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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000133.txt from 2005/04

From: Tony Pay <>
Subj: Re: [kl] legato
Date: Sat, 09 Apr 2005 20:03:46 -0400

On 9 Apr, "Margaret Thornhill" <> wrote:

> Tony Pay wrote:
> > The usefulness of the 'slow finger' legato teaching metaphor has nothing
> > to do with how the action of the finger affects legato. That's very much
> > a second order effect. It is simply a psychological device to distract
> > the attention of the player from his or her airstream, so that that can
> > continue through the change.
> Ah! Now you're talking... This was basically what I meant by "looking
> relaxed" though you say it much better. Psychological. Exactly.
> ...but the less developed players I see truly don't need to be distracted
> from their airstream--they need to focus on it. They need to find ways to
> separate it from the finger motion: that's the trick. I don't think this is
> too difficult to teach or learn; it's a concept....the rather well know
> exercise I call the "two person clarinet" helps get this across quickly.
> Student blows (with eyes shut); teacher fingers (you have to turn the body
> of the instrument 3o degrees to get this to work); student continues to try
> to duplicate that sensation on his own. It's an oversimplication, of
> course, but a dramatic one.

I use that. And I think -- I hope -- that my Y-shaped pipe metaphor helps
this too.

> > Why most people fail to have an effective legato is that they change the
> > airstream between one note and another, thinking that they have to
> > *create* a legato.
> Right.
> ...and, if a player isn't keeping a consistent airstream and has been told
> that backswing is the fix -- I think it's a trap.

It certainly could be. It may depend on the presentation: if it were
introduced as 'something to try' -- and how it might help explained a bit --
I can imagine it being useful.

Of course, like you, I'm against any metaphor being presented as what you
describe as a 'fix'.

> Many poorly developed players *do* change the airstream subconsciously
> along with whatever fingers movements they make, resulting in a chewy
> sound.

My own experience is that this can be very, very difficult to eradicate; and
I certainly don't have a surefire solution.

I suppose it's not surprising, given that we're trying to influence
the history the player has of 'how they play the clarinet' -- and that may
have lasted a decade or more.

> Respectfully (because so many swear by it) I think the teaching that
> originally caused this discussion--that we use one set of finger motions
> for normal playing and another for slow, legato passages--has a big
> potential for reinforcing this problem. (In fact, it's hard for me to see
> the value of trying to teach anything having to do with fingers in twenty
> minutes of contact at a masterclass, where most talk about technique is
> really triage)


You know, you say 'respectfully'. But actually, I don't think we should be
so respectful.

I think I'm not such a bad teacher, after spending around thirty years trying
very hard to do it well, beginning from my own sometimes rather hard-won
understanding. And I'm open to other people's ideas, and willing to
experiment with them; and I continually try to develop new ideas of my own,
always endeavouring to tailor what I say to the person in front of me.

You sound to me like you're doing the same thing.

Yet, I find that there still aren't any surefire solutions to these sorts of

Of course, it's part of the bullshit folklore that 'legendary teachers' can
solve them routinely.

But, I don't believe it. (And I'm very, very suspicious of the 'legendary'
part of it.)

> If a mature artist chooses "backswing" for relaxation while playing lyrical
> passages, that is, as we say,a whole different ballgame.


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

... Life. Hate it, or ignore it. You can't like it.

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