the interesting part:) They are all in tune. Pegged the tuner, dead on.
She has had an excellent tone from the first note, good embouchure, chin
pointed. I may have a natural, here.)

The point of all of this is the reed. What did I do? I picked a reed out
of the box, held it up to the light, saw it was reasonably balanced, checked
the flexibility on the side of my finger, and put it on the mpc. She
played. If I had made a big production over the reed, that's what she would
learn as a beginner, when IMO she's not competent or knowledgeable enough to
fiddle with her reeds, like she will in a few years, when adjustment, etc.,
of reed can be taught. I'm not setting her up for a lot frustration, now.

This is my method, right or wrong. I offer this just as a suggestion. If
anyone finds it helpful, that's good. Anyone who doesn't, feel free to
disregard it.

Jim Hobby

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