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 Fast air and volume
Author: Maruja 
Date:   2019-05-10 20:33

I had a one off session with a clarinet teacher a week or so ago. She said that I was not blowing enough fast air in to the instrument and got me to blow very loudly as she manipulated the keys.
That was fine - she was pleased - the muscles in my abdomen were tense and quite sore after the session - but, it was loud! My previous teacher hated loud - she said it sounded coarse.
So, what am I to do? Does blowing fast air always equate to high volume?

Many thanks in advance for answers, ideas...

Maruja



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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-05-10 21:11

Did you or she measure the speed/forward velocity of the air as it entered the mouthpiece? What was the velocity when you played loud? What was it when you played softly? I doubt if you know either answer.

Keeping the reed's stiffness and your embouchure constant, if you blow harder so that more air passes by the reed, it comes out louder - until you just force the reed closed. Blow less air and it comes out softer. There is a discussion to be had about the way you control the air flow at whatever volume is involved, but I don't myself believe that it has to do with air velocity. "Fast air" IMO is a term wind players have made up to describe a process that is, I think, more subtle. If "fast air" means something to you, I suppose it may be a useful idea, but it has serious limitations.

There is also discussion possible (though, I think not much) about whether or not "high volume" (I assume you mean loud) is necessarily in itself a valid goal. Your first teacher was right that beyond a certain point of loudness, a clarinet can go out of control, lose focus and become coarse-sounding. Beneath a certain point of softness, the sound, if not well controlled, can become breathy, thin and unsubstantial.

Controlling the differences between coarse and fortissimo or thin and pianissimo is part of good technique and depends on your ears to determine which is coming out of your clarinet.

What this new teacher did was perhaps to expand your range of possibilities. But you need to be the judge of your own playing.

Karl

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-05-10 21:15

no


But that is (from my perspective) helpfull imagery. The clarinet sound is a pressure system. The air column in the clarinet (which is what is actually making the sound) vibrates when there is a pressure differential between the air in the horn (zero pressure) vs the air in aural cavity. Now I assume there is a point at which there are no longer an advantage to more pressure, but getting up to a good minimum is a hard concept for beginners who have not done it yet.


Now that you know where "loud" is, you can begin a long tone exercise where you diminuendo maintaining that robust timbre as you diminish to the point where the sound just fades out to nothing. Doing this the correct way, you should notice that you feel a good amount of vibrations under your fingers the whole time AND that you are continualling PUSHING with your abdominals.


Once you get used to it, your mid section won't feel sore any longer but you will always mantain a vibrant sound.



I don't understand the hesitance from some teachers about "loud." That is the one half of the only two tools we have as musicians (dynamics and time or rhythm). If you limit your maximum dynamic, you have much smaller pallette to choose from.





..................Paul Aviles



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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2019-05-10 22:00

I was taught 'blow hard but not loud'. Control the volume with your embouchure. that will improve pianissimo, altissimo sound and many other 'air' problems playing wind instruments.

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2019-05-11 17:04

I've always had a problem with the term "fast air" myself. I think the proper term should be "enough air" or "the correct amount of air". Yes, if the air does not move fast enough of course the tone will be weak and inconsistent but using just the right abount of air gives the desired quality. I took seveal lessons with a very famous teacher a long time ago, I was already a young pro but always looked for advise from the experts. At my first lesson he picked up my instrument to illustrate the same thing you're talking about and "blasted" a FFFFF. It truly hurt my ear. Take a huge breath, blast as loud as you can. After a few more lessons I stopped, thanked him for his advice and backed off from what he was trying to get me to do. My tone was getting harsher and brighter, I don't like either. I've always used a lot of air, I played clarinet and bass clarinet, I had to but just enough, not more than I needed.
So what's my point. Yes, you should be able to fill your lung capacity by practicing breathing exercises but it should not "hurt" to take a full breath, just slowly expand your capacity. Then use your adominal muscles to control the amount of air you need. Not your throat by constriction, not your embouchure by pinching, not your tongue by moving it. So it's a little bit more complicated than just "move the air fast". Ask your teacher, or research it, about some good breathing exercises. Slowly filling your abdominal muscles without stress then learning to fill them quicker. Taking in as much air as necessary so you don't have to much excess air to have to expell before taking a new breath for the coming passage. Two of my favorite exercises when I taught was lying down flat with a book on you lower stomach and taking slow deep breaths watching the book go up and down, relaxed. Then sitting up, or standing, and matching the feeling of filling your lower lungs. The second is putting your hands around your waste and taking in slow full breaths feeling lungs expand and go back. .

