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 I have joined a community band
Author: rrayneau 
Date:   2019-07-28 18:18

Hi everyone,
I introduced myself back on 2019-02-11 in a post called 'playing flat, please advise'
I was given helpful advice so I would like to ask another question.
Now 68 years old teaching myself for 21 months in UK. Had about 6 lessons which have now stopped.
I can get notes up to g6 to speak fairly easily which I would like to think means my basic technique is sound.
I joined a community band 4 months ago but am finding it challenging. We are a relaxed group of about 20 of different ages and levels of experience. Includes 8 clarinets. As we have no bass clarinets I play bass clarinet part. But it is very different to playing at my own pace home alone
We play about 10 pieces. Despacito,Sgt Pepper medley, Best of the West,Bohemian Rapsody, Motown Forever etc.
It shouldn't be challenging technically. Low notes,repetitive,mostly not the melody.
But just to learn a couple of phrases up to speed can sometimes takes me quite a long time, depending on how difficult. Even though I also spend time going over the notes in my head. There are videos on YouTube of the same versions of the pieces we play and I study those. Also I play along with the recordings we make of our practice sessions.
For one thing I find some of the rhythms difficult though I use a metronome. So I end up only playing a small percentage of the notes I am supposed to play. At this rate it will be months or even years before I am up to speed by which time they will have moved on to another 10 pieces.
Is this rate of progress normal? Any observations gratefully received as I would like to make more of a contribution. And enjoy it more.
Regards, Bob
Buffet Prodige, Vandoren 5RV, Legere European 3.5

rrayneau@gmail.com

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: Erez Katz 
Date:   2019-07-28 19:40

Music is first and foremost a social activity.
Being part of an ensemble is fantastic.
It is where the technical aspects you work on come together, and it is where a unique skill is developed.
There is a limit to what you can attain by working on your own at home. Working with someone else from the band once a week in addition to the rehersals might give you a big push.
If it is hard to find practice mates, I would look for a teacher, get the parts for 1st/2nd clarinet and dedicate the lesson solely for working on the band material- by work I mean both of you playing the parts together soup to nuts.

Good luck!

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: tucker 2017
Date:   2019-07-28 20:38

Get thee back to a good teacher!!!

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: Bennett 2017
Date:   2019-07-28 21:59

When I first joined a community band after a year's worth of lessons I was assigned a 3rd clarinet part. Within 30 seconds I didn't know whether we were on page 1 or page 2. If you don't have the melody, playing with a group takes a lot of practice = experience.

If it's the keywork - fast arpeggios or too many notes with extra flats or sharps in front of them - just simplify. Make sure you hit the right note on beat 1 of the measure and ignore what's beyond reach. Remember, the right note in the wrong place is a wrong note. Or play every other note, or take it up or down an octave everywhere or just where notes are hard to hit in time. Silence generally sounds better than errors.

In practicing at home perhaps using a somewhat full featured metronome (or app) that permits accenting the up or off beats, (the ands of 1, 2, etc.) will help with the rhythm.

The suggestion to play duets is a great one if you can find someone who's playing the 1st part. Or you might often be doubling with a low brass player or bassoon who might be willing to play with you at home.

And a few lessons devoted to your trouble spots with a teacher would be money well spent.

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: BethGraham 
Date:   2019-07-29 00:06

Bennett wrote:

>
> The suggestion to play duets is a great one if you can find
> someone who's playing the 1st part. Or you might often be
> doubling with a low brass player or bassoon who might be
> willing to play with you at home.


This is a fantastic suggestion, which I'll keep in mind as I start a new season in two bands in the fall.

I've been playing since April in a local New Horizons band, and since I've only been playing clarinet since January there's lots that I still can't play easily. My new teacher, who's also the conductor of this band, reminds me that playing in the band is a team sport, and that I'm better off simplifying parts that are still too technically hard for me rather than scrambling to play everything -- in the process running the risk of bogging down my section mates.

Congratulations to the OP on joining a band. Isn't playing music in a group exhilarating?

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: Chris_C 2017
Date:   2019-07-29 01:52

Just enjoy yourself!
I concur with the view that 3rd clarinet in a band is difficult - 1st clarinet and flutes get the tune; 2nd clarinet typically gets a third below the 1st so has someone to follow/play with; then the rest of the band get their notes; and finally third clarinet gets what is left over, so there is often no harmonic or rhythmic sense to the part on its own. For that reason I always thing 2nd is the easiest clarinet part.

