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 "Desert period" for an avid clarinetist
Author: sgb2007 
Date:   2006-08-06 23:00

Most recently, I have found that my ability to play with a full and presentable sound has been rapidly diminishing. Having the summer off from high school, I have spent at least an hour 3-4 days a week practicing and preparing for the upcoming year. Having such time, however, I have come to the realization that I am not particularly satisfied with the reeds I had been using. Raised on the notion that Vandoren reeds were a superior brand, I had gotten used to the reeds themselves, first starting on traditionals and then switching to V12s. This summer, however, I have had the opportunity to experiment immensely with reeds. I tried Gonzalez reeds, and I absolutely hated them; I tried to return to Vandoren by trying their 56 Rue Lepics, and although I liked them at first, I find that I am now liking them less and less. Returning to V12s and traditionals, neither give me the sound that I used to have, and I am at a loss as to what could have been the cause. I feel as though I have entered a musical "desert period," where I am unable to revitalize my sound and skills. Reed issues haven't helped the problem. Has anyone else ever encountered such a situation? I am very, very active in my high school band program and wish to find some way out of this period before the school year starts again.

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 Re: "Desert period" for an avid clarinetist
Author: Tode 
Date:   2006-08-06 23:25

I have been having issues with reeds since my freshman year in college, so I know how you feel. It will come and go, because your taste in what is a good reed will change. I, like you, have not been overly happy with the regular Vandoren and their V12 reeds. They seem rather harsh and my tone is rather sharp. However, I have been using the Vandoren 56 Rue Lepics and am rather satisfied with them. But I've been experimenting with regular Gonzales and ther FOF (for our friends). I've found that they give me a larger and brighter sound (without being too edgy). Every player is different, so what works for me may not work for you.
I would suggest trying out a box or two of different brands. I know that may be rather expensive, but it will help you with your decision in the long run. Experimenting is really the only way you'll be able to figure out what you like best.
Hope that helps. Best of luck to ya! =)

~Sarah Todenhoft~
Geaux Tigers!

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 Re: "Desert period" for an avid clarinetist
Author: rgames 
Date:   2006-08-06 23:47

All I can say is - reeds are a pain in the butt!

Seriously, though, your sound will naturally change even if you have exactly the same reed all the time. I never changed much in the way of equipment until the last two years or so (new calrinets, diferent mouthpieces, barrels, reeds, etc.) and I've discovered that I still float in and out of my "desired sound."

One thing that I've been doing recently is recording myself - I STRONGLY recommend it. I'm constantly amazed at how I manage to sound the same on recordings despite increased/decreased comfort with different reeds/mouthpieces/barrels/etc. You're posting to the board, so you probably have a computer, and probably have a sound card. Pick up a decent mic and see how different you really sound.

Keep in mind, also, that being dissatisfied with your sound is a good thing. As soon as you become complacent, you stop progressing. Dissention fuels progress, especially when it comes to one's self-criticism.

Struggle is the essence of progression,


Richard G. Ames
Composer - Arranger - Producer

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 Re: "Desert period" for an avid clarinetist
Author: vin 
Date:   2006-08-07 05:16

If you want to improve your sound, you are much more likely to improve practicing every day than fussing with reeds. You have to teach your air, your embouchure, your oral cavity how to "do it right." If you aren't practicing every single day, you are not being serious enough. Listen to clarinetists with fine tones on cds (some of my personal favorite sounds come from Wright, Marcellus, Leister, Manasse, McLean, Ettlinger, Hara, etc. but this is personal). Get the sound you want in your head before you play a note. Try getting the Baermann Scale Book and add a half an hour to an hour of practice on it on the days you were taking off. Good sound begins with a concept in your mind and comes out through hard work. I guarantee you that if you put more practice time, your reed issues will diminish.

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 Re: "Desert period" for an avid clarinetist
Author: nielsen57 
Date:   2006-08-07 06:41

My own "Desert period" occurred when I was a bit older than you, already finished with one performance degree and starting to work on another. I spent nearly a year feeling like I had "lost" my sound, and thus spent much time and money trying out new equipment and new reeds aimed at fixing the problem. I also experimented with variations in my practice: more time, additional technical exercises, and the like. I ended up practically unable to touch my horn without getting angry or breaking out in tears.

Feeling frustrated and out of options, that summer I stopped "practicing"....but I didn't stop playing. I'd sit down when I was in the mood and start reading through material I enjoyed, my personal favorites being transcribed Bach suites. Very soon I noticed that not only was I logging far more hours with my horn than I had all year, I was playing less tense, my fingers were flowing, and (finally) my sound was feeling like my sound again.

Gradually, I reintroduced "practice" into my playing time, and have been going strong now for a few years. If I'm feeling tight or negative, I'll take the occassional day off from "practice" and return to playing.

Moral of the story: My personal experience taught me that issues with my playing don't have as much to do with the physical factors, but rather the mental ones. Don't forget why you're playing in the first place...it's FUN! Slap a reed on there and play something you love...your sound will find you.


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 Re: "Desert period" for an avid clarinetist
Author: BTBob 
Date:   2006-08-21 02:40

Great advice form Meg...maybe "just playing" is the thing to do before you add x minutes a day from etude book y...anyway it can't hurt to try.

Based on lurking here awhile, a lot of very schooled people will give you stern and sober advice with mottos and maxims. I say try what they recommend to DO, but leave the attitude behind if you are not a stern, sober type of personality. (I aure am not!)

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 Re: "Desert period" for an avid clarinetist
Author: kev182 
Date:   2006-08-21 05:16

We all go through those periods. Learning is never linear especially when it comes to something like sports or practicing. The wosrt you can do is stop practicing, just keep going with it and things will turn out better! Changing your equipment is not the solution...unless something is terribly wrong. But if this is something new, just keep pushing through!

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