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2019-05-11 20:31

Hi Maruja, Your last question is to the point. “Does blowing fast air always equate to high volume?” I interpret volume to mean loud. When you play very softly you have a choice to employ fast air or not. Beginning clarinetists for the most part use slow, unsupported air. Without getting into physiology, if you engage your core muscles/abs it creates a resistance for air flow. One tries to play mf but it comes out pp. This gives the illusion that there is fast air occurring but it really is just the air speed required for pp. The extra resistance provides more control for the performer.
In my experience pushing the abs outward with lots of force creates the most resistance and as such might be used for ppp.
Three things. 1. Fast air isn’t faster than slow air. (Just a different resistance)
2. Playing softly is work for the abs.
3. It would follow that supporting is counterproductive to very loud playing. This might be the case so don’t work too hard and get in your own way .

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-05-11 20:49

Ed,

I think in a room with other clarinet players we'd be in agreement on what sounds good, and what "loud" is and isn't. I don't confuse "harsh" with greater amplitude (which in itself is not a bad thing).


My studying story is a bit different. After sevearal years of study with Walter Wollwage (who NEVER played during a lesson) I got a chance to sit next to Paul Schaller during a performance and could not believe a clarinet could sound like that.....loud, accurate, beautiful.


I fear that some current students take the idea of playing "tastefully" to be an excuse to put in less effort. There is a distinction.


..................Paul Aviles



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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2019-05-12 03:34

I agree with Paul that there’s a place for loud. You just have to know when .
I would like to add a bit to my previous post.
The amount of support is whatever it takes to get the job done. It varies with the task at hand. It could be a soft entry on a high note or an exposed diminuendo that is challenging for pitch and control. The performer has to determine how much support it takes. You can overdo it and this makes performing a very physical endeavour. That can work to. It’s up to you. In Maruja’s case I would advise that sore muscles after a session indicates too much effort. Focus more on engaging the muscles during playing and not setting a world record for powerful abs.

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: nellsonic 
Date:   2019-05-12 06:16

With younger intermediate/advanced-beginner students first coming to lessons I often talk about one's 'loudest' sound as compared to one's 'best' sound and demonstrate the difference. I often encourage them play with their 'loudest best' sound as a default at this stage. Learning to combine power with focus requires careful listening and developing proper air management. Once they have a solid resonant full tone as their daily 'normal' experience it's much easier to get them to maintain color and pitch at softer and changing dynamic levels. We've all heard plenty of student clarinetists who play with a whispy colorless near-wheezing effect. There's not much you can do musically with that. This all assumes a reasonably well-formed and established embouchure, of course.

Fast air, in my experience, is a concept that works well for most students, regardless of the actual physics involved. To play softer in this model one uses less air but moves it even faster otherwise that whispy unfocused sound appears. Long tones that decrescendo from that 'loudest best' sound are a good way to start exploring this.

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2019-05-12 17:07

Before Opperman, I was taught to 'support' more. I never knew what it was. Straighten my back stiffer? Use more arm muscles holding the clarinet? 'Fast air' did the trick.

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2019-05-12 17:32

Hi Nellsonic, Do you have your students employ their abs/stomach muscles when playing?

Hi Karl, I agree with you regarding the use of the term “fast air”. Can you think of a better term to replace it?

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-05-12 18:41

No. "Adequate" is the best adjective that comes to mind. But in actual teaching, I rely more on the student's ability to hear the difference between my sound and his. Then we can talk about what he can do differently to make his sound fuller and more resonant. The important point for me is that whatever you suggest, it needs to be something concrete, something you can control directly and modify at will. When teachers insist on the benefits of using "fast" air, what they're really doing is using it as a short-hand term to include the things they consciously do to make the sound full, even at soft dynamic levels. Short-hand has the benefit of saving time. But its weakness is that both the teacher and the student need to understand what the term stands for. I think teachers who use "fast" air as a stand-alone metaphor make an unwarranted assumption that it means the same thing to them and to their students so that all that is needed to improve the student's tone (and overall reed response) is to invoke the concept.

I'm only saying here that after 62 years of playing clarinet (with some prior recorder study) I don't know how to tell how fast the air I blow when playing is actually moving or how directly to control the air speed. I do know to a fairly great extent what I do to keep the sound full and resonant with enough "ring" (another difficult term to describe clearly) to help it carry. So, if a teacher invokes "fast" air and the student immediately gets the right image and deduces what he needs to do to make the desired improvement, then the image has worked for that student. I prefer when teaching (and when troubleshooting my own playing when necessary) to avoid resorting to the more abstract concept of air velocity and deal with the direct, measurable, primary actions I take on which the abstraction itself depends.

