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 keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-11 22:58

Hi,

I wondered if I could ask a question about keeping fingers moving exactly in time when playing? I'm trying to play Georgie, by Emma Johnson and really struggling to cross the break legato without a tiny silence creeping in between the notes. I think that the problem may be that my fingers are coming down at fractionally different times, but it is really hard to correct that. I wondered if anyone might have any ideas?

I can manage fine if I am only opening the register key, but as soon as I move even one other finger as well as the register key, the silence creeps in. I am recording myself on Soundbooth on my computer and the silence is clearly visible on the graph, as well as audible on playback.

The jumps I am trying to do are from E up to C, then F up to C and then G up to E.

I'm playing a new Yamaha Custom CX with a J&D Hite D mouthpiece and a Vandoren V12 2.5 reed.

I would be really grateful for any ideas. I previously asked on this thread below, but still can't seem to manage it. http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/BBoard/read.html?f=1&i=473701&t=473701

Thanks!

Sunny

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: bmcgar 2017
Date:   2019-07-11 23:36

Don't analyze it, and don't look for quick fixes.

Just play VERY VERY slowly and over and over and over again between notes until your fingers are coordinated and your brain can learn where your fingers need to be. Move faster (and only a little faster) only when you've mastered the movements at a slower tempo.

And don't expect to be able to do this quickly! It'll take time.

B.

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-11 23:38

Thanks I'll try that. :-)

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: Bennett 2017
Date:   2019-07-12 00:10

In addition to practice makes perfect, consider holding down some right hand keys while you move up. Mid staff A and G, e.g., often sound a bit better when the right hand holes are closed and having them closed may make it easier to hit some notes above the break.

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-07-12 00:12

This is a good place to try Bonade's "stop staccato" exercise. Of course since the emphasis is finger coordination you don't have to obsess about the pop of the articulation so much (the other great aspect of this S-L-O-W-E-D down drilling sort of exercise).


It is also a good idea to do short sections at a time and take breaks. It'll feel like you're holding your breath until you explode.



So the idea is to continually blow as if you're playing BUT you stop the sound entirely with your tongue until you move your fingers to the very next note. Then play THAT note and stop the sound with your tongue. Move your fingers to the next note.....then play that note.


The action is like this "TUT," .....move fingers to next note....., "TUT," ......move fingers to next note....... etc.


I demonstrate this around one note per second (quarter note = 60 beats per minute).


Practicing your finger movements this slowly really helps to clean up the "clutter."





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



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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-12 00:18

Hi Paul,

Thanks for that. I will have a go.

Bennet, thanks for the thought, but he idea of holding down extra fingers doesn't really seem to work for going from E to C. I did try it. Also my teacher is really against it, so I've to learn to manage without that.

Thanks!

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: David S. 
Date:   2019-07-12 00:24

Hello Sunny - From your description of the issue, here are some suggestions.

*The ability to play over the break smoothly/flawlessly is not only a function of precise fingering, it is also the result of a firm embouchure and consistent air support/pressure.

*Suggest you begin practice sessions with long tone exercises through out all registers of the instrument. Focus on creating a firm embouchure that allows the reed to easily vibrate. Also, focus on breathing and use of your diaphragm to produce the clearest, fullest, and in-tune notes possible. Use a metronome to mark time for each long tone. (I know this exercise can appear to be tiresome and boring, nevertheless, the end results will be well worth the effort.

*After completing the long tone exercises, work to smoothly connect octaves throughout the range of the instrument. Start on the lowest E, hold for 4 beats, slur to the E, first line of the staff, hold for 4 beats, slur to to E, fourth space of the staff, hold for beats, and slur to the highest E. Continue this exercise chromatically. NOTE: Regarding high notes. Not sure how long you've been studying clarinet, so suggest you go as high as you can with a good tone quality. Also, focus on firm embouchure, breathing from your diaphragm, good air pressure and smooth connection fo fingers.

*After diligently practicing these exercises, go to your piece, and apply the same concepts as you negotiate the difficult passages. Break phrases down and practice very slowly if necessary.
Hope this helps. Good luck!

