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 Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Slippy Bal-dog 
Date:   2005-05-20 17:39

My teacher is constantly telling me to work my air support. I'm a total convert to this and I work it consciously but in the lesson (and I assume while I play for fun as well) I lose it and the mantra gets repeated. And again.

I am wondering for teachers, what is the thing you repeat the most to students.

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: ron b 
Date:   2005-05-20 17:53

To work on air support  :)

- r[cool]n b -

(who, for the record, is far more a 'sharer' than a real teacher)

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: pewd 
Date:   2005-05-20 18:06

#1 = "practice"
#2 - breath support
#3 - "practice"
#4 - more air
#5 - "practice"
6-10 - 'practice'

- Paul Dods
Dallas, Texas

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2005-05-20 18:26

It's certainly true that the fundamental experience that a student needs to have is that of providing an effective delivery of air to the instrument, and of appreciating the results of that in their sound.

Since you say that experience comes and goes for you, can you put into words, as clearly as possible, what you mean by "working (on) your air support"? Or, alternatively, would you be willing to say what you understand by the words, "air support"?

The reason I ask is that this an area that can cause a lot of confusion - and I think I know why:-)

We could start with how you currently explain it to yourself, and (perhaps) go on from there.


 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: GBK 
Date:   2005-05-20 20:02

One of the big mistakes students (and teachers) make is to overload the basic fundamentals without a set routine to follow - thus the student has too much to digest in each daily practice session.

On the technique side, rather than try to do too much each day, it is far better to spread out the technical work into manageable "bite size pieces".

Therefore, I stress the 6 day practice routine for basic fundamentals as was originally laid out by Marcel Moyse:


MONDAY - E major scale, F major scale, E minor scale, F minor scale, E whole tone scale, F whole tone scale, Diminished 7th chords starting on E, F and F#, Augmented chords starting on E, F, F#, and G, Dominant 7th chord on E resolving to Major and Minor triads on A, Dominant 7th chord on F resolving to Major and Minor triads on Bb, 3 octave chromatic scale in triplets starting on E

TUESDAY - F# major scale, G major scale, F# minor scale, G minor scale, E whole tone scale, F whole tone scale, Diminished 7th chords starting on E, F and F#, Augmented chords starting on E, F, F#, and G, Dominant 7th chord on F# resolving to Major and Minor triads on B, Dominant 7th chord on G resolving to Major and Minor triads on C, 3 octave chromatic scale in triplets starting on F

WEDNESDAY - Ab major scale, A major scale, G# minor scale, A minor scale, E whole tone scale, F whole tone scale, Diminished 7th chords starting on E, F and F#, Augmented chords starting on E, F, F#, and G, Dominant 7th chord on Ab resolving to Major and Minor triads on Db, Dominant 7th chord on A resolving to Major and Minor triads on D, 3 octave chromatic scale in triplets starting on F#

THURSDAY - Bb major scale, B major scale, Bb minor scale, B minor scale, E whole tone scale, F whole tone scale, Diminished 7th chords starting on E, F and F#, Augmented chords starting on E, F, F#, and G, Dominant 7th chord on Bb resolving to Major and Minor triads on Eb, Dominant 7th chord on B resolving to Major and Minor triads on E, 3 octave chromatic scale in triplets starting on G

FRIDAY - C major scale, Db major scale, C minor scale, C# minor scale, E whole tone scale, F whole tone scale, Diminished 7th chords starting on E, F and F#, Augmented chords starting on E, F, F#, and G, Dominant 7th chord on C resolving to Major and Minor triads on F, Dominant 7th chord on C# resolving to Major and Minor triads on F#, 3 octave chromatic scale in triplets starting on G#

SATURDAY - D major scale, Eb major scale, D minor scale, Eb minor scale, E whole tone scale, F whole tone scale, Diminished 7th chords starting on E, F and F#, Augmented chords starting on E, F, F#, and G, Dominant 7th chord on D resolving to Major and Minor triads on G, Dominant 7th chord on Eb resolving to Major and Minor triads on Ab, 3 octave chromatic scale in triplets starting on A


This is the practice routine which I personally use and encourage my students to follow.

