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 The worst advice EVER
Author: JonTheReeds 
Date:   2018-08-15 01:29

I was wondering what the worst advice is, regarding learning clarinet, that you've ever been given. I'd be particularly interested in advice that seemed to achieve the exact opposite of what it was aiming for (ie. advice that wasn't wrong in principle but led you down the wrong path)

For me it was, "Relax and open your throat." The more I tried to open it, the more tense I became. It took me months to get over it and it was only when I forgot to 'relax and open' the throat that everything fell into place. Actually, the better advice would have been, "Don't worry about relaxing your throat, as long as you don't tense up the muscles it'll be fine, the air support will take care of everything else."

The older I get, the better I was

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2018-08-15 01:36

The worst advice I ever had concerning the clarinet was from my music teacher at high school.
"You should take up the clarinet, you'll find it far more interesting than the 'cello (my first choice)."
It was all downhill from there. I still love the 'cello, but not quite as much as I've come to love the clarinet.

Tony F.

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: fernie121 
Date:   2018-08-15 03:15

Worst advice for me was when my band teacher in elementary school insisted I used as hard of a reed as possible for the best possible sound. I remember putting blue box 4 reeds in a cup of water and blowing my eye balls out trying to play with those reeds when I probably should’ve been playing on a 2 1/2, maybe 3 at most.

Bb Clarinet: Ridenour Libertas, Mouthpiece: Bernardo’s 1940 Cicero Reeds: Behn Aria 4, Ligature: BG duo

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: GBK 
Date:   2018-08-15 03:38

Worst advice is when new (non-woodwind playing) band directors 'require' all young students to play the same model/facing mouthpiece (ex: Vandoren B45).

My response to them is to ask if all students should also wear the same size shoes.


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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: nbclarinet 
Date:   2018-08-15 03:44

My 7th grade band director told me to “bite down on the mouthpiece so it can’t move” and then proceeded to grab the barrel of my clarinet and push it side to side while I was playing, to ensure that I was biting hard enough.

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Ed 
Date:   2018-08-15 04:20


“bite down on the mouthpiece so it can’t move” and then proceeded to grab the barrel of my clarinet and push it side to side while I was playing, to ensure that I was biting hard enough.

I don't agree with the concept of asking students to bite, but the other portion is not necessarily bad. Some beginning students use no embouchure support. Wiggling the clarinet can result in them firming up their lips to keep the instrument steady, making it an easy way to fix the problem.

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: nellsonic 
Date:   2018-08-15 08:44

Unfortunately all the worst advice I ever got came from own self talk in my early 20's. I should have been building relationships with good mentors instead of thinking that I had life figured out on my own.

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2018-08-15 09:09

Worst advice was when I was six years old and we (my parents and I) went to the first conservatory. They said I was too young/small and should start with recorder, violin or cello.

I know it was the worst advice because the second conservatory we went to had a teacher who did take me and I've been playing clarinet since...

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Luuk 2017
Date:   2018-08-15 12:04

My first clarinet teacher told me to be 'the smiling clarinetist'. I had to pull up and back the corners of my mouth, so my lower lip was stretched firmly over my lower teeth, my upper lip against my upper teeth and all became as hard as a tyre. Result: leaking at the corners, squeaking, sore lips, harsh sound, no feeling, no resonance...

The best thing that happened ever was that I got another teacher after a year.

It took years to get away from the smiling clarinetist and acquire a relaxed and controlling embouchure.


Philips Symphonic Band
The Netherlands

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2018-08-15 19:03

Toward the end of my high school years, a guidance counselor advised me against attending music school, so I attended a technical college. After a year a family illness brought me home for a few years, and then the opportunity to study music appeared again, this time abroad. A close family member advised me to instead pursue the job I held at a local factory, and that's what I did. I pursued a career in the machine tool business for 40+ years, much of it as a software engineer, good at it and well-liked by my associates. I chose to follow the advice.