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2019-07-12 00:25

#1 - it is SUPER you noticed it and want to fix it. Many advanced students make a break there and haven't heard it before someone mentions it to them. BRAVA!!!
#2 - many students stop the air because it prevents (covers up) a squeak because of sloppy fingers and/or an instrument problem. Your air must think you are playing a long note. A squeak narrows down what the problem is.
#3 - maybe it is time for Opperman's "Daily Studies Book One" #6.

https://www.amazon.com/Modern-Daily-Studies-Clarinet-Book/dp/B000JWF2PM?SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&tag=duckduckgo-ffab-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B000JWF2PM#customerReviews

Check the third review.

I have quarter = 160 written on that page marked in the late 1960s. I can't do it that fast any more because of old age, but I still play through all the studies every once in a while.

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-12 00:46

Hi David,

Thanks, I have started on long tones. I must keep that up. I have been teaching my son to do it on his french horn too, but must remember to do it myself. It's easy to get caught up in trying to play the finished piece, and lose sight of the foundations.

Thanks Ken also for your comments. It's really kind of you to be upbeat about it. My teacher is very good and is really focusing on this silence in my legato transitions. I can only clearly hear it on playback on my computer, and it shows really well on the graph, but I am getting to be able to hear it live, now that I have seen it represented as a graph. The graph is really good at showing when I have gone even slightly wrong.

I have been concentrating hard on support today and trying to breathe the transition as though it was a single note. I also find that if I stand like a song-bird singing, then it totally changes the way that my breath control works, and I can almost leave my breathing to drive itself while I think about the music, which is good.

My teacher says, and I feel, that this is a really fundemental turning point in my learning, and I would like to take the time to get this really right before I rush on through. The two books (Bonade on the other thread and Opperman) that have been mentioned sound great, but they don't seem to be available in the UK unfortunately. It would be nice to see those.

I think that this piece that I'm learning (Georgie by Emma Johnson - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cjDWeFHHlI&t=7s) is also a great piece to test this particular skill. It's really tricky. I see that she has done a whole series of really good videos online, but very few people seem to have seen them: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2123087DE3C5FF2C
I'm gradually working my way through and watching them.

Thanks so much for all of your help. I will try all of your suggestions.

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-12 13:02

Hi,

I wondered if could show you the attached image? I'd the graph that soundbooth produces when I cross the break from E with no register key up to G with the register key. I like how the silence shows really clearly. I am doing long tones now with occassional jumps and then playing it back so I can hear whether it worked or not. The graph is a fantastic test of whether I am getting it.

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-13 21:26

Hi,

I went to my local independent woodwind shop today and asked for advice on equipment and they have sold me a ligature and new reeds that really help.

I used to use a Rovner, black pvc sort of ligature, with my Vandoren V12 2.5 reeds. Today I tried a few different mouthpieces, reeds and ligatures. The ones that I found were best for crossing the break legato were the BG super revelation ligature and the Silverstein ligature, and the best reeds were the Vandoren 56 2.5 reeds and the Classic Rigotti Gold 2.5 reeds.

The Vandoren 56 reeds made an air leak noise, but the Rigotti reeds don't, so I'm using those.

When I combine the Rigotti 2.5 reeds with the Silverstein ligature, my attempts to cross the break work much better. Instead there being a clear silence between the notes while the physics of the air inside the instrument rearranges itself, I feel a sort of click as one long air column suddenly gives way to the new shortened air column. I'm not sure if my teacher is going to think that it is good enough because there is still a brief silence but it is much better.

It's a bit of progress anyway. :-)

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-13 21:55
Attachment:  crossing-three-repetitions.jpg (63k)

Here are another two graphs of the same, but this time with three repetitions each. My computer is clearly not convinced.

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-07-13 23:43

I don't mean this to sound harsh or snarky, but beware of the feeling that you've found some really beneficial equipment combination that has solved (or begun to solve) your problems with smooth connections over the break. The ligature-mouthpiece-reed combo you've found may be more compliant in some way than the equipment you started with, but it hasn't corrected the problem, which is almost certainly in your technique.

>> The computer does not seem to think that I have improved as much as I do. :-)

That's because the computer hears more objectively and is saying the problem is still there.

