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 Clarinet Symposium
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2005-04-18 20:15


On April 9, the Eastern Conservatory of Music And Arts together with Buffet sponsored a full-day Clarinet Symposium in Oldwick, NJ. There was a tremendous amount of material -- probably too much to read or absorb at one time. I’ve given an outline below, which will let you get to the parts you’re interested in. I have added a few comments of my own in [brackets].

Larry Guy and Daniel Bonade
Embouchure and Instrument Position
Finger movement
Contact Point
Slow Passages
Fast Passages
Collapsing Joint
David Hattner
Rossini, Introduction, Theme and Variations
Stravinsky, Three Pieces
Throat F#
Brahms, Sonata #2, 1st movement
Ben Redwine
Guy Chadash
Backun Bell
Instrument Design
Buffet Tuning
Moennig vs. Chadash Barrels
Bore Oil
Mark Nuccio
Capriccio Espagnol
Brahms 4th, second movement
Dances of Galanta
Shostakovich 5th, Eb Solo
General Wisdom
Vandoren and Buffet Presentations


Larry Guy, a top player and teacher, gave an excellent presentation on Daniel Bonade. He began by handing out music excerpts and playing examples of Bonade's playing with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra. All of these were from a CD Larry put together containing probably every solo passage that Bonade recorded. Everyone should have this CD, which contains some of the best playing ever. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00006JJ52/qid%3D1113423636/sr%3D11-1/ref%3Dsr%5F11%5F1/102-2604533-1975323

Bonade published The Clarinetist's Compendium, available through Leblanc, an inexpensive pamphlet full of wisdom. Everyone should have a copy. Unfortunately, it's not listed on the Leblanc site, but there are copies at every instrument exhibition, and Larry can certainly supply it. http://music.vassar.edu/new_faculty.html?bio=Larry_Guy

Bonade also published an excerpt book, which has his valuable interpretive markings [and also quite a few typos], and 16 Phrasing Studies. I don't think these are presently in print, but they're available used, though at pretty high prices. http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/store/smp_fastresults.html?cart=33223986003933043

Larry has also recently published The Daniel Bonade Workbook, which I bought a copy of. It's full of material on Bonade's teaching.



Deep inhalation is the basis of everything. [Maria Callas said you inhale "from hair to hair."] Let your abdomen expand and let the air flow in as if you're filling up an air tank between your sternum and your beltline. Bonade would demonstrate by standing at an open door with his belly against the knob. He would inhale, and his abdomen would push the door closed with a slam.

Your shoulders must stay down. Watch in a mirror or have a friend put his/her hands lightly on both your shoulders.


To blow, push **down** on the air tank (never up). Again, don't raise your shoulders.

Bonade would put a lit candle on a table 1 to 2 feet away and have the student practice keeping the flame bent away as long and smoothly as possible.

The Breath Builder, available from Woodwind and Brasswind http://www.wwbw.com/Breath-Builder-Isometric-Exerciser-i80001.music, is an excellent tool for learning to control the wind, particularly for warming up. Look in a mirror to make sure your body stays quiet.


Bonade said all articulation is based on proper staccato.
- Never hit the reed with the tongue.
- Start with the tongue on the reed with full air pressure [and "release" it (pull it back) to start the tone].
- Keep the air pressure constant at all times.
- A short staccato ("stop staccato") must be ended or at least tapered with the breath, even at top speed. It must be a **ringing** short note.

The most common problem with staccato is not keeping the air pressure constant. There must not be any decrease at all between notes, and no puff of air at the beginning of a note. Improper control of the air becomes so internalized that the player doesn't notice it, but it's the single biggest problem with articulation. The Breath Builder will highlight any problems. The floating ball will drop with any decrease in air pressure. Some players will even unconsciously suck air back, causing the ball to slam down.

Many players lead phrases with the left shoulder, moving it up and forward. This has several bad effects. First, it diverts your mental and physical energy into something that isn't part of the music. Second, the audience can't hear anything. Third, it constricts your throat and your hands. Fourth, it causes irregularities in air pressure. Think, "Your shoulder stayed at home this morning. It's still in bed."


-- The chin must be pulled down and forward toward the tip, as if you had a jewel fastened just above the point of your chin (where a dimple appears).

-- The jaw moves down slightly, but not forward or back. The movement comes from below your ears.

-- The lower lip hugs the front of the jaw and teeth[, with only half the red part above the line of the lower teeth].

-- Hold the instrument almost vertical.

-- Slide the reed in over your lower lip, without pressing the reed into your lip. Don't let your lower lip flop over your teeth. The reed goes **against** your lower lip, **not** on top of it.

-- Make an OOO shape with your lips, using a small aperture. Move the corners inward slightly, as if they were riding on your teeth as tracks. [In the afternoon session, Guy Chadash had a student blow through a plastic coffee stirrer.]

-- Also make an OOO vowel in the front of your mouth, and an EEE vowel with your tongue.

-- The point where the reed separates from the mouthpiece should be even with the top of your lower teeth. This will be more reed that most people are used to taking, and the upper lip and teeth will nearer the tip of the mouthpiece than usual. The position depends on the shape of your jaw. Bonade had a slightly receding jaw, as did Robert Marcellus, and both of them held the instrument nearly vertical. Adjust the angle of the instrument while looking in a mirror.

-- This instrument position, combined with lots of reed over the lower lip, means that you must use a fairly soft reed.