Just keep at it and it will come together... The most important first step is to try not to play in rests! Everything else follows from that. Time and practice are the key - and as has been said, it's a team thing, so you make what contribution you can and the overall sound is what matters. Playing in small groups (2-4) without a conductor makes you listen to the other players and that makes a big difference.

Just enjoy yourself!

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-07-29 02:41

At 68, your questions lead me to ask if you have had other music experience before starting the clarinet.

When you say that rhythms cause trouble for you, is it because you don't understand the notation? When you "use a metronome" in practicing the troublesome rhythms, how are you using it?

When you say that "it shouldn't be a challenge technically" and that some of the rhythms are "difficult," those two statements will really have different meanings depending of whether you're learning notation from scratch or can apply experience from another instrument. And any explanations about how to overcome these problems will vary with the level of non-clarinet experience you have had with music.

Did you stop lessons because of a conflict with the teacher, the expense or some other issue?

Karl

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2019-07-29 04:04

Have you reached a level where you can look at a note on paper and instantly know where it is on the instrument, or are you still at the stage where there is a sort of mental gap while you work it out? When I returned to the clarinet after a gap of 48 years that is where I found myself. I joined a New Horizons band, took some lessons, and found one day that I had arrived at the point where I knew where the notes were without any conscious effort. For me it was the result of persistence and practice, but the lessons smoothed the way enormously.

Tony F.

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-07-29 06:26

Well if you can put in about 30 minutes of practice maybe per day and record yourself now and then in a year from now you will be shocked how well you've done.

Don't be too hard on yourself and simply have a great time.

As far as the notes go these come with time. It's pretty much like learning how to speak a new language. It just takes some time. But not that long, because it's only one line of notes.

What's kind of hard is transposing and learning to real 4 lines of music as well as different clefs. There's bass clef, tenor, alto, you get the idea. So the clarinet only has one. Examples are playing the piano, the organ, and even the french horn and the cello.

For now just do 30 minutes. I'm a firm believer in playing long tones to build up your sound quality, your embouchure, breath control. I still do it when warming up everyday. It gets that air flowing and you can hear your sound quality.

Lastly is rhythm. You will learn a lot of this in the band, but I agree that taking some lessons from a band member or a starving college student is a good idea. College students always need a few bucks for a pizza or a burger!


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: rrayneau 
Date:   2019-07-29 11:59

Thank you all for the helpful advice and encouragement. It has given me much to think about.
In answer to kdk's questions, I did cello for a few years when I was much younger. So I do have some background in notation which has helped a lot. No other musical experience.
With the cello as you put more fingers down the pitch goes up, which is the opposite for clarinet. I think this causes some confusion at a subconscious level. So I am still not quite at the point where I can look at a note on paper and instantly play it as Tony F mentioned.
I finished lessons because I didn't seem to be learning very much. I think we were incompatible. He was more into playing jazz on his saxophone and I am more classically inclined. I wanted him to teach me the basics eg embouchure, air support, articulation etc which he didn't. Also I had been doing double lip embouchure for some time and was keen on it but he made me do single lip. I have since gone back to double lip. He also didn't like me using plastic reeds which I really like in terms of their consistency and low maintenance.
I do quite like the idea of teaching myself and finding out stuff for myself.
As regards rhythms it is more the syncopated ones I can find tricky though I suppose I just need to work on them. I use Kodaly syllables and a metronome.
I guess with regular practice it will eventually fall into place. I practice for about an hour most days. Also some mental practice.

rrayneau@gmail.com

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: Maruja 
Date:   2019-07-29 16:07

I loved this post! I have been a member of a band for about 8 years now and remember at the start puzzling over such arcane things as 'first time bar', 'double time' and all the off beat rhythms which go over the bar....

Things are a lot better now, but I still get lost and there are some pieces which I will never master as they are just too fast for me (Caliph of Baghdad is a good example). I also find medleys where the tempo and the key change with not much warning, quite challenging.

I have lessons with a pianist/bassoonist - I chose her because I wanted to practise playing along with the piano, getting the entrances right etc, but we have never played bassoon and clarinet together. I think I will take up the suggestion of her playing the top part of a band piece which is a brilliant idea, but will bassoon and clarinet work together? I assume she will have to transpose...