I have little to add to the advice you've already read.

Your fingers need to cover the holes accurately and all-at-once. Your air stream has to remain steady.

Your embouchure has to remain stable as well - there's often a tendency to clench or grip with your lips or (worse) your jaw to keep the instrument still as you cross over the break - up or down. That tendency has to be felt and eliminated to get a smooth crossing. Your embouchure can be in any state that allows a full sound to result - but it should be the same for both of the notes - before and after the register crossing.

One suggestion I would make is that you get ("throat") Bb4 or A4 to B4 or C5 straightened out before you go on to larger intervals. (The numbering system is implied by the icon at the top of this page next to "The Clarinet BBoard" - "middle C" - one leger line below the treble staff - is C4). I'm assuming you mean E4 (bottom staff line), F4 and "throat" G4 in your graphs, and I'm hoping you mean C5 (3rd space from the bottom of the treble staff) and E5. My suggestion would be to start first on the upper note - preferably C5 or B4 - and practice smoothly slurring*downward.* Once that's clean, immediately add a slurred return to the original note. And, your teacher's objections (which I don't really understand) notwithstanding, try at first (when you practice at home if it's a sore spot at lessons) to keep your entire right hand down when you move from C or B to Bb or A and then back. Once you get the feel for the connection, you'll be able to take the RH off the holes, but at the beginning having the RH fingers down helps hold the clarinet still in your mouth. Having the mouthpiece wobbling around can cause you to grab with your embouchure (as I mentioned above). Once the slur to B or Bb is smooth, you can try connecting to G, then progressively down the scale for the bottom note.

And trust that once you learn to control your fingers, air and embouchure well enough to do this reliably, it won't matter what reed, ligature or mouthpiece you're using as long as they're all working correctly.

Karl

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-13 23:53

Hi Karl,

Thanks, I'll keep trying. Tbh, although it doesn't really show in the graphs, it definitely is easier with the new reed and ligature, so that is good. I'll keep trying as you say though.

Oddly I find it harder to cross the break down than up. The upper note never wants to stop sounding when I release the register key. I think I now need to put in a lot of practice to get my fingers trained and my enbouchure strong, so I'll get onto that.

Thanks!

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-07-13 23:58

What about C or B down to Bb? You don't release the register key for that. If that interval isn't smooth, it's very likely because you're shifting your mouth in some way to try to (mistakenly) accommodate the register change or because the instrument is moving.

Karl

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-14 00:26

Hi Karl,

Yes I see what you mean. I will try that. My instrument tends to stay fairly still because I have a clarite sling like this:

https://www.reeds-direct.co.uk/clarinet-support-to-suppliment-the-use-o.html

But I do grip the reed harder for the upper note, and my teacher says I also grip the clarinet at the same time. I will work on that.

I've been finding this week that I need to breathe a completely different way to make the crossing and I think it is all a lot to do with getting that right.

I don't know how to explain the difference exactly, but I used to take a kind of forced breath in and then force the air out while playing, and my breath used to stutter without my being able to smoothly control it. I was articulating with my diaphragm instead of my tongue, which I know is not right, and I couldn't turn the articularion off, even when I was meant to play legato. I think my breathing was too tense, so last week I did whole lot of heavy digging in the garden and played my violin a lot to get rid of tension, and then my breathing changed completely. I think the new breathing is better.

This week I have discovered that if I just relax my abdomen, then my lungs kind of naturally inflate like a great balloon with a feeling as though my whole body was filled with air right down to my pelvis. Then instead of holding my breath, I just let the force of the air lean against the reed, so that a kind of counterbalancing relationship develops between the air pressure and the reed, that I am not involved in. I then find that I can start and stop it with my tongue, but I don't need to do much else, except notice when the air is running out, and stop to relax the system again so that my lungs self-inflate.

I've been trying the suggestion up-thread of treating my air for the legato pair of notes as though they were a single note and that is clearly a much better idea. It takes a big change in mindset to do it, but I think that that is a big part of what I need to work on. I then need to get my fingers all co-ordinated to move at once, which is a whole other problem.