Combining all the above with Baermann III and other basic etude and exercise books will dramatically increase over-all technique within 6 months.

Guaranteed ...GBK

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2005-05-20 20:18

Mmm, that routine would be one way -- among many others -- to organise your technical work.

I still want to know what Slippy finds difficult to retain in the 'air support' area.


 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Bnatural 
Date:   2005-05-20 21:00

I like that GBK... that may have to be tacked up next to my stand

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: RAMman 
Date:   2005-05-20 21:02

It has been suggested to me in the past, and I think it's worth thinking about, that working on your scales in a set pattern will in fact not prove as beneficial as working on them randomly.

In a real life situation, be it an exam or performing, you will not be asked to play scales in your set pattern...and if you have only ever played an E minor scale after an F major scale, then you may hesitate when asked to play one following a B flat major scale.

Food for thought.

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Clarinetgirl06 
Date:   2005-05-20 21:28

My teacher reiterates a very firm embouchure almost every single lesson. I have a rather loose one... My 1st ever clarinet teacher always got onto me about my tonguing and so that's ALL she ever talked about. It didn't help me much and was a waste of time. We only did lessons for a couple of months.... My tonguing has gotten A LOT better since then though because my embouchure is getting better. Also, she taught me how to stop the air with the tongue when tonguing and staccoting instead of with my breath with helped it 100%.

Post Edited (2005-05-20 21:41)

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: RAMman 
Date:   2005-05-20 21:39

A past teacher of mine...said that the basis of good tongueing is air.

In my opinion the basis of anything is air.

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: bflatclarinetist 
Date:   2005-05-20 21:41

My teacher constantly keeps telling me that I hold notes for 1 beat long or 1 beat short. But it's true, I need to focus!

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: David Peacham 
Date:   2005-05-20 22:05

Tony asks 'would you be willing to say what you understand by the words, "air support"?'

I am aware of specific problems in my playing that I ascribe, at least in part, to inadequate air support:

1) Deterioration of tone quality when playing anything difficult.
2) Sharp low A and Bb when playing quietly.
3) Flat throat notes, especially "pinch" Bb (side Bb is better), when playing fast.
4) Problems tonguing upper clarion C when descending from the altissimo.

I am also aware that I find it very difficult to know whether I am really supporting the air column correctly. The endless sterile arguments about wheher air support comes from the diaphragm don't help. (Of course, any biologist can tell you that the diaphragm is not under voluntary control. That's not the point. As musicians, we can agree to use the word "diaphragm" to mean "something down there", however inaccurate this might be.)


If there are so many people on this board unwilling or unable to have a civil and balanced discussion about important issues, then I shan't bother to post here any more.

To the great relief of many of you, no doubt.

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Slippy Bal-dog 
Date:   2005-05-20 22:27

While i don't want to derail the purpose of the thread which was to find out what people consider needing constant attention, I'll explain my thoughts on my air support since it was asked.

Since I am just learning and its not been a year, I'll just say that I recognized a difference between blowing and contracting the bellows of your diaphragm. The second being easier to get a nicer more stable sound and involving a lot more thought for me to do.

For air practice, I usually do long tones (circle 5ths) or 1-5-8-5-1 (also circle 5ths). And scales du jour. I'll also work Bb to B across the break. And C(6?) to E above.

My current batch of problems besides building more air is that I pull back on the throat tones and often I don;t build up pressure (don't know if that is a good way to describe it) behind the tongue to get the higher notes to come out with a good attack.

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: SueSmith 
Date:   2005-05-20 23:12

Air support is a tough one to describe...

Perhaps your problem is stamina...or concentration lapses.

As a smaller boned female, I have to work 3 times as hard to maintain the level of air support that my peer average sized male clarinetist do effortlessly....its just biology. I have to keep in top physical shape ... I practice pilates on a daily basis on a reformer. Since I've started pilates, I have become one with my abdominal core...and it has certainly benefitted my playing.