-- Bonade (and Marcellus) said that the embouchure must be **very** firm -- so much so that if someone pushed the mouthpiece from the side while were playing, it wouldn't move.

-- Now, blow hard, straight through the embouchure and mouthpiece. Remember that the clarinet requires high air pressure.

[Bonade's "vertical" embouchure is certainly not the only way to play. Many excellent players angle the instrument out. However, it's worth trying, particularly if you need to project over an orchestra. Also, many orchestral players, e.g., Drucker, Gigliotti, Morales, use very hard reeds.]


Bonade said that projecting over an ensemble is largely mental. You do it by becoming aware of the ensemble size and the resonance of the hall. The Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski was famous for its lush string sound[, in the cavernous and dead sounding Academy of Music]. Thus, Bonade needed to play very loud to be heard. He did this not by using a hard reed, but by putting more reed in his mouth and playing with a free, vibrant, French-style sound, with lots of high partials and a feeling of a singer's resonance in the sinuses. (Robert Marcellus, who studied with Bonade, said he did the same in the Cleveland Orchestra.)


Bonade's teaching on finger movement has been discussed several times, but Larry Guy gave additional material and detail.


Fingertips increase slightly in diameter from the joint to the end. Visualize this as a light bulb. The fingers touch the keys near the equator of the light bulb, not the top. Concentrate on relaxation and light touch, which make the light bulbs more sensitive.


-- In slow passages, your fingers should be relaxed and curved, as if cradling a tennis ball. Avoid making a claw. Always relax.

-- Finger movement should be almost 100% from the knuckle joint (where the finger meets the hand), The other two joints should make little or no movement.

-- In slow passages, the finger motion is high and slow -- just fast enough to avoid a "blip" or smear when changing from one note to the next.

-- Visualize a smooth curve between notes[ -- a sine wave, not a square or sawtooth wave].

-- Legato playing is like opera singing. You don't think about the notes, but only the movement between them. The notes pour into one another.


-- In fast passages, the fingers are low and move quickly, but the goal is relaxed fluidity. It's OK to put a slight "snap" in your finger movement while practicing, but there should never be a "pop," and at performance, the snap should be gone, too. The motion is light, relaxed and sensitive. [Alexander Williams told me that when he was playing his best, his fingers felt almost weightless.]

-- As in slow passages, finger movement should be entirely from the knuckle.

-- FAST PLAYING IS NOT BASED ON FAST PRACTICE. It's based on FLAWLESS EXECUTION AT SLOW SPEED. For example, in Scheherazade, the clarinet depicts two waves washing over Sinbad's ship, by playing fast ascending and descending scales. Since you're in the key of F, it's easy to sweep over them quickly. However, unless you work them out so that every note is even at slow speed, you'll never have them under control if (as often happens) the conductor wants you to pause on the high note, or accelerate up or down.

-- In a lesson with Mitchell Lurie, Larry Guy could play these solos very fast, and **almost** smooth -- like a 12 cylinder engine running on 11 cylinders. When Lurie had him slow down, he was like a 4 cylinder engine running on 3 cylinders. Only when he worked it out at low speed could he play it properly at high speed.

-- Practice and performance are completely different. **All** practice must be slow until the passage is perfect. The formula is 9 + 1 x 10. That is, you perfect a passage so that you can play it 9 times perfectly at 1/10 the final speed. Then play it 1 time perfectly at performance speed. (If all 10 repetitions are not perfect, start again.) Repeat the 9 + 1 pattern 10 times perfectly before you put the passage away as well mastered.


Larry coached a student in the first movement of the Bernstein Sonata. He noticed that in a slurred three-note descending figure, clarion A-F#-D, the A-F# interval wasn't clean. He had the student play it again and noticed that the fingertip joint of her right middle finger "collapsed" -- that is, it hyperextended so it curved up. He asked the student to play the passage, trying to keep this from happening, but she said it always happened. The movement was clearly audible. When the joint moved from normal to backward curvature, there was a "bump" in the tone.

Larry gave 3 exercises for strengthening the muscles that move the fingertip joint.
-- 1. Put your hand flat on a table and pull it back from the elbow, pressing the lightbulb areas of your fingertips into the table to resist.
-- 2. Put the heel of your hand on a table, fingers slightly curved, with the tips bent back, and do "fingertip pushups."
-- 3. Close your hand around a tennis ball, squeezing with your fingertips.
-- During these exercises, never make your hand into a claw. That is, never use opposing muscles to make your fingers stiff. Only the muscles that contract your fingers should be working.


David Hattner is a Marcellus student and well known freelance player in New York. He gave a brief presentation, noting that mastery of fundamentals is the only basis for professional playing. They must become invisible and second nature, so your brain is free to play the music and project the emotion in it. He then coached several students.

*ROSSINI, Introduction, Theme and Variations.

David said that "this is the most difficult piece we have that's in C Major." The essence is that this is opera -- bel canto (beautiful singing). The accompaniment is zilch. **You** have to **sell** it, from note one. You do this by playing not the notes but the intervals between them -- the line. [David was not there when Larry Guy said the same thing. Great minds run in the same channels.]

As Arnold Jacobs said, we breath to expand. We don't expand to breathe. That is, don't think about the mechanics. Take the air in and let yourself expand.

