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 klezmer repertoire
Author: connie 
Date:   2005-12-08 20:53

I have been looking for a copy of Mike Curtis' Klezmer Repertoire, which I am told is terrific. Not listed at is it out of print? Does anyone know how I might find one?

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: Tom Puwalski 
Date:   2005-12-12 03:27

Who told you it was terrific? Get the 2 Kammen books in C, learn to transpose them, get The Compleat Klezmer. Better yet get a Dave Tarras and the Naftule Brandwien CD and start learning by ear. Then you'll have the tunes to play with a band. I've been playing this stuff for 25+ years and have never run into the Mike Curtis book.

Tom Puwalski

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: connie 
Date:   2005-12-21 13:37

I first read about it in a review in Clarinet mag, then saw some postings. My ear is not the best, and it helps if I can see stuff written out as I hear it, then I can work on it from there. My attraction to this was that the solos are written out complete with ornamentations.

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: Tom Puwalski 
Date:   2005-12-22 23:20

Ok a few questions are in order.

1. what has been your exposure to klezmer up to this point. Who have heard, what CDs do you own?

2. what is your goal? Do you want to just sit at home and read a tune out of the book or do you want to maybe be good enough to sit with a pianist, guitar player or accordionist and be able to do a respectible job to the music?

3. If you knew that you wouldn't be "spinning your wheels" and that every min you spent on a project like this would be benificial, would you really get into it?

The first thing I would do is get The Compleat Klezmer, by sopoznik It has a CD with a bunch of historic performances and lead sheets in C, it's not a transcription book. Look at the music and circle the places that someone ornaments a melody note, start the ear out slow. I routinely teach groups of clarinet players, many who are "Clasically impared" by which I mean, think they can't play a note with out music, how play klezmer tunes totally by ear. It's not that hard if you start with a very small section. I'm serious By ear is the only way anyone can get better at any type of music. If I like the way Ricardo plays a lick in Buccoulique, I copy it. If Dave Tarras does something I think is hip, you can bet it goes into my bag of tricks. I've written a book, I describe the process of learning klezmer. I transcribed a few of dave tarras and Naftule brandwein tunes, but to get my book and just read the notes wouldn't teach you very much. To look at it and have Dave or Naftule, play for you. That is the only way I have found that anyone can really learn this stuff. The clarinetists' that I respect, Andy Statman, Giora Feidman, Dave krackour, Fred Jackobawitz, all learned by listening to the same Guys. And if you heard all of us at one concert, I'm sure we all would play the same piece very differently.

Tom Puwalski, former soloist with the US Army Field Band, Clarinetist with Lox&Vodka, and Author of "The Clarinetist's Guide to Klezmer"and most recently by the order of the wizard of Oz, for supreme intelligence, a Masters in Clarinet performance

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: Steve Epstein 
Date:   2005-12-23 07:39

What Tom Puwalski says is absolutely correct, and is the same sort of advice you'd get from any truly accomplished player of any type of traditional music, on any instrument, but...

Maybe Connie is looking for something in between sitting at home and reading out of book, versus sitting with a pianist, etc, and "doing a respectable job to the music".

Many of those who play well by ear underestimate the difficulty of learning how to play by ear, as those who read really well can't believe that everyone can't be a great sightreader, and many of those who can do both believe that everyone can do both. Maybe Connie would like to be able to play some klezmer today, as opposed to five years from now after extensive ear learning from old 78's (okay, new CD's, too). Maybe Connie has a day job. Klezmer isn't exactly the easiest music to learn by ear, either, what with its unusual to western ears modes.

It's still possible to play with other people and be reading. You just can't expect to make a hit record or get serious gigs. And if Connie does try to play in a band, she'll see that even if she reads, she'll need to get away from the page and need to listen to recordings to learn what and how to play away from the page. So some ear learning will still occur, as much as Connie wants and is capable of.

Would you advise someone who wished to play classical music but whose sightreading and/or technique was not up to snuff, not at the level of a pro, not to bother?

Steve Epstein

Post Edited (2005-12-23 07:47)

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: Tom Puwalski 
Date:   2005-12-23 12:34

> Would you advise someone who wished to play classical music but
> whose sightreading and/or technique was not up to snuff, not at
> the level of a pro, not to bother?