I don't know the state of your physical condition, but perhaps upping your exercise level will benefit you if indeed your problem is stamina.

Another cause of your problem could be a lapse in concentration. When I was working on correcting my articulation, I could keep up the proper technique for short periods of time before I lost my focus. Also, you have to retrain your muscles to correct poor technique. Short bursts of practicing correct technique are more beneficial than going through a long period of practice - with learned techniques going out the window after a couple of minutes..

Now, with your air support, I can suspect you are preparing properly. A few measures into a piece you are concentrating...and then, after a few minutes old habits sneak up. It can be due to the ab muscles tiring and then your mental focus concentrating on the musical technique of whatever you are playing.

What I would suggest: To isolate the muscles ... lay flat on your back on the floor. Concentrate on breathing normally. Then take a breath as if you were preparing to play...the bad habits most clarinetists make (raising shoulders, poor posture, not letting the abdominal cavity open naturally) are almost impossible to do while breathing deeply lying flat on your back. You can also attempt to play lying down (however, I have experienced the condensation running down into the mouthpiece - pretty gross).

After you have a pretty good idea of how a deep breath should feel physically, practice sitting... and work on scales, long tones...but nothing complicated. I use my Baermann practice warmup as an aerobic warmup for playing...to get me in the zone and prepared to play.

Of course, bring these ideas to the table when you work on etudes and solo work...but remember that this doesn't happen over night. In your practice...be sure to stop yourself when you feel you are falling back into bad habits. Over time, you will build the physical strenght and stamina to play straight though your lesson...with proper air support.

Hope my ideas can help you somewhat!

Post Edited (2005-05-20 23:14)

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Grabnerwg 
Date:   2005-05-21 00:14

To be told "work on your breath support" is a pretty meaningless.

I find that it's just too abstract, and has little applicability to the actual music that the student is playing, or the sound he or she is trying to make.

The real problem in not "breath support" but that the vast majority of students just do not blow enough air through the clarinet and/or sustain the air flow long enough. Most times this is heard at the end of phrases, where the tone and musical intensity die long before the phrase ends melodically or harmonically.

It's as if, nearing the end, the mind switches off and the body stops working. I call it the "OK, I'm done, syndrome." The air flow slows or stops before the music does.

Rather than saying work on "breath support", I DEMONSTRATE how to SUSTAIN the tone, during the phrase and at the end of phrases. Then I ask the student to do the same. I remind them that playing a wind instrument is hard physical work.

Walter Grabner
alto, bass, and Eb clarinet mouthpieces

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: ron b 
Date:   2005-05-21 01:30

I agree that the term "breath support" alone is pretty meaningless and some clarification on my part is in order at this point. I try to keep things as simple as I know how, so during our 'share time/lesson' I always demonstrate - rather than just talk about - how the air must follow through and beyond a phrase. We also exercise expelling excess air and quickly replenishing the supply. We find that breathing correctly (includes managing posture) actually make playing the instrument *easier* in the long run. His Mom sits in on lessons and remarked recently that his phrasing and intonation sounds so much more relaxed and free than six weeks ago. Mom is not an instrumentalist but loves to sing, can carry a tune quite well and is therefore the best objective evaluator I can imagine.

- ron b -

Post Edited (2005-05-21 01:31)

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: chito 
Date:   2005-05-21 07:31

"work on your breath support"
Im working also in my breath support since i change my new teacher. I found on my own practise always start playing piannismo in lower register when you are warm up and listen to the notes very carefully if you fill your diagphram and embochure is relax and consistent when your practising i think you have good progress and also they have breath builder try this . Just need time and patience.

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2005-05-21 10:31

OK, sorry, I suppose I forked the thread by wanting to talk about the idea of 'support'. I'll perhaps start another thread with a different title, because there is something I want to say about it.

As to the question that was originally asked: I find the most often repeated instruction is the instruction that the student listen much more precisely to what they are producing from the instrument. Without that accurate feedback, practising is useless.