The advice to pursue or not pursue a musical career can have profound personal consequences. It must be hard for teachers and advisers to give.

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Wes 
Date:   2018-08-17 03:17

At 15, I was loading trucks and stacking cola cases as a night job at a bottling works in Fargo. With the money earned, I bought a $7 simple system clarinet from a pawn shop. No one had any advice or help for me, but I started a little German band and was playing for some parties within 6 months or so, a lot of fun. Now, 74 years later, it is still a lot of fun!!!

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2018-08-17 17:42

I've often giving the relax and open your throat advise many times but would follow it up with examples and try this try that. Just giving a statement without explanation or follow up doesn't always work.
My worse advise came from Joe Allard, my bass clarinet teacher for about 6 months He asked me to bring my clarinet in once and asked me about how I was tonguing. After a few minutes he tried to explain and show me how to raise my tongue up higher and back so I'd hit the reed more at the tip. His studio was in Manhattan, I lived in the Bronx. I went home thinking why my clarinet teacher, Leon Russianoff never said anything to "correct" my tonguing. Then I found out. I got home and tried to play in my "new tongue position" and could hardly get a note out, the air was backing up and the more I tried the more frustration it got and I couldn't get back to my "normal" position. So in panic I called him and told him what was going on. He told me to come back to his studio which of course i did. Ater a few minutes he looked in my mouth and diagnosed what he saw. He told me my tongue was to "thick or long", can't remember which or even both. Somehow he got me back to normal and apologized and sent me on my way back home. By the way, Allard was a good teacher, very helpful with voicing the bass clarinet and 'relax your throat" was a big thing with him. Knowing about different tongue sizes helped me with a great many students later knowing that everyone can't play the same way to acheive the goal needed.


Post Edited (2018-08-28 15:58)

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: William 
Date:   2018-08-17 22:12

That if I practiced hard enough, I could play anything. Well, that never proved true and I wish my college clarinet professors had been more honest. Don't misunderstand, I did become "pretty good", but my chronically slow tongue has always held me back from playing the really great clarinet literature.....Nielson, as example. I can play just as fast as anyone, if I slur....but I never could speed up my tongue. Yes, I did become fairly proficient at multiple tonguing technique, but it just isn't as clean as a really fast single tongue. Why wasn't I told I had this disablility back in college so I could switch to a brass instrument where double and triple tongue is normal?

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: zms5063 
Date:   2018-08-19 21:35

While I was taught the alternate fingers for notes involving the pinkies (Bb Boehm B,C, C#, etc. and F, E and F#, etc. ), I remained blissfully unaware of their "cross fingering" intentions. My elementary and middle school band teachers merely presented them as a casual aside, not as something that had a specific use and best practice. That really held back my playing until I got to high school. I had to break a lot of bad habits with that missed tidbit. I guess that's what happens when brass players rule the universe, which all three of my school band directors were brass players.

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2018-08-19 22:37

Hi zms5063. I'm not sure what you meant by "cross fingering" or "best practice." The lh and rh pinky fingerings for the notes you mention are in most situations interchangeable and frequently their use is a matter of individual habit or preference.

Referring to standard, not full, Boehm, the main exceptions are where the lh pinky will need to press the C#/G# key or where the rh pinky is going to press the Ab/Eb key, because there are no opposite-pinky keys for those. In those cases, yes, you frequently have to start a sequence of those notes so that alternating pinkies come out right for those singleton keys. If you mean you didn't understand about the opposite pinky fingerings, then I can well imagine such passages becoming unnecessarily harder.

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Filettofish 
Date:   2018-08-20 02:27

I came from the school of "slap a #4 on your mouthpiece and clamp down" as a high school student, and so in the first year of my undergrad my studio teacher bumped me down to softer reeds, stressed a feeling of "no pressure" in the embouchure, and I assumed that this combined with high tongue position for "proper voicing" would lead me to a healthy and efficient production of sound.