The student had trouble connecting intervals over the break. David said that the solution was slow practice, to make the motion of several fingers into a single motion. Also, the student was dropping the air pressure, possibly in an effort to make the bad connection less audible. David emphasized that the air pressure must stay constant, and the student had to play through each interval.

[The student kept her left shoulder raised and moved it with each phrase. This produced a pinched tone, with too little fundamental. The movement of the shoulder drained musical movement from the playing.]

*STRAVINSKY, Three Pieces

David noted that the comma marks in #1 are controversial. He thinks they are not really breath marks or even phrase marks, but just indications of non-connection.

#1 is all in the low register. Therefore, it's important to compensate for the limited range by keeping a good flow and emphasizing the phrase shapes.

The second part of #1 should be very soft. One of the great things about the clarinet is that we can play softer than anybody else -- and we should.

#2 is about fast paying and big leaps. It's about speed and precision, not lyricism. Think "typewriter fingers" -- low and precise movement.

However, the key to learning the fast notes is starting slow. The difficulty is **not** playing fast. It's about getting each change perfect. "Slow practice means fast progress."

The jump from clarion G to high G works best with an alternate fingering for the high G, with the right index and ring fingers, rather than the index and middle fingers.


David learned from Robert Marcellus that this note should almost always be played with the left index finger. The only time to use the side key is on an ascending chromatic scale. You need to learn the "flip" change to the thumb F for everything else, including the descending chromatic scale. This is a great skill to have in your repertoire, since you will then never get caught and can make either change without having to worry.

*BRAHMS, Sonata #2, 1st movement

David told the story of Brahms being inspired by Muhlfeld's playing and responding with his four great clarinet works at the end of his career. Brahms was so grateful that he assigned all the royalties to Muhlfeld.

The opening of the first movement of Sonata #2 is simple and placid. Let it flow out, and don't make it complicated. [It's a contrast to the opening of Sonata #1, which is intense and dramatic.]

Distinguish rigorously between the eighth note triplets and the groups of four sixteenths. Audition judges **really** listen for this. The same goes for ties over a bar line or to the first note of a triplet. Count extra-hard.

In the second section of the first movement, dare to play soft. The pianist will hear this and help you.


Ben Redwine spoke about the clarinet in the early history of jazz and played a number of examples. He also spoke about the fundamentals of improvisation and had a number of players play with him.


Guy Chadash is an excellent player and a top repairman. His barrel design has been adopted by Buffet, and he also makes instruments that are very well reviewed. His views are sometimes controversial, but he has a great ear and an artist's touch in tweaking clarinets to play better.


Guy began with a master class session with an advanced student who played a 20th century piece from Bonade's 16 Grands Solos De Concert, a collection of mostly French contest pieces. He did no coaching on the music, but concentrated on the student's instrument a Buffet RC Prestige, and particularly his Backun bell. See http://www.backunmusical.com/.

The bell produced a warm, mellow tone, which Guy did not like. He had the student put on his Buffet bell, which was dramatically different, with less warmth but more resonance.

Guy asked the student why he had bought the RC in the first place. It must have been because he liked it. Why then did he want to use something that took away the basic character of the instrument? The instrument as made had the characteristic Buffet ringing quality, which lets you be heard through an orchestra. The Backun bell eliminated that.

As a performer, it's your obligation to make the instrument sound the way you want it. Play the instrument as it was made, and **you** make the difference.

With the Buffet bell, the student got a good ring in the sound, which Guy worked on with breathing exercises. He said that to get intensity, you must blow "small" and intense. The clarinet is a high-pressure instrument. If you open up the air passage, you go flat and lose intensity.

[I liked the student's sound with the Backun bell. I can only assume that he went back to it the next day. In principle, even if you choose a Buffet for its sound, and the Backun bell changes it from the maker's vision, that's no reason you shouldn't switch to something you like better. Ricardo Morales plays a Backun bell (on his Selmer Recitals) in the Philadelphia Orchestra. Guy had an excellent point, and the student had a more powerful, ringing tone with the original barrel, but that's not the only possibility.]


You blow with a small mouth opening, as if you are sending a spitwad across the room. This in turn requires strong support. He had the student blow very hard through a plastic coffee stirrer, with the inside about the size of a pencil lead. Do this hard enough to make a loud hiss. That's how hard you blow the clarinet.

When the student went back to his clarinet, there was a big improvement in sound. It was big and "orchestral." Guy wanted even more, and had the student alternate between the stirrer and the clarinet. He improved each time.

A good warmup is to play just the mouthpiece. When things are right, it should sound a clarion high C. Few people can do this at first. If you can't, it's a sign that you need to work on embouchure firmness and breath pressure.

[Again, high air pressure is necessary in orchestral playing, but this is not the only way to play.]


No one else volunteered to play [probably due to Guy's aggressiveness]. Guy then answered questions, mostly about instrument design.


On all Buffet clarinets, the throat tones are high, as is the top of the clarion register. They do this deliberately. If they did not, the overtones would be low and the tone wouldn't ring.

You correct sharp throat tones by pulling out the barrel, lengthening the bore and creating a gap between the bottom of the lower barrel socket and the tenon. It's designed for you to do this. By doing so, you correct the pitch, but the overtones stay in tune. If you use a tuning ring, it will make less difference in the throat tones, while lowering the high clarion and leaving the overtones out of tune. Preferably, you should never use a tuning ring. The only exception is where the throat tones are in tune and the high clarion is quite sharp.