 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Brenda 
Date:   2005-05-21 13:48

I'm always mentioning "breath from below", "think of a barrel", "lots of air" to get the lungs expanding from below instead of the upper chest. Also I'm always talking about pushing from below the waist and opening wide the throat and nasal cavity, to avoid painful constriction of the air column in the throat and nose.

Somehow when the student "breathes and sets the muscles from below" they find it a breeze to "play out to that person on the street".

I agree with SueSmith above who says that some people find it far more difficult than others to have a strong abdominal core. There are those of us who really have to work hard at strengthening the whole mid-body area and also work at aerobic exercise. For me this has been the key (or lack of it) to having success or not in the ability to controlled playing.

Also a big key for some, including myself, is diet. I cannot tolerate certain common foods well and neither can my kids. For us, certain foods have to be eliminated from our diets in order to have optimum strength and mental capacity. I think the media is finally catching on to these things - even some children's programming is featuring diet changes!

We need to at least be aware of these things while teaching since our students have individual needs. Clarinet playing is a physically demanding exercise, we can't fool ourselves into thinking otherwise. Our students may need to become aware of the benefits of following through on their school's phys ed classes, etc., not only for clarinet playing but for all of life's activities.

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: SueSmith 
Date:   2005-05-21 15:40

Hi Brenda,

For a few years I studied with a female teacher (Who was in her early 50's and looked PHENOMENAL) and she was always pushing physical strengthening...especially for her female students. Unfortunately, I didn't take her advice while studying with her. I was in my early 20's...and although not overweight (I was 123lb at the time) I was out of shape.

As I aged, approaching 30, my body started to change...which is quite normal. But what you can get away with at 20, is harder to get away with at 30...so I began to wake up.

Strength training for female players (especially upper body where women are biologically weaker in strength) helps temendously: - the clarinet feels lighter, my wrist did not hurt, my posture improved and by working my abdominal core - I was able to utilize the neccessary muscles to improve my air support.

The benefits of exercise extend to everyone, but I feel that female musicians show the greatest improvement from strength training since playing an instrument utilizes muscles from the waist up, where women are weakest.

So - that was the best advice I was ever given.

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Tim2 
Date:   2005-05-21 20:54

Brenda said "Clarinet playing is a physically demanding exercise...."

That's exactly right, IMHO. The muscles that are used for providing air support, in my mind are the same muscles that are used when any musician plays their instrument, including voice. The same muscles used to produce a good instrumental or vocal tone are those used to cough or grunt. While a cough is only for a short period of time, air support for a musical instrument needs these muscles to sustain their strength whenever producing a sound. It takes work to sustain air support, this is the exercise Benda spoke of and like a runner, may be physically tacing at first but with practice, it becomes part of the ritual. It's always there.

The air support needs to be there, whether playing forte or piano. Did you ever hear a unsupported (wimpy) sound from an opera singer? Even when they sing pianissimo (sp), the voice still carries to the far reaches of the stage and sounds rich and strong with good tone because it is supported, it has strength. That richness and strength comes not in the volume of air, but in controlling the volume of air used to produce the sound. IMHO

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Crusader 
Date:   2005-05-22 20:41

Since I am very new to the board, I supposed that this has been discussed a number of times regarding the point of air support. Many people when playing either a wind instrument or singing do not breathe properly. Many musicians when they breathe for performance , breathe by pushing the diaphram in. The shoulders jump when doing this , and the release of air is done more by leaking air. With the diaphram in, is is very difficult to push the diaphram in further,so as to place pressure behing the air column one is blowing into the instrument. Beathing in this fashion will also cause hyperventilation, because it is difficult to expel all of the air in the lungs and typically, the performer will take additional snatch breaths to keep playing.
If one inhales by pushing the diaphram out , flexing it inward will enable one to maintain steady pressure to get proper air support. It is nearly impossible to hyperventilate in this fashion and the ability to play long phrases is improved.

Finally, I also have found that daily treadmill work (30 minutes a day at 6 miles per hour for me---one can start slower.) helps a great deal.

Hope I didn't offend anyone by being so elementary.