> Post Edited (2005-12-23 07:47)

No, I would advise, and hunt down some pieces that were well within their level of proficiency. The trouble is clarinet doesn't seem to have very good repertoire that progresses from beginner to advanced, as does piano and violin. Let's take something like the Neilsen concerto, if I had an adult walk into thier first lesson with a copy of the Concerto and tell me "this is what I want to play," I'd ask kind of similar questions. The first being, have you heard this piece, second what other pieces have you studied, thirdly how much have you, or do you intend to practice. The last question I would ask is WHY? For fun, because the community orchestra this person plays for asked them and has a concert date in mind, they won't be motivated without one hell of a challenge? Then I'd listen to them play, since they came in for a lesson I'd assume they would be interested in my assessment and then I'd come up with a plan. I've had older students who learning the Neilson was a realistic goal, and I've had some that advances in human life expectancy haven't occurred yet.

Me for instance, I'm 46 years old, except for the 6 months I worked in a deli in down town Baltimore, have earned my living as a clarinetist. I've really never spent a lot of time working on the Neilson concerto. Recently I've started working on the Martino set, a piece I think is actually harder than the Neilson. My motivation, it's hard as hell, cool as crap, and if I can learn it I can play it on concerts and recitals. It's for clarinet alone. The Neilson, I will spend a few months next year getting it in the ball park of performance ready but not much more than that. Why? because unless you're a principal clarinetist with a major orchestra, Richard stoltzman, Dave Schriffran or Julian Bliss, you will never perform it with an orchestra. For me I have a hard time spending lots of time on something I'm not going to get to use.

How does this relate to klezmer? maybe as players have to constantly be working on our skill set. I have a few kids, who study with me from a middle school that is a very "Jewish" school. I have a very difficult time getting them to do basic clarinet work. They are convinced that you don't need a polished technique and controllable tone or the ability to read music. They're caught up in the music, these kids need some musical discipline. I can't tell you how many times a CD has been brought to a lesson with the guise of learning Dave Tarras's licks, and then one of them proceeds to "Jam" along with the CD. Not caring in the least what Dave actually played. Oh yea, skill set. If you feel that you don't have an ear, than you must come up with a plan to develop one. There really aren't bad ears, just undeveloped ones. If you can't transpose, at all, you got to find out how, and start. If you don't know what the scales and modes are in klezmer, you need to find out, and practice them. Actually not all of them, just D Phrygish, E phrygish on the Bb clarinet. I'm only kidding learn them all. It doesn't matter if your goal is to become a gigging clarinetist or just do a respectable performance of the Dreidle song at the holiday office party, the better you can play, the less stress the performance will cause.

It's about having a dream, a goal and a real good plan.

Tom Puwalski, former soloist with the US Army Field Band, Clarinetist with Lox&Vodka, and Author of "The Clarinetist's Guide to Klezmer"and most recently by the order of the wizard of Oz, for supreme intelligence, a Masters in Clarinet performance

Reply To Message
 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: Steve Epstein 
Date:   2005-12-23 22:05

I haven't got a problem with the substance of your advice. It's the tone of your advice. Connie asks a reasonable question, and you go on the attack.

You say your motivation is "as hard as hell, cool as crap". This is fine, but it does not describe my motivation in clarinet playing. I have no idea what Connie's motivation is and neither do you. Perhaps she should tell us.

There is a problem on this board wherein people ask innocent questions and others sometimes respond with the most aggressive attacks on their "playing character". I've done it myself. It is not constructive, even when it is correct.

Steve Epstein

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: Steve Epstein 
Date:   2005-12-23 22:19

Let me further explain:

1.Connie asks a question.

2.Tom P infers from her question that Connie may lack certain skills neccessary for klezmer playing at the highest level, and he tells her so.

3. Connie's original question remains unanswered, and is in fact implicitly ridiculed.

Where does this really leave us?

Steve Epstein

Reply To Message
 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: Tom Puwalski 
Date:   2005-12-24 00:00

Ok I've re-read every post in this thread, and I am having a problem seeing just where I "go on attack" copy it and show me.

As far as my motivation for learning the martino, I believe I said it was my motivation, I don't expect it to be the same as anyone else's that would make for quite a boring world. As far as me inferring that Connie doesn't have the requisite skills to play klezmer and telling her so, I'm having trouble finding that spot in my posts also. I believe I might have stated what, in my opinion, what I think are the requisite skills to learning this music are. I will say it again, it is my opinion that you can't learn how to play this music by reading it. I'm sure someone could send me a MP3 saying, "I've never heard any klezmer, and I can do it", and they would be right, this is America and one can do pretty much as one pleases.
As far as the Mike Curtis stuff, Lyben has it listed:
Curtis KLEZMER REPERTOIRE Vols 1 & 2 (solo cl) $9.95 ea
Curtis KLEZMER WEDDING (3 Bb/Bs cl) $16.95
Curtis KLEZMER WEDDING (w.w. qt) $16.95
Curtis TEN KLEZMER DUOS (2 cl) $15.0
Curtis THREE KLEZMER TRIOS (3 cl) $14.95