I have also tried picking out well know tunes on the clarinet and playing them in different keys - I find this much more difficult on the clarinet than on a keyboard. Is it because the placement of the keys is not so straight forward?

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: rrayneau 
Date:   2019-07-30 14:23

Maruja. Thank you. Yes joining the band was a culture shock. But I find your experience encouraging, that I will eventually make it. And thank you everyone for your posts.
Bob
Buffet Prodige, Vandoren 5RV, Legere European 3.5

rrayneau@gmail.com

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2019-07-30 18:27

RRay,

Something that has not been mentioned is that "As we have no bass clarinets I play bass clarinet part."

I do not think that is in your best interests as I believe that if you played 3rd clarinet along with others, you would have some peer support on the music. In the level of music you are playing, the bass clarinet part is often doubled by bassoon, baritone horn, tenor sax, tuba, or a similar instrument with the same tessitura (same range and timbre).

Even if you don't have any or all of these instruments amongst the 20 players, the clarinet you are playing is made to play an octave above the bass clarinet's range. Thus, you have some harmonic issues (inversion of chords) which I do not want to get into as they are a bit complex.

The long and the short of it is start playing 3rd clarinet.

HRL

PS If what I've said above is confusing, PM me.

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: Maruja 
Date:   2019-07-30 19:16

Just another thing that I have found helpful - as opposed to classical music, band music often has many accented notes (usually on the top, sometimes on the bottom) - make sure you pay attention to the accents, because they tell you how to play the rhythm when it's not obvious. For instance, I have been listening to a track from Play Along Latin (Wise Publications, I bought it second hand from Abe Books) - Oye como Va - it's Cuban so the accents are not necessarily where you think they would be, but they are marked for you.

The other thing I have been doing recently is marking up which notes have the same length - when you have to read fast it's quite hard to work out that a dotted crotchet is the same as a quaver and a crochet (if the latter is over a bar line, for instance).

I am always trying to work out little tricks that might help me read faster - we have over 250 pieces in our folders, it's madness!

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: rrayneau 
Date:   2019-07-30 19:20

Mr. Lehrer,
Thank you for that excellent advice. I must say it did cross my mind but,after reading your post, I will now persue with renewed enthusiasm.
Regards,

rrayneau@gmail.com

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: rrayneau 
Date:   2019-07-30 19:57

Maruja,
Thank you once again. I am definitely going to borrow your tricks.

rrayneau@gmail.com

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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-07-31 10:41

Stay with a double lip since you already like it. Don't switch. The sax player in my opinion is wrong.

Often double lip players have less issues with embouchure problems and often achieve better quality sounds faster. Not always, but the upper lip gets stronger faster and this also helps avoid biting. on the beak of the mouthpiece with your teeth to reach the high notes.

If your lower lip and upper lip gets sore consider having the 5RV mouthpiece refaced and closed down a bit. Or replace it with a mouthpiece with a tip opening around 1.03mm's or so. Sometimes double lip players have issues with sore lips caused by the mouthpieces being too open and also plastic reeds. Plastic reeds sometimes don't "Give." and remain stiff whereas cane reeds will give in a bit.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: I have joined a community band
Author: rrayneau 
Date:   2019-07-31 12:33

Bob Bernardo wrote
"Stay with a double lip since you already like it. Don't switch. The sax player in my opinion is wrong.

Often double lip players have less issues with embouchure problems and often achieve better quality sounds faster. Not always, but the upper lip gets stronger faster and this also helps avoid biting. on the beak of the mouthpiece with your teeth to reach the high notes.

If your lower lip and upper lip gets sore consider having the 5RV mouthpiece refaced and closed down a bit. Or replace it with a mouthpiece with a tip opening around 1.03mm's or so. Sometimes double lip players have issues with sore lips caused by the mouthpieces being too open and also plastic reeds. Plastic reeds sometimes don't "Give." and remain stiff whereas cane reeds will give in a bit."

Bob,
I have stayed with double lip.I have looked into it quite a bit and am sure it is the better option for me. I don't think there is any tendency now to bite on the high notes.It is now non-negotiable.
As are plastic reeds. I prefer to spend my time practising rather than fiddling with cane reeds.
Fortunately I have had no issues with sore lips.
Thank you for taking the trouble to advise me.

rrayneau@gmail.com

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