By the end of my freshman year I couldn't keep anything above a clarion A in tune or create a proper sound up top, because I had created so much space between my lower lip and teeth that that the two were no longer touching, and my embouchure was weak and easily fatigued. Once I discovered the way that the throat, tongue, and embouchure interact in order to create sound, I was began to have much more success.

All in all the advice wasn't bad, but taken to extreme it did set me back a bit.

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: zms5063 
Date:   2018-08-26 22:04

Maybe we need a thread of ancedotal-best-advice?

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Toffeeman 
Date:   2018-08-28 15:51

Don't know about the worst advice but my best advice to all new players is to buy a decent i instrument as a begginer especially should not be fighting against the instrument or mouthpiece.

Buy a good reconditioned Buffet B12 or Yamaha 23N or 26ii

put a Yamaha 4c or 5c mouthpiece on it starting with a Rico 1.5 reed moving up to a 2 as soon as possible

this is my best advice from my own experiences

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Anonymoose 
Date:   2018-08-29 01:01

I've received a lot of bad advice, but I can't really say which one is the worst...
Though the funniest bad advice I've gotten was when I was first starting the clarinet. My instructor told me to "smile" to form an embouchure. He had a funny accent, so he would say "smell" instead. Thinking back, I think that was hilarious but at that moment in time I was literally trying to sniff the heck out of the air.

Post Edited (2018-08-29 01:01)

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: SymphonyofMajesty 
Date:   2018-09-01 06:17

I've received several tidbits of bad advice, including
"You're too young to use a harder reed" -band teacher, age 10
"Don't practice your repotoire, sight reed so you can play without practicing" -fellow clarinetist
"You can't play that solo piece by tomorrow..." -7th grade band teacher (I played it in the pitch black school garden the following night as the wind blew away my music, but it was a good experience and I got through it)

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Zia 
Date:   2018-09-01 17:29

the worst thing i was ever told was to never take the reed off the clarinet, i was told this when i started playing, not a very good teacher even at the time, i lasted maybe 5 weeks with lessons at school, i had always wanted to play clarinet so after that i got my own Yamaha and got a private teacher. To give the clarinet back to the school i took the reed off and it was covered in mildew to tell people that is terrible, now i always remove the reed and the mouthpiece is washed once a week at least.

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Volatile 
Date:   2018-09-07 18:30

A local(60 miles away) "technician" told me ( a beginner) I should use Legere reeds ( which don't work with the Fobes Debut mouthpiece, I switched to Fibracell). Anyway, when I took the instrument to him he said "well, the first thing wrong is that you have the ligature,(a Rovner Dark) on backwards. I know I'm a tyro be at age 72, but what difference can the screw pointing to the left or right as long as it's opposite the reed?

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2018-09-07 20:27

I suspect that he wasn't referring to rotating the ligature around the mouthpiece, but about if the ligature was actually on the wrong way round. The Rovner soft ligatures (mine anyway) adopt the conical shape of the mouthpiece and become a section of a truncated cone. If you put it on backwards the conical shape of the ligature is the opposite of the conical shape of the mouthpiece and it may not be supporting the reed as it should.

Tony F.

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: Volatile 
Date:   2018-09-07 20:52

The directions that came with my Rovner DARK ligature shows the adjustment screw facing right opposite the reed. Also shows it mounted facing the reed. Guess I could try that. I've had the Yamaha ycl 250 shipped to him twice and physically went to his "shop" (garage). So I bought the $85 kit from Musicmedic. I know the low "e" key is leaking, so I'LL start there. I should have my head examined for shipping an instrument to someone I've never met.

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 Re: The worst advice EVER
Author: QuickStart Clarinet 
Date:   2018-09-13 22:55

I always hate when I hear clarinetists being told to tighten their corners like they're smiling!

This creates so many issues with the embouchure then being too tight, and pulling the corners away from the mouthpiece is exactly the opposite of what the embouchure should be doing!

Josh Goo
QuickStart Clarinet Founder

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