Similarly, if the middle clarion (from G on down) is too high, pull out the middle joint, and do not use a tuning ring.

European Models

Buffet says that it makes its European models (with an F at the beginning of the serial number) at A 444, whereas its US models are at 442. Actually, the instruments are identical. The only difference is that the barrels are 1 mm. shorter.

The RC and Festival models are identical. The only differences between these models and the R-13 are:
-- The register vent is 3 mm. higher.
-- On the upper joint, the ring finger hole and the C#/G# key are slightly (I think he said 1.5 mm.) lower.
-- The lower joint is 3.8 mm. longer, and the conical area is slightly longer.
[-- Note that Francois Kloc gives slightly different measurements. http://test.woodwind.org/Databases/Klarinet/1999/07/001212.txt. ]

RC/Festival vs. R13

I said that the polycylindrical area in the upper joint was different on the RC and Festival, with two steps rather than three. Guy demanded to know where I had heard this, because he didn't know anything about it. I said that Francois Kloc had written about it. Guy retreated slightly, but still said he hadn't heard this.

The RC/Festival design makes the upper clarion notes lower (i.e., in tune), at the expense of the throat Bb, which is poor.

High F and F#

All Buffets are flat on altissimo F and F#. In passages slow enough for this to be heard, open the right-hand sliver key.

Chadash Clarinet

Guy said that his ideal tone comes from the original R-13, made from 1955 to about 1965, when there was a change in design. His Chadash clarinets are very close to this design, with corrected intonation, particularly in the high clarion. http://www.chadashclarinet.com/.


The Moennig and Chadash barrels supplied by Buffet both have a reverse taper, smaller at the bottom than the top. They have the same diameter at the bottom, but the Moennig is larger at the top and thus has a more severe taper. The tapered bore improves tuning and focuses the tone.

Guy said that Moennig himself used the greater taper but also made the barrel's top socket deeper, which increased the volume of the bore. Buffet's Moennig barrels don't have this and thus don't work as well as the Chadash barrels, which are designed to have no gap at the top.


Like Francois Kloc, Guy advises against using bore oil. It only raises the grain or "burr" of the wood. This lets the wood absorb **more** water and swell more, not less.


The bore gets plenty of water. Where the instrument needs moisture is on the outside. Absorption of water in the bore causes swelling from the inside and can lead to cracks. You need to hydrate the wood from the outside. DampIts don't hold enough water. Guy uses drug store sponges, which he slices thin with a razor blade.


Today, wood is cured for a short time, using heat and oil, both of which make it unstable.

Up to 50 years ago, all wood was aged outdoors for 10 years. Then the billets were turned on a lathe from square to oversize round, and an undersize bore was drilled. Then the wood was aged for 10 more years outdoors, in the wind, snow and rain. As a result, many billets cracked, but they would also have cracked as finished instruments. The surviving billets were completely stable. It's not that they wouldn't absorb water. It's that when they dried out, they would return to exactly the original dimension.

Grenadilla/mpingo is by far the best wood for clarinets, due to its density, hardness, resistance to water and the fact that it doesn't crack along the grain.. No crack you ever see will follow the grain.

When wood is sufficiently seasoned, after playing the bore returns to exactly reamer-size overnight as it dries.


Clarinet blow-out exists. It comes from oversize areas in the bore, which do not return to reamer-size due to insufficient seasoning and curing with heat and oil.


I noted that the finest flutes are made of metal, Heckel bassoons are lined with bakelite, Loree oboes are available with plastic upper joints (at a higher price) and that all Laubin oboes are lined with plastic and have plastic chimneys for the tone holes. I asked whether a satisfactory plastic clarinet could be made.

Guy said he had tried many Buffet Greenlines but did not like the material. For him, there is too much resistance, and the tone does not "ring." However, hard rubber (the same material used in mouthpieces) is just as good as wood


Mark Nuccio played "Tribute to Bach" from a newly published set called "Tributes" by Bela Kovacs. It was a tonal composition combining themes from several Bach solo suites for violin and cello. Mark also played "Three Etudes on Themes by Gershwin" by Paul Harvey.

This was good music, and Mark played wonderfully. He has a sound unlike anyone else, and it was round and consistent throughout the range and at all dynamics. He has perfect intonation, a full sound even at ppp and an even scale and smooth technique. For him, the mechanics are automatic, and his full attention was on phrasing and communication with the audience.

David Hattner and Daniel Spitzer played Sonata for Two Clarinets by Alan Hovhaness and the more familiar Sonata for Two Clarinets by Poulenc. They are very fine players, perfectly matched in sound and style. They were particularly witty in the final movement of the Poulenc.

Finally Mark Nuccio (Eb), Daniel Spitzer (Bb), David Gould (Bb) and David Hattner (bass) played "Thema de Maria" by Astor Piazzola and "Liza" by George Gershwin. Once again, everyone was perfectly matched. Mark showed why he was chosen to play Eb in the NY Philharmonic. His tone and control were remarkable.


Mark's master class was on orchestral solos.


Don't practice this from an excerpt book. Use the full part. The solos are almost always required at auditions, and they put out the full part. You need everything going your way, and seeing something familiar is a big help. Also, the audition committee will sometimes ask you for lead-ins and lead-outs, which aren't in the excerpt books, and you need to know them.

