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 Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2017-12-10 22:02

Hi all,

Last Wednesday we had our winter concert and played Holst's First Suite in E Flat. I had the honor of being able to play the clarinet solo in the 2nd movement of it, and since our band might take this piece to competition/festivals later on in our school year, I wanted to get some feedback on my solo.

Here's the link to it, recorded by my friend on his camera. The link should take you to where my solo is, which is near the 6 minute mark:

https://youtu.be/B93dFf4cnvk?t=6m

Please give me any advice on how to improve it! Don't worry I won't be offended, so feel free to go into details and cover every aspect of my playing. Just wanted to hear from the opinions of all you wonderful clarinetists out there. I know, for example, that my open G was flat compared to the flutist's concert F an octave higher.

Thanks guys! (Oh and be sure to check out the balloon "solo" at 10:50. Completely by accident that a balloon floated onto the stage)

-- Ray Zhang

Post Edited (2017-12-10 22:04)

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2017-12-11 01:33
Attachment:  Egmont.mp3 (1429k)

Hey Ray,
first of all, nice to hear you :)

You already said it yourself, the g' was noticably flat, but I think the d' was, too. Besides that, I'd have have tongued the g' to g' quarters in the second bar of your solo more decisively. Also, I think your g' to d'' transition in bar 6 of your solo sounded a bit "swallowed up", you probably didn't get your embouchure on point exactly. My g' is rather too sharp and I flatten it using either my fingers or my embouchure, depending on the volume
Other than that, it was a very fine solo and I think given your age you're doing great. I liked the mellowness and dreaminess of your tone, which suits this movement perfectly. You're probably already better than me; I've never been able to play in such a fine school ensemble like yours, and then you're still going to move to even better ensembles eventually... So don't worry too much and keep doing your thing, like any good musician you'll notice every single mistake you make anyways (and the one being upset the most about it will be you!)

Your Balloon solo reminded me of the shoesole solo I've captured with my "symphonic" orchestra (along with some clarinet parts I've played)
BTW, a better mic would do your orchestra more justice. Mine cost 100€.

Best regards,
Christian



Post Edited (2017-12-11 01:51)

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: LC007 
Date:   2017-12-11 01:59

To my beginner ears you sounded great and I enjoyed listening to the tune. There are a few instances where the ensemble as a whole sounded a bit out of step/tune (brass section?), but I could not tell if you were flat here or there. But you all appear so young. I am impressed. Good work.

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2017-12-11 02:03
Attachment:  Squeak.mp3 (108k)

Ah, to elaborate on this "swallowing" (or squeaking?) topic.
Taken from the same Egmont, here's me doing this after the c'''
I might have worked on my embouchure and it'd probably not happen in a situation with no audience, that is to say with no pressure, but that's what stress and excitement do to us, right? I'm sure you don't have any problems with stage fright by now, but personally, I can become really "stiff" while performing.
Your brass did seem a little off, but you clarinets didn't let yourselves get deranged by that!



Post Edited (2017-12-11 02:05)

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: johng 2017
Date:   2017-12-11 04:29

Nice shaping of the 1st half phrase in particular. I think you can sing a bit more, especially on the rising notes of the 2nd half phrase. Be careful to consider the shape of the entire phrase and not individual notes. You did that quite well, really, but a little more attention to the entire phrase would be fine. Once the flute comes in with you, be sure to carefully tune the octaves. I think you and the solo flute should spend some time working out the tuning on individual notes. Congrats to your ensemble for a nice performance! Thanks for sharing it.

John Gibson, Founder of JB Linear Music, www.music4woodwinds.com

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: ClarinetRobt 
Date:   2017-12-11 09:35

Ray...
Nicely done. Yes the intonation stuff is self evident and you’ll get all that sorted. I agree with clarifying articulations to assure they are heard cleanly. I want to say your dynamics need to have more an arch pre-flute...more rise and fall. But that sounds like something I say when I have nothing constructive to add. LoL

Oh, I think the Eb solo in the first mtv needs to 25% softer. You’re a texture, not a ‘hear me I’m playing a solo”.
The quarter notes following the sets of two sixteenths needs to be held full value (first 3-4 lines). They sound clipped.
Do you best to float the C5 to C6 octave before finale. You need only one person playing the the high c. That’ll help it from sounding popped out and with tuning too.

~Robert L Schwebel
Mthpc: Behn Vintage, Lig: Ishimori, Reed: Aria 4, Legere Euro Signature 3.75, Horns: Uebel Superior, Ridenour Lyrique

Post Edited (2017-12-11 09:41)

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2017-12-11 10:11

Wow thanks for all the suggestion guys, they are very insightful!

Christian, I think the swallowing/squeaking you are talking about is more of a finger thing than the embouchure. At least for me. Just finished some recordings a couple weeks ago for colleges, and was playing the Brahms sonata. I messed up once on the slur from Bb5 to G5: wasn't clean. But I immediately knew it was because I was being too lazy with my fingers. But it might be an embouchure thing for you. Maybe later on it will happen to me too, who knows. So I'll keep that in mind. Thanks for your comments on our school ensemble and on my playing! I am only an amateur still, and have got much to learn from people like you.

LC007, I am not sure about all the brass, but I would agree that our low brass pales slightly in comparison to some other sections in our band perhaps. However, they have all put in a lot of work, and given that this piece was very demanding for the low brass, I am very proud of what they have achieved so far. More work needs to be done of course, but I am glad our Director did not shy away from this piece just because it was very demanding of the low brass, and our ensemble's strength is not the low brass. I'm glad my Director chose this piece to galvanize our low brass.