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Llewsrac 
Date:   2005-05-22 22:22

Question for GBK;

Do you practice the six day routine for basic fundamentals from memory and played to a progressing metronome tempo?

Have you considered blank 3x5 index cards, each card having one basic fundamental exercise you list written on the card. Shuffled as a deck of cards would be shuffled. Placed on the music stand as flash cards, with a watch. Player has five seconds to identify the scale, thirds, seventh cords,ect, and play the exercise from memory to a progressive set of metronome markings. As each exercise is accomplished at the established tempos the metronome marking is checked off. You can begin this method at any level of difficulty; starting with one type of scales and adding more exercises as you progress, until finally all the fundamental exercises are in place and are being practiced at random on a daily bases, because each day you shuffle the cards and start. I also encourage students to use a vast and different array of rythmical forms for each fundamental exercise.
This method was begun as a undergraduate and continues to be used today.

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: GBK 
Date:   2005-05-23 00:10

Llewsrac wrote:

> Question for GBK;
> Do you practice the six day routine for basic fundamentals from
> memory and played to a progressing metronome tempo?

I've played the clarinet for 40+ years and have used the 6 Day Practice Routine for 30 of those years.

All of my students use it as well.

Although I have it memorized (who wouldn't after 30 years?), I still like reading it from the music, as I think the visual stimulation is important.

I play it all single tongued at a crisp speed.

For tonguing practice, there are numerous method books (Kell, etc...) to choose from. I personally like using Exercise #11 and Exercise #12 from Langenus Part III each day ...GBK

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Llewsrac 
Date:   2005-05-23 01:06

GBK wrote:

> as I think the visual stimulation is important.

I agree, it is important to read and recognize these exercises while committing
them to memory. The random use of flash cards at various tempos in private lessons, sectionals, or instrumental reheasrals provides a lively, complementary, and fun mental challenge for student and instructor too.

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: allencole 
Date:   2005-05-23 06:24

Given that I work with schoolchildren for the most part, it's hard to nail down one specific thing. Support, embouchure and tempo are matters for steady ad nauseum nagging and I happily carry out the task.

The thing that bothers me the most is that so many students learn their scales mentally rather than physically and make unnecessary calculations regarding note content and concert vs. written key. The result is additional mental burden rather than relief from that burden.

I will ask many a student for an E-flat scale, and the reply will be "that's E-flat, A-flat, and B-flat...right? My reply is "no, finger an E-flat and let your fingers do what they've practiced." (followed by a quick silent prayer on my part that they actually have practiced the thing)

I will ask others for an E-flat scale only to have them immediately launch into an F scale because they are used to getting their scales asked for in concert key.

And then, there's "i KNOW the scale, if you'll just let me look at the scale sheet!"

Finally, there the attempt to apply that scale to reading a piece of music only to find that the student has been visually conditioned to respond to a given note position with the first fingering they ever learned, even though they know that the same note might be sharp, flat or natural.

Solutions applied:

1 - Relearning scales by adding one element at a time and going down as well as up.
2 - Encouraging students to practice scales from the written music and to write the sharp, flat or natural symbol by any note that they miss more than once. (many try to memorized scales via guesswork rather than repetition)
3 - Using newly learned scales to execute simple songs by ear. The First Noel is a very easy one for this application. Ode to Joy also works well, although its range runs from fifth to fifth, instead of inside one complete root-position octave.
4 - Having the student play fairly simple pieces written in one key, but doing it in a key with the same key name altered to sharp, flat, or natural. (i.e. take a piece in A major, and read it in A-flat)

Allen Cole

 Re: Most often repeated 'lesson'
Author: Meri 
Date:   2005-05-25 20:19

My most often repeated lesson to my students is what my first clarinet teacher told me:

"If you're having a problem with your playing, it's usually air!" (assuming their posture and embouchure are good).

Second-most often repeated lesson? "Great tone and a good sense of rhythm will get you far musically." (mostly told to my intermediate students)

My third-most often repeated lesson? "Look at the bar you are about to play, not the bar you are currently playing."


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