Even though the opening solo is marked "ff con forza," start slightly softer than your loudest and swell through the first phrase. Play 3% less, work up to your loudest, and then go 3% more. This will stretch your ability to play loud. The solo is problematic. You have 30 string players, all frustrated soloists, working against you. Nobody can cut through if the strings decide it's their solo. You need to play a bit softer and get the conductor to rein in the strings.

The first four trills in the opening solo always have two beats. The ones after that have one beat. It's important to accent and separate the single-beat trills.

In the second movement, you can't play or even practice the solos in isolation. You absolutely must go through a recording while following a score. Your solos passages are identical twins with those played by the concertmaster. A violinist plays a ricochet on the fast arpeggios, which you can't do. You have to find a way to match the violinistic devices and then get together with the concertmaster and work out how you're going to match one another.

In the solo with the big ascending (and then ascending/descending) arpeggios, the weight should always be on the first note. Feel the depth of the first notes. The low note in each ascending arpeggio must be full and round. You have to get all the way to the bottom to get started.


When you learn the first movement cadenzas, work from the score. The string pizzicatos between the cadenzas are a vital part of the music. They build the drama from each cadenza to the next. You have to be aware of the strings and let them do their work. Don’t play too loud or dramatically in the first cadenza. You have to give yourself somewhere to go.

The first two long notes in each cadenza should be strictly in tempo, at the same speed as the pizzicatos. At the end of each cadenza, the final note and its pickup are in the following tempo.

Use the side key, not the sliver key, for each Bb. If your right index finger is long, you may have trouble reaching the side key. The solution is to bend the tab so that it slants out.


This solo is quite long, and thus the audition committee won’t ask for it until the finals. At that point, they already know you can play the notes. What they’re looking for is phrasing and personality.

The challenge is to keep a strong underlying beat and precise rhythm, while still being peaceful and calm. It’s a killer for breathing. Practice the entire long sequence, planning your breaths and feeling the underlying rhythm. However, it’s also important to feel the pulse in your mind without permitting any pulse in the air.


The long solo in Kodaly's Dances of Galanta is difficult technically and even more difficult musically. It's not enough to play the notes perfectly. You have to understand how this kind of music works and phrase it coherently.

Remember that this is a dance. Hungarian dances typically use a long-short rhythm, and this occurs constantly in the Kodaly.

You must keep the underlying dance flow, which is about 76. Keeping the tempo keeps the conductor happy. You of course use rubato, but you can't just slow down. You have to let it flow faster than the basic tempo as well as slower.

Resolve the trills. Stop them a little early. Then start the rips a bit slower and accelerate.


Mark is the Eb clarinet player in the New York Philharmonic and coached the Eb solo in the second movement of the Shostakovich 5th.

This movement has a grotesque quality, but you still must play musically. Don't shriek, and use plenty of legato.

Hear the opening C# clearly in your head before you play, and diminuendo down the first two bars.

In the upward slurs, hold the high notes full length. For the first one (up to altissimo C#), try it in the clarion with the left index finger (like the F# below).


Mark uses a Glandale barrel on his Eb (as did Ted Johnson in Cleveland). They may not be made any more.

The right sound is the one that lets the person next to you clearly determine the pitch.

It's important to find the right mouthpiece. Chris Hill's Zinner-blank mouthpieces set a high standard. Mark plays a 1930s Charles Chedeville, which he got only recently.

Ligatures don't make much difference. They can only detract. Mark recommends the Bonade and also likes the Spriggs.

Remember that we're wind players. When you're scared, it's tempting to back off on the wind, to make mistakes less obvious. But that just makes it harder. Keep the air pressure steady.

Practice doesn't make perfect. PERFECT PRACTICE makes perfect. Anyone can play any passage perfectly at sight. Just play it at 1/8 speed. NEVER PRACTICE FASTER THAN PERFECT. Anything else is just practicing how to make mistakes.


The symposium ended with a presentation by David Gould of Vandoren on the reed and mouthpiece production process and a question and answer session on the state of the business by Chris Coppinger of Buffet.

Finally, Mark Sloss did a magnificent job organizing the Symposium and keeping everything running smoothly. We're all greatly in his debt.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Ralph Katz 
Date:   2005-04-18 22:36

Interesting post. Thanks very much for all of your work!

There is a lot of good information here. It is always wonderful to watch and hear top-notch clinicians.

The postings about Arnold Jacob's and Daniel Bonade's markedly different approaches to breathing are well taken. I would guess that Mr. Bonade had a very large air capacity and as a result could breath pretty much any way he wanted and still produce incredible results. There are probably lots of clarinetists who wish they had access to whatever it was that allowed him to develop that prodigious breath capacity during his formative years. The rest of us may have difficulties with his approach, and having been part of this school of teaching, I can sure attest to it.

After years of frustration, I took exactly one lesson from Mr. Jacob. It is impossible for me to state just how helpful this was.

Arnold Jacob's approach was to freely expand the entire chest cavity, and yes start with as deep a breath as you can take. He said to pay particular attention to expanding upward at the chest and shoulders. and outward in the back. The mechanism he described to me was to visualize three strings hooked to your rib cage: one at the bottom of the sternum, and two just above your breasts. With each breath, you visualize all three strings are pulling upward ward.

The philosophy of not moving the shoulders can run counter to this. You should not consciously raise your shoulders, but at the same time you should should not consciously restrict them either. Allowing the shoulders to move upward with your expanding chest cavity will help provide more air.

