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 learning curve
Author: LC007 
Date:   2018-02-02 17:56

Well I've been playing clarinet now for 5 months and have joined a community beginner band. I am having a great time but let me tell you - my eyes have been opened to just how much (little) I know. I thought I was doing quite well - playing alone in the quiet of my home I think I sound OK and can perform basic stuff reasonably well. But when in the band surrounded by saxes and trumpets and tubas and flutes and oboes and everything else in between, I can barely hear myself. The problem is I lose the tempo and have a tendency to go too fast. If I look up to the maestro, I lose my place in the music. I am anxious about it and that only compounds the problems I'm having. I get stressed out and make stupid mistakes.
I never took music in high school like many people have, so I'm getting that education now - in my sixties! What an awakening! Any advice on how to relax and slow down?

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 Re: learning curve
Author: ClarinetRobt 
Date:   2018-02-02 19:11

I assure we've experienced this at some point in our lives. For me it was in the 7th grade at Jr High Region concert. I placed very high in the section due to my technical prowess, but wasn't unequipped to handle music (shriek 6/8 time) that was beyond my level.

But from the ashes of shame, I swore I'd never be in that situation again. I always showed for every rehearsal well prepared. Something I still (try to) hold true.

I think it's awesome you're in a community.

~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: learning curve
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2018-02-02 21:23

You focus at the music, but you can see the motions of the conductor over the stand too. It's sort of peripheral vision in the up direction. Adjust your stand height so you can just catch what the conductor's doing over the top of it. After a while seeing it gets to be more subconscious. Expect not just tempo and tempo changes, but dynamic and other cues as well.

There's also a listening thing that gets better. You can get tempo reinforcement from the percussion and other sections, who presumably are following the conductor (I had an argument once with a percussionist who said if the conductor and percussion are not together, follow the percussion; I still think when in doubt follow the conductor and let him fix things.)

You also listen for intonation and relative dynamics. Expect to get better at awareness of pretty much everything together. Can't just zone into your part.

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 Re: learning curve
Author: GenEric 
Date:   2018-02-03 08:57

Don't worry! This is only your 5th month playing your instrument. No need to rush. Practicing everyday and seeing yourself improve is one of the best parts about playing clarinet in my opinion.

If you're having trouble keeping time, that's normal. It's your first time learning music and most people aren't used to having a metronome engraved in their brain when they're playing music. The best way to get a better sense of time is to practice everyday with a metronome with subdivisions on. If you're rushing and it ultimately leads you to play incorrect notes, practice with the metronome at an uncomfortably slow tempo. Even I find it annoying and tedious but when I rehearse and it sounds worse than before, I have only myself to blame because I didn't practice properly.

Also, one tip, get into the habit of not tapping your toes but learning to subdivide in your head. It's pretty unprofessional and I get very paranoid by the person sitting next to me.

ericyche2002@gmail.com

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 Re: learning curve
Author: LC007 
Date:   2018-02-03 18:04

Thank you for the tips and encouragement.

We do practice at an excruciatingly slow speed sometimes. I think that may contribute to my tendency to speed things up. I will need to watch that. I will start practicing at home in slow-mo. I do use a metronome but not all the time.
Toe tapping comes completely naturally to me and I don't think I could stop if even if I tried. In fact I get both feet going sometimes - one on the up beat and the other on the down.
Phil: You made me think about it and I realize now my music stand is too low. My head travels up and down quite a bit when I look up to the conductor. I will raise it so I can just move my eyes up.
Another thing I thought about is to sit more in front of my section. That way I would have clarinets behind me rather than saxes and tuba. Next week I will get there a bit earlier to secure a front row seat.

Luc



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 Re: learning curve
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2018-02-03 19:33

LC007 wrote:

> We do practice at an excruciatingly slow speed sometimes. I
> think that may contribute to my tendency to speed things up. I
> will need to watch that. I will start practicing at home in
> slow-mo.

My personal opinion (which I know isn't universally shared) is that slowing things too much so completely changes the nature of the problem that the benefit may not transfer to a faster speed. That's not to denigrate slowing difficult passages down to a manageable speed, but only enough to allow more accurate reading (people tend to skip details at too fast a reading speed in both music and text). It should still retain its musical character. When you're at home, find a tempo that's only slow enough for you to play the passage accurately, not so slow that it becomes "excruciating." All you want to do is learn accurately what the notation says and be able to control your playing result. Then start to gradually speed up, trying to push the threshold at which you lose control closer to the performance tempo.

> Toe tapping comes completely naturally to me and I don't think
> I could stop if even if I tried. In fact I get both feet going
> sometimes - one on the up beat and the other on the down.

It isn't so much the toe tapping that's a problem, it's the visible movement of your foot (feet) up and down (distracts the audience) and the sound of shoes hitting the floor (adds unintended and unwanted noise to the music). Players who compulsively tap their toes only need to learn to minimize the motion so it's unnoticeable to an observer and doesn't add an audible drumbeat.

> Another thing I thought about is to sit more in front of my
> section. That way I would have clarinets behind me rather than
> saxes and tuba. Next week I will get there a bit earlier to
> secure a front row seat.
>

In many bands this may not make you popular. The chairs at or near the front of the section are usually considered to be where the more experienced and either skilled or politically influential players sit. In many groups, the seating is assigned. If seating is really first-come-first-seated, you might go for something more in the middle. You should sit with other clarinetists who are playing the same part (3rd clarinet?) because even the sound of one of the other parts may confuse you.

Karl

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 Re: learning curve
Author: Bennett 2017
Date:   2018-02-03 21:23

I think you're doing great. After a year of (adult) lessons, where everything vaguely musical had something akin to melody, I joined a community band.
In the 3rd clarinet section, after 30 seconds I didn't know whether we were still on page 1 or now on page 2.

It will slowly improve. If you're lost, stop (or just pretend to play). You might find your way again at a repeat, fermata, key change or the like. And do not be afraid to tap your foot - yes it's not professional but you are not a professional. Just don't wear steel toes or bells on your shoes.

A lot of 3rd clarinet band music is hard to practice as melody or anything akin to it may be lacking. And during rehearsals there are all those other instruments playing and trying to confuse you.

Good advice to try to sit next to someone who is playing the same part as you.
When they stop for ten bars of rest, that may help you find your way once again.

Just keep at it.



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 Re: learning curve
Author: JonTheReeds 
Date:   2018-02-05 13:26

Just keep doing it, it's a long learning curve but it will improve - think in terms of years though, not months. Experience and flight time will give you the tools you need - the most useful tools are the ones you use when you go wrong, to get you out of the hole you've dug

I would position yourself and your music stand so actually you don't need to move your head or your eyes to see the conductor - you don't need to have a full view, but just be aware at all times of their beating (flailing?) arms

Also, one's capacity to keep up depends on how complex the music is. I'm okay with most music now to sight read, but if the music is particularly complex I still get lost

Foot tapping depends on the context. In folk music circles it's quite acceptable, even required. Not so much in more classical settings, and it can be quite off putting, especially if their sense of time keeping is different to the conductor's

--------------------------------------
Music is 95% preparation, the other half is performance

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