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 The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2017-12-25 08:59

Hi all,

First of all: Merry Christmas! (for some of you right now, and for most of us in a few hours)

So I am auditioning for a local honor band in January, and they want to hear excerpts from the Weber Concertino, including the Introduction portion of it. I think it's safe to say that the opening Bb at a pianissimo dynamic is something hard for most people. I've experimented with different fingerings of the Bb, starting with the common ones, and coming up with my own (I think). I play either
[Register][Thumb] x x o [side Eb] | x x x [F/C key]
[Register][Thumb] x x o [sliver Eb] | x x x [F/C key]

For me it works better than the normal fingerings at starting the Bb at a extremely soft dynamic. It might not work for you depending on your setup.

Any suggestions on how to play the opening Bb at pianissimo? Fingerings? Breath support? Tonguing?


-- Ray Zhang

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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: GenEric 
Date:   2017-12-25 10:45

Haha, this was the CBDA all state audition piece so I practiced it a lot!

For me, I just used the normal fingering with the side trill key works just fine. When you're playing softly, it's really easy to be sharp so I don't want it to be worse than it is by adding the F/C key but if you practice with a tuner, then you can find what fingering fits you.

My teacher said that the most important thing that the judges listen to is how well you count the 5 counts of Bb and how well you subdivide the rest of the slow movement in the introduction. As I was practicing this, I found it extremely useful to have my metronome at 52bpm and playing eighth notes.

Anyways for the first note, what he told me to do in my head is just hear the orchestra in my head before and breath accordingly and have the note barely speak right on beat one. The purpose of this note is to show how well you can control your instrument.

To practice this, what he told me to, is to finger the Bb, and slowly blow air into the horn and stop and hold it when you can barely hear the reed vibrate. You should get to know this position really well so that you can play the note very constantly. Then begin to practice just initiation with the note barely speaking.

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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: donald 
Date:   2017-12-25 17:15

I use either R hand B/E flat key OR the 1/1 fingering, but find the real trick to success is with my embouchure...
The jaw (or "muscle flow" as David Etheridge described it) should be away from the reed (giving the "flat chin") not pushing toward the reed. The embouchure SUPPORTS the sound by helping shape the air, and freeing the reed to vibrate, rather than physically supporting the reed by "lip pressure".
The strength in your lips/embouchure is about holding this shape, NOT "holding the reed".
Then, you can focus on the AIR starting and shaping the note. Remember to think of SHAPE with this note- it has to go somewhere (even if you are very subtle and only put a little dynamic/tonal change into it). Thinking of the sound glowing, and flowing into the continuation of the phrase takes emphasis and worry away from the START of the note- don't think too much about that, if you think about CONTINUATION then there's a good change the note will start well.
Set your embouchure we before you actually want the note to start... here's a routine to practise starting this note
- shape your mouth
- breathe IN in one swoop, like a violin bow moving up
- breathe OUT like the violing bow moving down- at the same speed as you inhaled, don't let the air stand still in between inhalation and exhalation- it should always be moving.
my 10c

Reply To Message
 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-12-25 20:38

zhangray4 wrote:

> Any suggestions on how to play the opening Bb at pianissimo?
> Fingerings? Breath support? Tonguing?

My first reaction is to be careful about what you're trying to accomplish. In all but one edition I have handy, the first note is marked piano (soft), not pianissimo (as soft as possible). The Henle urtext version isn't marked at all (the included C. Baermann version, which is based on his father's performances, says only piano). The Breitkopf score likewise has no dynamic marking for the entrance. Only the strings are marked pianissimo. That's not necessarily a meaningless difference.

IMO, more important than entering pianissimo (an extreme) are entering cleanly without an accent and being in tune. I haven't tried any of your fingerings yet. I assume they must be easy to start, or they wouldn't offer any advantage over the standard RH side key. But I think it's critical (and I would value very highly as a judge) that whatever fingering you use be accurate without having to be humored or "fudged."


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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: brycon 
Date:   2017-12-25 21:53

In general, I don't use many alternate fingerings--at least not compared to what I read here. Mostly because using a fingering based on a different partial than the surrounding pitches will result in an unevenness of timbre. And the 1 and 1 fingering for Bb, which is a different sort of problem, is much more muted in timbre than the following A. (It's also sharp in pitch on most clarinets. The Bb will tend to be sharp; no need to sharpen it further.)