Mr. Jacob did not fix all of my breathing problems in one lesson, but they sure help me, even a decade later, to get through passages that I could not get through beforehand. He also stated that he had a parade of former Marcellus students coming to his studio to have their breathing issues fixed.


 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: claclaws 
Date:   2005-04-19 00:33

Great post.

Lucy Lee Jang

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: bflatclarinetist 
Date:   2005-04-19 00:34

wow lots of information, it's appreciated.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: RosewoodClarinet 
Date:   2005-04-19 02:35

I really appriciate that Ken Shaw brought up what Mr. Nuccio said about ligature, which he commented that they do not make much difference. I was about to be crazy with this equipment holding mp and reed, but it, today, is going to be last day of this sickness.

I trust Mr. Nuccio a lot since I played for his masterclass in my school just few months ago. Wonderful player and teacher!!

Also, the idea of blowing hard into the horn, which Mr. Chadash mentioned, is very interesting. I practiced this with plastic straw, which is wider than the coffee stirrer. I would go to coffee shop next morning to borrow one... even though I do not drink coffee. Practicing focused air with narrower coffee stirrer....

I just received the book "The Daniel Bonade Workbook" by Larry Guy. I am so excited reading this (many of information are listed above.)and also thrilled to practice tomorrow with the idea which Mr.Guy brought up.

Again, I appriciate for such a helpful info, Ken Shaw!!

......After the masterclass with Mr. Nuccio, he said to me "Keep practicing!!" Yes, I will practice!!


Post Edited (2005-04-19 02:42)

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: ron b 
Date:   2005-04-19 04:09

Very, very much appreciated, Ken. For all your work putting this together, thank you many times over for making such priceless information available to us folks who couldn't be there.

- r[cool]n b -

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2005-04-19 12:10

The best book on the Bonade School of instruction I've seen other than Bonade's books would be Carmine Campione's book.


 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Bob Phillips 
Date:   2005-04-19 15:58

thank you for your informative post.

Bob Phillips

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: CJB 
Date:   2005-04-19 16:53

For those that don't know them the Bela Kovac's Hommages (may have been reprinted with the title 'Tributes') are well worth looking at. I played the Bach one for a friend's wedding a couple of years ago and recently performed the de Falla and Weber Hommages at an informal concert. All were well received by non-clarinet-obsessed audiences.

Thanks Ken for an interesting review.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2005-04-19 16:53

A correction: Mark Sloss, not David Gould, played with the quartet on the Piazzolla and Gershwin. Even more props to Mark.

Ken Shaw

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: msloss 
Date:   2005-04-21 03:42


Just wanted to extend thanks to our intrepid reporter on behalf of the ECMA and all the clinicians for your excellent writeup. It is terrific to have all of that memorialized, and we will make it a reference link for our students.

Many thanks,

Mark Sloss

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2005-04-21 16:54

Mark -

My pleasure. I do it so I can remember too.

An additional small correction. David Hattner set me a note to say that Marcellus used the first finger F# even on ascending chromatic passages. He used the side key only for the F-F# trill.

Ken Shaw

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2005-04-21 19:45

Thanks a lot Ken- this was very interesting reading for those of us unable to attend the symposium.

You mentioned David Hattner saying that he was taught never to use the side F# (except for trills). What is the exact reasoning for this? I find it quite a strange thing to teach, considering that it's impossible to get a perfect legato between F and F# using the "flip" method.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2005-04-21 20:07

Of course it's possible - not that hard either.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: msloss 
Date:   2005-04-21 20:27

Lq -- that's why technical practice is so important. I can assure you that David H's F/F# transition is absolutely clean, and it goes without saying that Mr. Marcellus' was as smooth as glass.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: clarinetusmcusaf 
Date:   2005-04-21 21:02

This is in responce to the initial posting about the Eb clarinet barrel played on by Mark Nuccio. They are made by Lou Gangale in Cleveland. Lou has been my repairman for years and still makes the barrels if you contact him about them. They are amazing to say the least. He has it beveled down on one side so that you can play with a Bb reed on the Eb mouthpiece in the same fashion that Ted Johnson did while he was in the Cleveland Orchestra. The barrels really help with the volatility of the pitch on Eb clarinet and give it a very full and resonant sound. It also makes the upper register both much easier to play but makes it sound alot less pinched. This setup was designed in conjuction with and for Ted Johnson who in this humble clarinet players mind remains the greatest 2nd and Eb clarinetist ever. If anyone is interested in the barrel you can contact me by email for Lou's contact information. I would be happy to give it to you.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2005-04-21 21:18

"Of course it's possible - not that hard either"

"that's why technical practice is so important. I can assure you that David H's F/F# transition is absolutely clean"

I'm talking about getting a PERFECT legato, not just a clean change between notes. You can spend a lot of time practising to make this change as clean as possible, but it will NEVER be as smooth as if you used the two side keys. I'm sure if Mr. Marcellus played both versions for me I'd be able to hear the difference. Just like you can hear the imperfect legato when even the best German system players change between B ad C in the upper clarion.

In any case, what is the advantage supposed to be by using the "flip" method?

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2005-04-21 21:23

Flip method is based on the theory of keeping the motion in the same hand - still of course avoiding sliding whenever possible.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2005-04-21 21:54

I've always used the side key for both ascencing and descending chromatic scales and other patterns with the F-F# switch. The insistence on using only the flip seems as much religious as anything. After all, on a chromatic scale, it's quicker if you don't have to move your left index finger twice in succession. (Ascending with the flip, you have to move it three times.)

