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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000354.txt from 2003/10

From: Randy Ratzlaff <>
Subj: Re: [kl] [clarinet] reeds for beginners?
Date: Sun, 12 Oct 2003 10:32:33 -0400


Part of my "basic training" is that I do not allow the students to take
their instruments home to practice until they play several notes on
their entire clarinet. And..........the tones have to sound musical as
opposed to "industrial". Again......parent communication is essential.

Why? My class period is 50 minutes long and I have 27 students. Simple
math says that I have less than 2 minutes per student per
day..........that does not allow for checking roll, assessment
schedules, field trips, assemblies, fire drills, book fairs, tornado
drills, pottie breaks, intruder in the building drills, school wide fund
raisers, et al. Yes, it goes slow at the beginning.....but NEVER at the
expense of any student. It takes 2 class periods to get 27 reeds on the
mouthpiece correctly.......that does not include the constant follow-up
(reed checks) that are necessary on a regular basis. There is no reason
to take a horn home and practice when they have no clue what they are
doing. I do not have the time to be constantly re-teaching / breaking
bad habits developed from unsupervised / clueless home practice. the beginning it is very regimented......but again my goal is
to have 27 happy, productive clarinet is not "survival
of the fittest"................. "haste makes waste"

No one wants them to sound great any faster than I do! Believe
me......27 at a time. What ever I create, I have to live with for the
next 7 years in my band program........whether it be a poor player or a
poor attitude.

There is no need for a new firewall...........just ease up on the
inflammatory insinuations or over-generalizations.

It is nice to know that I am not nearly as insane as the teacher who
makes his students use size 4 reeds............I will share that with my
psychologist :-)

Randy commissions (kick-backs) here..............(see earlier
comments about a new firewall)

> Randy, Thanks for explaining this further. I'm wondering how you keep
> them
> from playing on the whole instrument while you are working with only
> mouthpieces and barrels. I've had students come to the lesson who have
> already tried to put the instrument together on their own. You
> mentioned
> you take breaks to teach them to put the instrument together but how do
> you
> know what they do when they go home? Do you keep the instruments until
> you
> are done with the mouthpiece/barrel instruction?
> When I used to do band camps, we only had a week to teach them how
> to
> assemble the clarinet, produce a tone, breathe, learn rhythms, and also
> learn to play a few simple songs.(sixth graders). At the end of the
> week,
> the entire beginning band played a concert. It was amazing how well
> they did
> in a week's time! Band camp did last for most of a day so we had lots
> of
> time but it was still amazing how well they did.
> I still have trouble with the "everyone must play on a number 3 reed
> rule," since strength varies so much from brand to brand and even among
> 10
> reeds of the same brand. I hope you're letting the kids know that they
> might want to try a softer or harder reed strength if that's not
> working for
> them. As Bill mentioned, if you are using a mouthpiece with a close
> facing,
> you are having the kids use a reed strength that "matches" that
> mouthpiece
> and you really had nothing to worry about when I made the comment about
> the
> "insane" band directors. Now, the guy James mentioned who was forcing
> all
> his students to play on number 4's has something to think about and
> take my
> comment to heart. This was exactly the type of situation I was
> referring to
> and I couldn't understand your defensiveness over this. The private
> "nasty
> note" sent to me did not help either.
> Another thing to mention is that in a school situation where the
> kids
> are receiving a grade and are under threat of punishment if they don't
> behave "correctly" or meet expectations, you're not likely to have them
> honestly tell you if they are not enjoying themselves. I know
> instantly if
> a student is having trouble or not enjoying themselves. If I don't
> discover
> this immediately, the parents will talk to me or I will call them to
> ask if
> I feel there is a problem somewhere. If I don't respond well, I lose a
> student, although this has almost never happened. As Nancy said, when
> you
> give private lessons you make every effort to please the customer,
> since you
> want them to look forward to the next lesson. I certainly don't mean I
> don't have rules and expectations for them but I do think those of use
> who
> do private teaching are forced to work a little harder to help the kids
> enjoy what they are doing-especially if they are doing it only because
> Mom
> and Dad say they must. For that reason, I think school teachers have
> something to learn from us. Students who are not going to receive a
> grade
> from me, as well as their parents, are more likely to complain or speak
> up
> when they don't understand or things are a little too difficult for
> them-that's why I get so concerned about kids in some of the band
> programs.
> Often, there is a simple problem they're having that could be very
> easily
> solved but they are afraid to let anyone know or ask for help if there
> is a
> problem. This can be especially true if they are sitting in a group of
> peers or if the band director simply says, "this is what you must do,
> and
> doesn't let them know there are other options, much less allow other
> options."
> When I was learning to play the clarinet, I never had anyone tell me
> much
> about reeds. I had to discover most of what I learned through high
> school
> age on my own, even though I took private lessons. I was one of those
> kids
> using the nail clippers when my reeds were too soft. How nice it would
> have
> been for someone to have taught me some basic reed adjustment skills.
> I'm also one of those people who needs to be told why I need to do
> something so I understand the need to do it. If an order is given with
> no
> explanation, I'm not likely to follow through and I find that this
> happens
> far too often in schools. The kids need to be given options, as well
> as the
> pros and cons of each option, and then be allowed to make a choice for
> themselves. I suppose this type of thing was what I had in mind when I
> used
> the term "military style." In the military, you do what you're told
> and ask
> questions later. Our schools here in the U.S. tend to use the same
> principles and the kids don't learn to think for themselves or make
> their
> own decisions often enough. If they make a mistake or complain, they
> are
> likely to receive a less than desirable grade.
> I can honestly say, I have NEVER had a clarinet student come to me
> who
> started learning to play in school, who had any idea there were so many
> choices available in reeds/mouthpieces/ligatures. They and their
> parents
> have always been amazed at what is available and how much difference a
> new
> reed or mouthpiece makes in the tone. I had a student start this
> summer who
> is my most recent example. Poor kid had been playing first chair all
> year.
> She had almost no sound and we fixed that up immediately with some new
> reeds, having her open up the throat when she played and eventually
> adding a
> new mouthpiece, along with some other minor details, including
> listening to
> some good recordings. The mother was very grateful to me for giving her
> daughter the information and the extra time that I did. This child
> made it
> into the state honors band also. I wonder all the time why these kids
> don't
> get that type of instruction at school-even a few photocopied handouts
> containing info would be better than nothing. Could it be that the band
> directors get paid the same salary whether they are really teaching
> their
> subject thoroughly or not? Or perhaps they get a commission from the
> music
> store for sending kids in to purchase a certain brand of equipment?
> Again,
> Randy, please don't take that comment personally or I'll have to
> install a
> better firewall.
> Christy
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