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 Learning new tricks
Author: gsurosey 
Date:   2010-10-05 04:24

The main thing I'm working on in my lesson right now is working to improve my tone quality. We've done some setup modification. That includes changing reed strength (Vandorens, from a Rue Le Pic #4 down to a Traditional #3), and trying to ditch the neck strap. My teacher said the strap is actually hindering me. I tried playing without it at my lesson last week. He said when I don't use it, my left hand is a lot less squirrelly (it tends to turn up and out when I play) and I tend to hold my clarinet at a better angle.

One thing I have to get used to is changing my head position. I hold my head down too low when I play (as in looking down), which closes up my throat and thus the sound. So, he tried an experiment. He put the stand up so high that the desk was above my head, thus forcing me to turn my head upward. Better sound. So, I have to work on that. He also had me try resting the bell on my knees. Even though I'm short, that felt funny (like I had to lean way forward for it to work). Not sure if that'll stay or not. He says the lady that currently plays 2nd with the RPO (Robert DiLutis is on leave I think), recommends the bell-resting thing.

Anyone else ever have trouble with something that was supposed to help you play (in my case, the neck strap), end up hindering your playing?

Isn't working on breaking 21 years of bad habits fun? Hey, if it's improves my playing (which it is so far), let's do it!


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 Re: Learning new tricks
Author: EEBaum 
Date:   2010-10-05 05:17

I found the neckstrap causing pressure at strange angles, and am doing better without. It's one of many things that are supposed to help that I'm finding actually hinder. Like "breathing from the diaphragm." I'm having great success unlearning that one at the moment.

The neckstrap only really becomes "necessary" when you practice long hours without stretching or taking enough breaks.

Bell-resting would also restrict your playing angle and mobility, which I think would be detrimental. Plus, you can only do it while sitting.


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 Re: Learning new tricks
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2010-10-05 06:57

Hi Rachel,

You didn't say how old you may be and if you have any sort of health issues.

If you are strong enough without any health issues I would have to agree with your teacher on this subject. I would also suggest practicing for about 5 minutes a day standing, without a neck strap.

If you find your right hand thumb starting to hurt or your fingers on your right hand tensing up see if you can have the thumb rest adjusted. Many years ago when I was in college I had an issue with my right hand when standing. I moved the thumb rest forward, towards the upper joint and my problems were solved. Back then the thumb rests weren't adjustable, so you had to drill a new thumb rest position and fill in the old screw holes.

I don't think too highly of holding the horn on your knee or between your knees because this sometimes can actually restrict the air flow. This can make the notes near the bell play out of tune.

Hope this helps.

Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces

Yamaha Artist 2015

Post Edited (2010-10-05 07:22)

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 Re: Learning new tricks
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2010-10-05 07:16

Oh, about your head position. If your head is looking down too much this is the wrong position for sure. Make sure your music stand is not angled down. The word "Diaphragm," can be a very confusing subject. What the heck does a diaphragm look like, how does it work, and where is it located? When a teacher says to breathe from your diaphragm the student may wonder what the heck does that mean!

To help your head position and to breathe properly simply take a balloon and blow it up several times a day for about a week. Your head will be close to the proper playing position and you will surely be using your diaphragm correctly.

Kind of interesting trying to tell someone, even at the college level, how to use their diaphragm. You really don't have to say that word! Simply give out balloons to your students. The problem is solved almost instantly.

Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces

Yamaha Artist 2015

Post Edited (2010-10-05 07:24)

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 Re: Learning new tricks
Author: EEBaum 
Date:   2010-10-05 15:58

Balloon seems like a decent way about it. The diaphragm is used for inhaling anyways, and is involuntary. You SHOULDN'T use that word. Tension in the abdominal area is completely unnecessary for proper breathing, and is actually quite counterproductive.


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 Re: Learning new tricks
Author: sfalexi 
Date:   2010-10-05 16:36

Think of these things are "fixes" for bad technique, and not how you must do it for the rest of your life. There are many pros who use neckstraps (I saw them ALL over the place at Clarinetfest this year) and sound great. But your neckstrap was giving you a crutch for bad finger position. Fix your finger position, embouchure, etc. etc. When it all becomes natural, you can revisit the neckstrap, and I'm sure you'll be fine.


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 Re: Learning new tricks
Author: gsurosey 
Date:   2010-10-05 16:42

I just turned 30 at the end of last month. Getting up there...

As for health issues, there are a bunch of them. Which ones would mess with my playing? I'm asthmatic, but I don't think that's too big a deal in that I don't wheeze when I play or anything. I do notice that I have to take breaths a lot (capacity isn't the greatest). As far as my hands/wrists, they bother me when I play (the right more than the left). The left side usually is ok while I play, and I'm hoping that working on that hand position helps. I notice sometimes when I'm not playing that my wrists ache and my fingertips tingle.

As the for the bell-resting thing, I'm thinking that's going to not stay around. It feels weird. I feel like I have to lean way forward to make it work.

As for RH thumb position, it's funny to change that, but that's probably just because I'm used to the setup I have. When I play alto sax, I have to consciously shift my hand down and make sure my RH fingers are actually on the keys. If I'm not paying attention and try to use a similar position to clarinet, my RH 1st finger is on top of the keycup above the top key instead of being on the right spot. That position shift really bothers my thumb; that's why I have to cheat and rest the sax on my chair when I can (good thing I don't play it all that much). Therefore, I'm not thinking that shifting the thumb rest up would help me (and my thumb rests aren't adjustable). Of course, my sax is a lot heavier than my clarinet, so who knows?

Tips are good; keep them coming! :)


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 Re: Learning new tricks
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2010-10-09 07:24

If you're getting tingling in your fingers, consider the possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome. If playing clarinet/sax is not your primary occupation its possible that it could be occupational. I had similar problems which went away when i changed jobs.

Tony F.

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 Re: Learning new tricks
Author: gsurosey 
Date:   2010-10-11 03:30

I don't have a primary occupation. I'm on social security disability (bipolar disorder among other things). I'm trying to get back to work; I feel like I'm leeching from the system since I have all my body parts and I'm not working just because my brain doesn't function "normally".

My fingers tingle at night, but I'm positive that's because I'm cutting off circulation while I'm lying down (on my side with one arm under my pillow, so I'm basically lying on my upper arm).

It doesn't happen all the time. I'm trying to keep track of various things searching for patterns.


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