Everyone has to move lots of fingers to cross the break, and nobody says that's impossible.

Ken Shaw

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Clarinetgirl06 
Date:   2005-04-21 22:59

My teacher talks about the theory of keeping the motion in the same hand all the time! The only thing that she's really strict on is right hand low E's, F's, and F#'s and right hand tuning B's, C's and C#'s. She prefers those first unless I have a passage where I should use the left hand to avoid sliding. She says that we shouldn't get the other hand involved if we don't have to. She has never said anything about the flip F-F# though. I will be using the side key F# and the 1st finger F#, I really don't think that it matters too much if I flip or not... maybe I'll explore it when I get too much free time!

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: msloss 
Date:   2005-04-22 03:22

Liquorice, have you ever heard either David Hattner or Robert Marcellus play, particularly in person? You are speaking in absolutes without being fully informed. Mr. Marcellus was a master at legato playing, and imparted that wisdom to many of his students, including Mark Nuccio, David Hattner, Guy Chadash, etc., etc., ad nauseum. It takes some practice, but a clean and legato "flip fingering" can be executed. It seems a bit unreasonable to assume that the limitation of many players in this regard must surely apply to all.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: JessKateDD 
Date:   2005-04-22 04:43

I'll challenge any Marcellus student to a contest. I trill with the two side keys and they flip. Unless they are trilling flip-style, even those august players have their limitations.

I've known top players who almost never flip and others who think the side keys are mainly for trilling. They are all better than I, so I will not decide which group is more correct. I respect them both.

I was taught early on to use the side keys for F to F#. Later on, I started flipping, just to experiment. It was time well spent - not using side F sharp greatly improved my left hand technique - especially my left thumb. Now I am comfortable fingering both ways and do use either fingering, depending on the situation. For example, in the first 32nd note passage in the pizzicato movement of Tchaikovsky Sym. Nr. 4, I flip every F sharp, in both octaves.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2005-04-22 06:12

"It seems a bit unreasonable to assume that the limitation of many players in this regard must surely apply to all"

I'm not referring to a limitation of any player. I'm referring to a characteristic of the instrument. A perfectly smooth legato cannot be achieved on a clarinet using the "flip" method because of what happens to the air when the flip takes place. I'm sure Marcellus could do a very clean change between these notes, but he or any other player will have a smoother legato if they use the side keys. It's just the way the instrument works!

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2005-04-22 06:40

There is a piece I'm playing right now that has a lot of very fast E-F-F#-G (the rhythm is E is an 8th note, F and F# are 32nd notes, and G is an 8th note). I sometimes flip and sometimes use the right hand F#, and there is almost no difference. The right hand F# sounds just a bit more legato I guess also it's easier, so I'm going to ony use that (by the way, this is on bass clarinet, not Bb clarinet).

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: msloss 
Date:   2005-04-22 12:35

JK -- you didn't read all of Ken's notes. The exception in this is trilling, when it would be entirely appropriate to use the trill keys. As for a Marcellus student challenge, I would be more than happy to organize one in the New York metro area for anyone who would like to participate. There's no substitute for playing for one another to prove or debunk a point.

By the same theory put forward above, playing c to eflat and b to c# above the break are also impossible, because you are trying to open and close holes at the same time. The same would go for slurring across the second break when you have to raise the 1st finger of the left hand and lower fingers from the right hand. However, people do play those legato somehow. That's what artistry is.

Playing the clarinet in tune is 'impossible' too, yet people do it.

Fundamentals are there so that you can take a musical concept and create it with your playing. If you imagine a good legato connection between f and f# or vice versa and you have done your homework, that legato will be fine fingered with the flip fingering. It will not be as easy to achieve and will come with a higher risk of trouble than the side keys, but it is certainly possible. It is being done every day.

The point is that there will often be times when the side key option for f# is not available. If you are properly trained you don't have to worry about those times. The reason to 'always' use the first finger f# is so that you will be able to do it when you need to. You can ALWAYS opt for the easier fingering because it doesn't require practice to do well.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: sfalexi 
Date:   2005-04-22 14:25


I'm not referring to a limitation of any player. I'm referring to a characteristic of the instrument. A perfectly smooth legato cannot be achieved on a clarinet using the "flip" method because of what happens to the air when the flip takes place.
Sure the flip method will never be as smooth as the two trill key method (F to F#), but with practice, you can get it to work fast enough that the very slight interruption between the changing of fingers is undetectable with our ears ('our' refering to 'humans'). And at that point, noone will be able to tell. Perhaps there's a device out there can measure such a small time increment (the amount of time it takes to flip the fingers) and just how drastically of a difference it would be, but our ears can't.

For that matter, even the two side trill keys wouldn't be 'perfect'. As there ARE a few nanoseconds from when you begin to open them until they're fully open where the airstream is interrupted, and it changes direction to vent out the side, etc. etc. But it's so little time that we can't detect the imperfections. And chances are that if we WERE able to be put to the test of listening to Robert Marcellus, or any other professional who has drilled a "flip" fingering into their arsenal, play it both ways (randomly) over 1000 times, we'd probably still never quite be sure which way he/she was transitioning at any given time.


US Army Japan Band

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2005-04-22 14:30

Bassoonists flip and slide constantly. Have you ever looked at third-octave fingerings for flute? And let's not even get started with trumpet.