John, thanks for your comments regarding phrasing and musicality! I will definitely try to consider the whole phrase more and sing out on the rising notes, although that was what I was trying to do when I was practicing and playing the solo during the concert. It might be the camera's mic, but before I blame it on the mic, I will definitely have someone listen to me play and ask him/her whether I should bring out certain notes. And yes, if we were to perform the First Suite for a competition/festival, I would definitely work to tune with the flute soloist, but both of us are introverts, and this was just a casual Winter concert, so I didn't bother asking the flutitst since he's a pretty quiet guy :)

Robert, you are right, as I listen to the recording, I feel like I could have added more rise and fall. But as I said to John, I really thought I did enough when I was performing and practicing the solo, so maybe it's the camera's mic? Before I blame that though, I will have someone listen to me playing the solo sitting where the audience sits. As for the Eb solo, my Director actually told me to bring it out, as it was unique. And when I was playing it onstage, the oboist sitting next to me sounded much louder than she usually did, so that kind of confused me a bit probably.

Thanks for all the feedback, really! Looking forward to improving my playing!

-- Ray Zhang

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: johng 2017
Date:   2017-12-11 20:34

.....But as I said to John, I really thought I did enough when I was performing and practicing the solo.....

Generally when playing a solo you have to do more with the dynamics than you think you do. What seems like a large gesture to you sounds a lot weaker when it gets out into the world! Keep up the good work!

John Gibson, Founder of JB Linear Music, www.music4woodwinds.com

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: ClarinetRobt 
Date:   2017-12-11 21:00

Hey...always follow your director's instructions...he's boss. When I've played the effer solo countless times in the past, I was always too loud (probably says something about me being over the top, LoL), I usually bring out the major 6 interval (c5 to a5) with a crescendo to show..."hey here I am"...then immediately pull back to not distract too much from the oboe stuff. It's my way of 'having your cake and eating it too'. Food for thought! (Pun intended)

Hey to state the obvious. use your side, throat Bb to get the note as clear as possible.

~Robert L Schwebel
Mthpc: Behn Vintage, Lig: Ishimori, Reed: Aria 4, Legere Euro Signature 3.75, Horns: Uebel Superior, Ridenour Lyrique

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2017-12-11 22:24

Haha Ray, you're too generous, you might, if anything, learn from my idiocies!
I'll have to insist you consider that kind of squeak at least being a mix of an embouchure and fingering problem. For example, the opening chromatic of Weber's Quintet is tricky, because the change from c to c# needs to be a smooth legato without getting too loud. Even with perfect fingering, I feel like one needs to adjust their embouchure a lot to handle this transition flawlessly - or my RC is just too crappy an instrument. But what I'm refering to mostly affects register changes. If you're still sure your fingers are the only reason, that's great and pretty easy to fix!

I'd try adress this intonation problem with the flute as nicely as possible, musically speaking, you have to be extroverts anyways :) It's just so much fun when 1-2 more instruments drop into a solo, but it's all about communication!

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2017-12-12 23:34

Thanks all for the suggestions! Definitely looking forward to improving the solo!

-- Ray Zhang

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2017-12-15 10:36

I don't have the time Ray to read the above posts. Your sound in very good. It sounds like a dang Vandoren mouthpiece though, based on some flatted notes.

Some notes sounded like they dropped off too soon. This is when I tell people to Feel the music and avoid playing only the notes, however you were expressive. A nice job.

So am I right? A Vandoren mouthpiece? I bet it is. Whatever it is it isn't a match with your setup. You can tell your folks I said so! Tell them it's bad enough to keep you out of a really good music school. Maybe they will then listen and you can address this problem before taking some auditions. Feel free in having them call me, I'm listed on the website. Yes I think it is that critical in this case.

Keep up the great work. You have a lot of talent.


NEWLY DESIGNED - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist




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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2017-12-15 19:44

You're right, Bob. It was a "dang Vandoren mouthpiece," a M30 13. My band director and awesome colleagues don't care what I use, so that's fine. But I have told them about how bad Vandoren is. It's the teacher whom I've been studying with starting this summer is the one that tries to force me to use Vandorens.

I remember you commenting on other posts that you used to work for Rico, and one time Vandoren ran out of cane, so they bought cane from you guys. I told my other teacher this, whom I'm very close with and is complaining about Vandoren reeds lately, and he was appalled. He said (in Chinese): "it's like Macy's taking stuff from Walmart and selling them in their own stores!" I burst into uncontrollable laughter, and he did too. But I guess it is a pretty good analogy. He was even more disappointed when he heard that Vandoren grows a lot of the cane in Argentina. Back when he was in China studying at the Shanghai Conservatory, he had to make all his reeds from scratch, so he has a lot of knowledge on the quality of cane and stuff like that. He said that growing the cane in Argentina, rather than the Var region of France, would explain why the VD reeds are not as good as they once were.

-- Ray Zhang

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 Re: Tips/Feedback on my solo
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2017-12-18 05:01

Ray, as long as you are aware of the notes going flat your problems are pretty much solved.

My offer to talk with your folks is still open. When in college you can then make some serious changes. This could actually be the time to do this. But it does scare me a bit when you audition for colleges. You have about 5 minutes to prove yourself and zero time to let the audition folks know that you are aware that you are playing flat. They don't care. It sounds mean but it is the truth. Maybe approach your parents with this.

Best of luck! I'm here to help if you need me.

Bernard Vandoren is actually a very nice man! We didn't talk very long but he is very kind.


NEWLY DESIGNED - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist




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