Thank you for letting me witter like this. It's an interesting problem to solve. and lovely to have like-minded people around to talk to about it.

Best wishes,

Sunny

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-07-14 00:51

SunnyDaze wrote:

> This week I have discovered that if I just relax my abdomen,
> then my lungs kind of naturally inflate like a great balloon
> with a feeling as though my whole body was filled with air
> right down to my pelvis. Then instead of holding my breath, I
> just let the force of the air lean against the reed, so that a
> kind of counterbalancing relationship develops between the air
> pressure and the reed, that I am not involved in. I then find
> that I can start and stop it with my tongue, but I don't need
> to do much else, except notice when the air is running out, and
> stop to relax the system again so that my lungs self-inflate.
>

You're on a good track.

> I've been trying the suggestion up-thread of treating my air
> for the legato pair of notes as though they were a single note
> and that is clearly a much better idea. It takes a big change
> in mindset to do it,

One way to set the feeling of this continuing air stream, if your teacher hasn't already tried it with you in your lessons, is for you to form your embouchure and supply the air while someone else (your teacher?) manages the fingerings. The idea isn't original with me by any means. When I do this with my students to demonstrate keeping everything steady, I turn the mouthpiece around so the tone holes and keys are facing the student. Then, I do the fingering and the student holds onto the barrel (for stability) and blows normally in a continuous stream with a well-formed embouchure. This also overcomes embouchure changes that are happening for any reason. My student just blows steadily and I go skittering over the clarinet to show what it feels like to maintain steady air and embouchure.

Karl

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-14 09:55

Hi Karl,

Thanks, that does sound very interesting indeed. I'll ask about that.

My breathing is still working in the new way and it's been four days now. It's pretty interesting learning to breathe a whole new way after 40-odd years. :-)

Thanks!

Sunny

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-07-14 17:56

SunnyDaze wrote:

> My breathing is still working in the new way and it's been four
> days now. It's pretty interesting learning to breathe a whole
> new way after 40-odd years. :-)
>
Well, no, the way you were breathing when playing is what was new after 40 years. "I used to take a kind of forced breath in and then force the air out while playing, and my breath used to stutter without my being able to smoothly control it. I was articulating with my diaphragm instead of my tongue, which I know is not right, and I couldn't turn the articulation off, even when I was meant to play legato," wasn't how you were breathing during your life pre-clarinet, and you probably weren't articulating consonants in your speech with your diaphragm. So, you're working to break habits and misunderstandings that are relatively recent.

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was just to sing a passage first, then try to play it the same way. The mechanics aren't totally the same, because reeds and vocal chords don't respond the same way, but the basic acts of blowing and articulating are more similar than they are different and can serve as a good starting point.

Karl

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2019-07-14 20:21

I believe the proper way to breathe on the clarinet is the proper way for humans to breathe. It developed when people were 'chasing dinosaurs' all day long looking for food. Today in our newly 'advanced' way to get food, humans get along breathing minimally most of the time. I have a student who became principal clarinet in the Mexico Symphony. They were scheduled to play high in the mountains, so the people in charge sent the wind players a few days early to get acclimated. At the performance the string players were fainting while there was no problem breathing the thin air for the winds. About 15 years ago My wife and I were in Germany and visited Richard Strauss's home. Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak at 9,000 feet, was in view so we decided to take a train and cable-car up there. There were a couple dozen steps to the top of a viewing tower so we walked up. Every few steps my wife had to stop and 'catch her breath' while I scampered up and down to help her - no problem.

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-14 22:42

Ken, that's really interesting. I do completely agree with you. I did a lot of physical stuff like digging last week to free up my breathing and it helped enormously. I think maybe I need to be much more physical quite regularly in order to maintain the kind of breathing pattern that will work well for my clarinet playing.

I do also play the violin, though not as often as I play my clarinet. It always makes me laugh now that when I start to play the violin I instinctively take a big clarinet breath out of habit, which is, of course, totally unnecessary on the violin.

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 Re: keeping fingers moving exactly in time
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-07-14 22:52

Ah, strings may not require the mechanics of breathing but keeping in mind what a singer or wind player would do for breaths is a most necessary skill for phrasing.





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



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