Every instrumentalist learns complex finger movements. If you can cross the register break smoothly, flipping from F# to F is child's play.

Ken Shaw

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: sfalexi 
Date:   2005-04-22 14:59

Ken Shaw wrote:

> Bassoonists flip and slide constantly. Have you ever looked at
> third-octave fingerings for flute? And let's not even get
> started with trumpet.
> Every instrumentalist learns complex finger movements. If you
> can cross the register break smoothly, flipping from F# to F is
> child's play.
> Ken Shaw

Precisely. Just think about in the past, when there were naught but 7 key or 13 key clarinets. People were proficient with THOSE instruments. And I'm sure there were PLENTY of flips and slides and forked fingerings, etc. etc. on something like that.

As a matter of fact, anyone who plays a german system clarinet ends up doing many flips and slides (albeit with help from rollers during some of them, but not ALL of them!) I'm sure that Ms. Sabine Meyer would be able to fool people into thinking that she's not doing any when she plays . . .

US Army Japan Band

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2005-04-22 16:25

alexi wrote:

"you can get it to work fast enough that the very slight interruption between the changing of fingers is undetectable with our ears "

and... "For that matter, even the two side trill keys wouldn't be 'perfect'. As there ARE a few nanoseconds from when you begin to open them until they're fully open where the airstream is interrupted"

I'm afraid you're wrong. If you play F and then press the side keys very slowly, you can get a glissando between F and F# with absolutely no interruption in the sound. So a perfect legato is easy with those keys. But no matter how well you do the "flip" there will never be a completely smooth legato, which I can hear clearly, even though my ears are also human!

The German system players have similar problems on other notes, which one can also hear. Even the best German players would get a smoother legato between B and C if they used the side key, instead of the fork fingering for C, but it's clearly audible that most of them hardly ever do.

We have the same problem for high C and the change to Db. It would be perfectly smooth if we use the 2 side keys for Db (for example in the opening melody of 'Der Hirt auf dem Felsen'). Yet most clarinet players insist on using the textbook fingering for Db, which they think sounds better. Play the passage both ways for somebody who plays any other instrument, and they will always prefer the side fingering.

msloss- you are confusing "impossible" with "very difficult". It's very, very difficult to play the clarinet in tune, but not impossible. It's impossible to play a perfect legato between F and F# using the "flip" method. I'm not saying that the "flip" option should not be learnt, or never be used (although I can't think of any examples where the side key option for F# is "not available", given enough practise).

There are many other combinations on the clarinet where it is impossible to play a perfect legato. Of course we have to practise and try to play as smooth a connection between these notes as possible. But when we have the option to take the fingering for a perfect legato in a context where it is required, choosing the "flip" fingering would be ludicrous.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Ed 
Date:   2005-04-22 16:41

Marcellus would tell you that the side keys are for trilling and that the tone is inferior when using this fingering for other applications. He could tell the difference when listening to your playing. As others have said, it is merely a matter of practicing.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2005-04-22 21:43

Ed- didn't you read/understand my posts? You can practise until you're blue in the face, but you won't achieve the impossible. When we actually have the possibility to use a better legato fingering, why not use it??

The tone of the side key F# fingering is not inferior on my instruments (Buffet). If it was I'd have them adjusted.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: msloss 
Date:   2005-04-22 22:37

Liq -- I think you are blurring the conceptual distinction between legato and portamento, particularly when you go as far as to make your point by discussing glissandi. Do you want two notes to be bound together (legato), which is entirely doable using the "flip" with clean finger technique and continuous air, or carried from one to the next (portamento), where the pitch is slightly bent to deliver one note to the next? A precise change of pitch from one note to the next is not a loss of legato, or all the pianists in the world would have to hand in their Steinway benches.

Despite your protestations, it can be done and it is done on a regular basis by numerous players at the top of the clarinet world. The same can be said for the numerous crossed and shaded fingerings necessary to get through altissimo passages cleanly and in tune. I apologize for digging my heels in on this one, but I simply cannot turn my back on the aural evidence presented to me every day by these top-shelf musicians. Emphasizing 1st-finger F# is a useful technical device, and can be, and in fact is well executed by those willing to invest the practice.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2005-04-23 12:55

I used glissando as an example to disprove alexi's statement that:
"For that matter, even the two side trill keys wouldn't be 'perfect'. As there ARE a few nanoseconds from when you begin to open them until they're fully open where the airstream is interrupted"

The legato I'm talking about is the best imitation that we can do of singers. A lot of the time this is possible on a clarinet (without using portato). This pefect legato can only be achieved without any break in the sound, and the smoothest connection between notes. I have spent, and contnue to spend many, many hours working to achieve this legato. It seems to be paying off because sometimes players of other instruments come to me and say "Gee, I didn't know it was actually possible to play legato on a clarinet!"

You're right about the piano though- it is impossible to play legato on the piano. All pianists can do is create the best possible illusion of legato, which is what the best players do.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2005-04-23 13:44

Of course it's possible to play legato on the piano.

 Re: Clarinet Symposium
Author: claril 
Date:   2005-04-23 14:33

To break up the argument I'd like to point out that even if Liquorice is right, you wouldn't notice that miniscule difference in sound.. if it will sound that tiny bit different, I'm sure that 1% difference, say, wouldn't be noticed.

Post Edited (2005-04-23 14:38)

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