In 1979, I was a student of Leon Russionoff in NY City. I was walking around Lincoln center one evening and I saw a multitude of Hasidic Jew going into the concert hall. There was a man standing alone, so I walked up and asked, " what's going on tonight". He replied that there was a concert by the "world's greatest clarinetist, Giora Feidman" and as a smart ass young 19 year old scholarship student at Manhattan school of music, I replied "Well I'm a Clarinetist, and I never heard of him." This man looked at me and said, "you're serious, you don't know Meistro Feidman's playing, he shook his head, reached in his pocket handed me a ticket, and told me, " you need this more than I do". I went in sat 4 rows from the stage, and had a life changing experience. I had to learn this music, I had to learn how to connect to an audience like this man. I walked out of the hall when to a Sam Goody's and bought two cassette tapes. Jewish Soul Music, and Niggunum of my People. I wore those tapes out, transplanting the inerds to other cassettes. I learned every tune, I found more music by more players, I discovered Tarras and Brandwein, and others, transcribing maybe 150 or so tunes.
I relate this story not to impress anyone but to impress upon you how important I think this music is. Every blue moon, I've found myself at a gig when a rock band play the Hora and if there is sax player, he will inevitably pick up a clarinet and start schmering and yucking, and making all kind of weird sounds on a clarinet and think he's playing klezmer. It makes my skin crawl. To me it's like American kids going to Italy and adding an Os to the end English words and thinking it's funny and that Italians will get it.

If I said anything that really was offensive to anyone, I'm sorry. I think every clarinetist should be exposed to some of the great klezmer players of the past. There is way more to the clarinet universe than the Marcellus Mozart recording.

Tom Puwalski, former soloist with the US Army Field Band, Clarinetist with Lox&Vodka, and Author of "The Clarinetist's Guide to Klezmer"and most recently by the order of the wizard of Oz, for supreme intelligence, a Masters in Clarinet performance

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: ginny 
Date:   2005-12-24 05:29

I am no great clarinetist and I don't find Tom's advice offensive at all, it's seem on to me and honest. Interesting story about finding out about Klezmer.

As far as it goes I highly recommend the Amazing Slower Downer used along with a transcription. At a very slow speed one can pick up many of the ornaments. It sure helps to get the nuances. No way I could get any of it without having it slowed down. It can also change those old 78s back to a reasonable pitch when they're a bit out.

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: Steve Epstein 
Date:   2005-12-24 07:12

Ok, you're not offensive. But you are intense. Which is great. But I felt you had a distaste for Connie's question. Reading your last post I see that you don't.

I too, understand the difference between yucking and klezmer. When I bend a note in a jazzy way, playing tunes for contradances, someone will inevitably tell me it sounds like klezmer. I just smile and say, no, you don't know what real klezmer is. Just because I can bend a note doesn't mean it's klezmer.

I can't play real klezmer, but take pride in the fact that I'm not one of those clarinetists who has to buy a short barrel and maybe have the mouthpiece shortened too because he's always flat, because he has no embouchure, when he schmears, which he always does, because "that's klezmer". No matter what clarinet I play, even the alto I just got, I always have to pull out a bit, even when I'm bending notes. Even when I put the 5JB on my Bb.

Now maybe I'm sounding intense.[grin]

Steve Epstein

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: connie 
Date:   2005-12-27 01:39

Wow, I've been away for a few days, and what a lively dialog... Thank you, Messrs. Puwalski and Epstein, for your responses and clarifications. I think you settled most of the issues. I'm really just beginning to listen and try some of this, and I know I'll never play klez in public. (Yes, I do have a day job.) I'm just trying to round out my approach, do something a little different. I've read music pretty well for about 40 years but never got the push to play by ear. The more I try, the more I can do, but I'm really a long way from picking up all the nuances of ornamentations on my own. I guess I'm a visual learner... it's easier if I've seen it written. It makes more sense that way. But I like that slower-downer gadget idea... need to look into that.

