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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000426.txt from 2004/10

From: Tony Pay <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Anticipation
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2004 14:03:17 -0400

This is turning out to be an interesting discussion, and I'm sorry if I came
across a bit abrasive to begin with. The truth is, there are aspects of it,
not to do with you personally, Adam, that I find intensely irritating, but
I'll try to keep that more under control.

I have to go to Denmark tomorrow, so may not respond to any response for a

On 15 Oct, Adam Michlin <> wrote:

> At 03:55 PM 10/15/2004 +0100, Tony Pay wrote:

> > > Additionally, there is also a very significant school of playing which
> > > believes you should never use the tongue to stop the air for an attack.
> >
> > I don't know quite what is meant by that. You don't stop the *air* --
> > you stop the vibration of the reed.
> Interesting. I am tempted to say that since the air is what causes the reed
> to vibrate, it would be difficult to stop the vibration of the reed without
> stopping the air. Perhaps a nit picky point, but I am not so sure.
> The question becomes, how does one stop the air? You can stop it from the
> source by stopping the exhalation process, or you can "dam" it (I really
> hate that word, but I think it explains my thoughts the best) by placing
> the tongue on the reed but continuing to exhale (obviously, the air wont go
> anywhere).

I think that what I'd say is, it doesn't matter one way or another whether
the airflow stops. I'd take the word 'dam' away, and just say, the reed
doesn't vibrate when you interrupt it with your tongue. Otherwise, all sorts
of other irrelevant questions get raised. We already have Ormondtoby Montoya
asking, should it stop? and I think it's the wrong sort of question. I have
to see what happens on the particular clarinet/mouthpiece/reed to say one way
or the other.

The fundamental thing is, it's the reed's vibrations that create the sound,
and we stop the sound when we stop the reed vibrating.

> I was taught to stop the air with the tongue but continue to exhale and
> would be happy to explain chapter and verse, without naming a single name,
> why I think it is a more effective method. There are very fine schools of
> teaching (I'll spare you any big names) which feel this is incorrect (I
> will leave it to them to articulate their own arguments). Which do you use
> and why? Having read your article I suspect you use the method I was
> taught, please forgive me for asking to be sure.

Again, the thing is, I have to look to see what happens with the airflow in
a particular circumstance. It's not fundamental.

Also, you can 'shape' the pressure pulse you give to an isolated note, using
abdominal/diaphragm opposition (AKA 'support') without involving the tongue
at all. And, you can involve the tongue to whatever degree serves you.

What are these 'fine schools of teaching'? They sound like bullshit to me.

> I am a bit surprised you don't feel there is value in researching what
> other people have to say about the subject.

Well, you know, I am interested in what people say. What I'm not interested
in is their 'schools of teaching', that tell you, for example, that you have
to use double lip embouchure, or other similar dogmatic pronouncements.

'You should not stop the air.'


> I am as interested in what you have to say as what Bonade has said. I am
> interested in the thoughts of musicians who play other instruments besides
> the clarinet (especially singers). I believe it was Newton (sorry, another
> big name) who said "If I have seen further it is by standing on the
> shoulders of giants". I don't claim to have seen further, but I'm certainly
> going to try to learn from other people as well as develop my own theories.

I suppose I'd say that Newton was doing something rather different. You
said a bit later on:

> There is a reason they are big names. You may not be interested in why and
> how these people were able to do what they did, but I am.

But I find that whatever isolated technical things particular great exponents
of the instrument can do, those things can be done equally well, sometimes
even better, by other, quite run-of-the-mill players. Bonade, if he was a
great player, wasn't great because he was the only one who could play

In my view, we make what are actually quite trivial things much too
intimidating. The more you tell someone exactly how they should do staccato,
the more you limit the variety of what they can produce *in the name of
staccato*. And I'd say that *that* variety, plus an appreciation of how it
may be used, is the most important thing.

> I'm not sure if the sarcastic "legendary American" comment was directed at
> Bonade or my own aspirations. If you are charging me with being an ignorant
> American, I plead guilty. I really can't speak to the world of British
> playing, or the world at large. What I can tell you is there is a serious
> problem in the US education of young musicians. If you would like me to
> elaborate on this problem, I would be more than happy to do so offlist.

I apologise. What it was directed against was the notion that 'someone knows
something that we aren't up to finding out ourselves'. It's like my
objection to the Etheridge book, which has the effect of making out that
players who have made recordings somehow know something about Mozart that we
don't know. In America, it seems that most of those 'someones' are
Americans, and aren't, and haven't been, particularly shy about promoting
themselves as unique repositories of that knowledge.

> As for Bonade, he was French.

Even worse!-)

> He also placed the majority of orchestral clarinetists during the middle of
> the 20th century. My common sense says that maybe he was doing something
> different than the other teachers and maybe I can learn from that. If this
> upsets you, I promise not to force upon you anything I learn.

Well, in this case, I already know what he had to say about the relationship
between finger movement and sound stopping. What I resent is the idea that
what he had to say was 'his'.

(Did I steal it, perhaps;-)

> I could make the same argument for any number of 'big name'
> teacher/players, American or otherwise.

I remember endorsing here the various wisdoms that there are in Howard Klug's

That's not to say that I don't find other things he said profoundly

> If you are not interested in their techniques, so be it. Please do not tell
> me I am wrong for wanting to know more about them and their origins.


Well, I think I already have. More about them, than their 'origins', I'd

_________ Tony Pay
|ony:-) 79 Southmoor Rd
| |ay Oxford OX2 6RE
tel/fax 01865 553339

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