Karl

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2019-05-12 18:48

Well said Karl. Your response is a great overview of the matter. John

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2019-05-12 20:02

Take a lesson with a teacher who can teach air speed independent from Volume...... Keeping a very good sound the entire time.

http://www.MyTempoMusic.com

http://www.skypeclarinetlessons.com/about.html


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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2019-05-13 06:28

Hi David, Since we are discussing the matter could you elaborate a bit or are you of the opinion that this can only be dealt with one on one in a lesson?

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2019-05-13 16:38

Lets not confuse just playing very loud with playing very loud but focused and in tune.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Slowoldman 
Date:   2019-05-13 17:31

Ed Palanker wrote:

"use your adominal muscles to control the amount of air you need. Not your throat by constriction, not your embouchure by pinching, not your tongue by moving it."

This simply and concisely explains what has taken me (and others, I'm sure) years to understand and implement. Well said. Thanks, Ed.

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2019-05-13 18:25

If Ed had only posted that one thought it would have been good but he also says
things like “Slowly filling your abdominal muscles”. One can surmise what he is getting at but you shouldn’t have to. I do like his use of the word “amount of air” rather than speed of air. It might seem like we’re splitting hairs here but using precise language is a good idea in many cases.

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Micke Isotalo 2017
Date:   2019-05-13 20:56

Maruja, it may be as simple that your recent teacher noticed a need of more abdominal muscle engagement in your blowing (or more specifically, more use of your diaphragm muscle located roughly at the bottom of your lungs). If so, then it seems to me from your description that you responded well and that her counsel was successful.

Just continue "blowing from your belly", rather than from your chest? As already pointed out, do it regardless if you are playing loud or soft. Just ease the pressure from your abdomen for a softer volume, but never relax it completely as long as you are blowing.



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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2019-05-14 00:30

Arnoldstang questioned what I said about this."If Ed had only posted that one thought it would have been good but he also says things like “Slowly filling your abdominal muscles”.
I'm sorry if I wasn't clear, I was referring to when one is practicing breathing to increase ones capacity as well as learn what it feels like to take really full breaths. When actually playing you don't usually have time to slowely fill your lungs. As a matter of fact, I should have added once a person achieves the first goal they have to practice taking quick full breaths as well. But I repeat, you should only take as much air as neccessary when playing so you don't have to expel to much excess air.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-05-14 00:37

Ed,


I believe there is another method to breathing while you play, which is to always take a full breath and make allowance for the extra "air in the tank" by expelling/inhaling in one action.


I have never been good at estimating exactly how much air I need at any given time, so I use the latter version.




..............Paul Aviles



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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Alexis 
Date:   2019-05-14 01:18

I don’t want to debate whether the instruction was the right one for you. I think its been mentioned that good teachers use a variety of images to help students achieve greater ease and fluency in their playing. Out of context these may not seem good but they can work. They also don’t necessarily represent what is really happening, but a more a means to realise an invisible action.

Ultimately you have to be willing to accept a teachers ideas initially and ask questions if them if you have doubts. Sometimes the act of learning takes time and a little faith.

With all this said, your previous teachers advice in regards to loud playing is a bit silly. Yes, loud playing can be ugly/coarse, but absolutely not always. But we need dynamic range in our playing, not just sitting pleasantly in the middle

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2019-05-14 16:14

Paul, ultimately one learns to do what's best for them. No "rule" fits all. I've always learned to fill up my lungs from the bottom up, not from the top down. I've learned to fill up as much as I need for a short phrase and take "full" breaths when needed for longer phrases. As i said, no one rule fits all. One learns what's best for them, at least they should.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

Post Edited (2019-05-15 16:35)

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 Re: Fast air and volume
Author: shmuelyosef 
Date:   2019-05-20 00:11

I instruct beginners only occasionally (and am not qualified beyond beginners), but I like to use terms like "strong air" and start them off pushing on a mouthpiece/reed with a cork in the bottom, to get the feel of pushing.

It's important that they understand not to 'blow' into the clarinet, but to 'push' air to start and keep the reed vibrating. The reed/embouchure controls the 'volume' or 'speed' of the air and the diaphragm/abdomen provides the 'force'.

Most of this language is accessible to a 9-10 year old student.

I have made a simple hose interface to a clarinet mouthpiece that allows me to attach my compressor to it. This lets me check intonation in a neutral manner. The young people I have showed it to are fascinated with it.

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 No Subject
Author: shmuelyosef 
Date:   2019-05-20 01:59





Post Edited (2019-05-20 01:59)

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