I guess in other words, you're the problem, not the clarinet. Starting a Bb shouldn't be any more difficult than starting an above-the-staff G, A, etc. Just practice starting Bbs with your metronome and tuner: ideally, they should start exactly in tune and on the downbeat (to help with pitch, I begin blowing my air through the clarinet several beats before I want to start the Bb). One practice technique to help you get used to the particular resistance of that note is to start it without the tongue; memorize the sort of embouchure, voicing, air, etc you need to air start the note exactly on the beat; then add the tongue when you feel comfortable.

Agree with Karl about the dynamic level. Directly before the clarinet's entrance, the orchestra (piano) has a deceptive "cadence." The clarinet then starts the Bb on a ii6 predominant chord and corrects the cadence. You're beginning, then, at the end of a phrase rather than the start of one. It actually takes more effort to make sneaking in on the Bb work musically. (Perhaps try to achieve your musical goals with the color of the tone rather than the volume?)

Post Edited (2017-12-26 07:46)

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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2017-12-25 22:47

Thanks guys for all the suggestions! I can get the Bb soft and without an accent with a good reed during practice, but I want to get better at it so when the nerves kick in during auditions, I will still play it well.

GenEric, nice to hear from you! I was going to audition for CBDA this year but decided not to at the last second. I still need the Weber for our County honor band. Nice hearing from another California clarinet student!

Sounds like the main focus should be on embouchure, control, and air support, not the fingering. So I'll practice it more to get hit the note more consistently

-- Ray Zhang

Reply To Message
 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-12-25 23:05

One of the benefits of these auditioned bands and orchestras (beyond the local school program) is that the auditions become a reason for students to be exposed to some of the major solo staples for their instruments. IMO, one of the drawbacks is that the students must play the pieces mostly out of context. It isn't just that the auditions include only excerpts, sometimes really short ones, so the students don't get any sense of the pieces' continuity. It's also a problem of many students' not really having any idea of how what they're playing fits into the overall musical setting.

This solo entrance is part of the whole texture and structure, as brycon points out. A student practicing only the solo part with no reference to the context can easily get a distorted sense of what the soloist needs to do.

The thing I have to correct most consistently when students play this for me (and which is almost always wrong when I hear it at auditions) is, as GenEric's teacher corroborates, the shape of the note as well as its length, or when the sixteenth notes begin. Many times my students think obsessively about starting the Bb and then do nothing about the 2 measure "hair-pin" and start the sixteenth notes after a couple of beats. For me the easiest, most accurate way to play the A at the right time is to hear the accompaniment in my head as I play the Bb. The eighth notes keep the time and the figure in the bass marks the third beat so you don't lose track among the eighth notes. The sixteenth notes need to continue the tempo the orchestra (whether real or imaginary) has already established, not begin a new one.

A far more meaningful pianissimo, for me, is the one marked beginning with the 5 eighth notes at the end of the introduction. IMO the two mistakes many auditioning students make at this spot are playing the notes too fast (because they have little or no feel for the orchestral context in the measures before) and playing them too loud with too much color.


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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: GenEric 
Date:   2017-12-26 00:12

I also played this piece for a county band earlier this month. If your county band is the same as mine, you should have a sight reading portion. My band director is a conductor in the county band and he says the sight reading and scale is weighted much more than the excerpt. Although this doesn't mean that you shouldn't practice your excerpt, I highly recommend practicing your fundamentals everyday. Practice scales everyday and do a couple lines of sight reading.

Although I am happy with my seating as a "first 2nd chair", I feel like I could've gotten first chair if I worked on scales and sight reading everyday. :/

Merry Christmas Y'all!

Reply To Message
 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: Klose 2017
Date:   2017-12-26 05:39

kdk is right, there is no pp here but it's a crescendo so starting from pp is necessary. I don't understand what's the problem with normal fingering. It is quite easy to play this note out of nothing.