It is frustrating when people who play excellently by ear tell me to just pick up the horn and play along, and practice till I get it right. They don't understand that I don't "get it". It's like trying to get a dyslexic kid to sound out a word... the circuits ain't there. And at my age, the neurons that haven't connected yet aren't likely to find each other now! But we keep on pluggin.... [wink]

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: Tom Puwalski 
Date:   2005-12-27 03:08

Connie, where do you live? I'm will to do a Klezmer intervention and prove to you that is not as hard to play by ear as you think. but if that isn't posible, look at lots of transcriptions, good ones, but make sure you have a recording of the transcibed piece infront of you. It doesn't matter if it's a Bach Cello suite or Kammen 9, playing from a written chart always sounds better when you've internalized what notes look like and what they sound like. I can actually prove it to you! Find any transcription of Tarras or Branwein, my book would work, but any one that has real transcriptions of klezmer tunes will suffice. Pick on Selection, listen to the recording exactly 10 time, none of the tunes are longer than 3min so this is a half hour max. Don't play just listen, watch and put a tick mark for every play through. Now, turn to the next transcription, look at it, don't listen yet. Close your eyes and try to imangine whomever was playing, performing it. Now try to read it. You will find that you will play it differently than you would of had you not listened to the other on. Your eye now has a clue, to the way the transcriber writes the stuff and how that person plays that lick, and you now have an ear that's 3 steps further down the road of learning this lanquage. Try that and get back to me on what your experience was doing that.

Tom Puwalski, former soloist with the US Army Field Band, Clarinetist with Lox&Vodka, and Author of "The Clarinetist's Guide to Klezmer"and most recently by the order of the wizard of Oz, for supreme intelligence, a Masters in Clarinet performance

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: Katrina 
Date:   2005-12-27 13:04

Steve said:

When I bend a note in a jazzy way, playing tunes for contradances, someone will inevitably tell me it sounds like klezmer.

I say:

Ain't it the truth!! I _know_ I don't do "real" klezmer, but I "fake" it on one tune my band plays. (it's an amusing little Terkish arrangement of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer...loooonnng story!)

And even when I am playing just my usual Bulgarian stuff, which is typically in hejaz (which I believe is the same mode as phrygish??), loads of inexperience folk come up to me after and say, "Wow! That sounds like Klezmer!!"


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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: ChrisC 
Date:   2005-12-27 23:02

As opposed to, say, "wow, that sounds Bulgarian"?

Generally, I'm happier with Balkan music leaving an impression of "gypsy music" upon the new listener than klezmer.

Of course, some Greek and Romanian tunes are identical to those found in the klezmer repertoire.

A couple years ago, when I was first getting into this stuff, I met a clarinetist whose passion was Balkan music (didn't play klezmer at all) but regularly played contradances just in order to get out and gig. She told me that contradancers would routinely ask her if she were playing klezmer simply because she was playing contradance tunes...on the clarinet.

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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: Ralph Katz 
Date:   2005-12-29 16:03

Tom Puwalski,

Thanks for your Tremendous Post.

There is no canon for Klezmer players. Branwein, Tarras, and Feidman had/have dramatically different styles.

There is much, much more to the clarinet than the orchestral repertoire, and there are lots of players to emulate who don't play in orchestras (although many, including Feidman are also respected orchestral players.) Listening to and trying to learn from others will make you a better player. You won't be them, but you will be a better "you".



Reply To Message
 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: connie 
Date:   2005-12-29 18:16


I live in SE Virginia, not a hotbed of klezmer! I am currently working on getting the recordings you recommended. I found a copy of Compleat Klezmer, but I think I have to order the CD's online (no CD with the book I got). Locally, we have recordings of Klezmer Conservatory and Feidman, not much else.


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 Re: klezmer repertoire
Author: will 
Date:   2006-01-06 08:22

I just joined yesterday after coming across this thread (I'm still reading it).

I used to play clarinet in high school, but haven't done much with it since (I just turned 39). I've come back into playing it because I really want to play a bit of big band swing and klezmer.

My interest in klezmer was revived recently (funnily enough) by my violin teacher who is a great swing and klezmer player. I thought it would be a great idea for me to transpose some of the klezmer numbers we are working on to clarinet to add some variety.

I'm not classically trained. I'm a self-taught jazz, blues, rock player, but I'd really like to learn more about the clarinet and the musical circles it moves in. I'm currently playing my wife's Buffet B-12, but hoping to save up for a Hanson in a few months.

I'd very much like to order Tom Puwalski's klezmer book, but I've been over here in England for the past several years and find getting specialist books like this is a real problem. Can anyone advise if this book can be ordered outside the U.S.?

Finally, I'd really like to have advice on getting back into playing and doing it right. Any suggestions on fingerings, breathing, embouchure, etc. will be greatly appreciated. Particularly, can anyone advise on how to cleanly and quickly move across the break and on into the higher register(s).

Lastly, I hope I've not broken any etiquette in any way. Web posting and all that are pretty new to me.

Thanks in advance for your help.


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