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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: ClarinetRobt 
Date:   2017-12-26 09:17

I guess I have a slightly different take on the opening Bb. Although I agree with everyone’s assessment of the music and how it fits in with solo, sneaking in on the Bb is impressive - kinda like “look what I can do”. I’d guess doing so in a HS competition would lend itself to a competitive advantage. (Doubtful others can do it)

Seems like I read on here to think of the opening Bb like a soprano starting a note. I’d imagine she’d face perpendicular to the audience to begin and slowly turn directly to face them (crescendo/decresendo) towards the end of the Bb, beginning the sixteenth’s. Duplicating that effect on clarinet in an operatic context would be impressive.

I’m always set, ready to go - with air spinning through my horn, embouchure secured and fully supported - the measure before the entrance. No one will hear your air. On the down beat, lightly reach up and touch the reed to let it start vibrating to sneak in. Use the Bb fingering that helps achieve this goal - keeping intonation in mind. It takes practice and patience, but you can do it consistently. In the worse case senario, you get a soft Bb with no accent or bump in the sound (as written in most editions). Kinda a win/win if you can’t get it to start from vapor.

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

Post Edited (2017-12-26 09:35)

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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2017-12-26 22:01

Robert, that was what I had in mind. I don't really want to just start on the Bb, I want to come in from nothing, basically what you just said. And yeah the normal fingerings are more in tune so I'll just use them. Thanks for the tip on lightly touching the tip of the reed before playing it, will try later. I've been trying to get it with just air, maybe that's why it's been not as consistent.

-- Ray Zhang

Reply To Message
 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2017-12-27 02:55

Apologies if this is too obvious. To improve at fading in from nothing, you might work on fading out to nothing, and then on maintaining the "nothing" and fading back in from it. The key is in playing the nothing right, i.e., as another dynamic.

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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: TomS 
Date:   2017-12-28 19:41

I've used 1 & 1 or 1 & 2, for a more covered sound ... side B-flat is not as nice for this entrance, IMHO. This takes some practice getting the legato smooth going to A and below.


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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: clarinetist04 
Date:   2017-12-31 05:21

I've never heard of or seen anyone play the opening Bb with 1+1. It makes no sense in this piece.

If you don't have a private teacher, I highly recommend you get one. Ray, you have a lot of love for the art of playing the clarinet, which is great and evident from your posts! These types of things are easily worked through with a private instructor and you will undoubtedly see your playing improve dramatically if you take private lessons with a quality teacher.

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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2017-12-31 06:16

Hi clarinetist04, thank you for your kind words! Yes I love playing the clarinet, and practice as much as I can even though high school is hectic and stressful. I do have a private teacher, but with him, I focus on more important issues, like college auditions, so I don't want to use up time during lessons to ask him about the Weber Concertino, which is for my county's honor band audition, since I prioritize college auditions over that. Thanks for your kind words and (a little early, but) I hope you have a Happy New Year!

-- Ray Zhang

Reply To Message
 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: Micke Isotalo 2017
Date:   2017-12-31 18:09

Ray, as you I also prefer to come in to the Bb from nothing. To achieve this I don't tongue it.

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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2018-01-01 22:03

Perhaps worth remarking that you can both slightly flatten and slightly soften the timbre of the side Bb by shading the 'unringed' tonehole with LH3.

Practice in using this sort of technique on a period clarinet makes it almost routine. The trick is to place your finger adjacent to the hole, and then use the elasticity of the flesh of your finger to adjust how much your fingertip projects into the airflow out of the hole.

Then, you're not trying for an unobtrusive entry at the same time as avoiding being sharp.

A similar manoeuvre helps with the long F# crescendo in Abime des Oiseaux. You can help the entry by shading RH3, slide that off as you crescendo, and then avoid flatness in ff by sliding RH2 partially off so that it just depresses the ring, always listening carefully to the pitch of the result – as in the Weber, of course.


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 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: Cappuccino 
Date:   2018-01-03 08:23

It requires less resistance than you think.

Don't bite.

Biting is hell.

Alexander May

"Looking at art, you're looking at the result of a philosophy." - John Emmett

Reply To Message
 Re: The opening Bb of the Weber Concertino
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2018-01-12 10:08

Just wanted to say thanks for all the help! Results for the county honor band just came out a few hours ago, and even though I didn't practice as much as I would've liked to since I'm more focused on college auditions, I got 1st! And I nailed the Bb entrance perfectly. Wouldn't have been able to pull it off without all the support.

-- Ray Zhang

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