Memorizing scales

As I’ve mentioned before, my university students are subject to a scale proficiency exam. Most arrive at the university “knowing” at least some major scales, but most of them will also have to learn at least a few new ones and maybe put some old ones into a new format.  For their exam, the scales need to be memorized well enough to play three randomly-selected major ones, and three randomly-selected melodic minors.

For some students, there are technical barriers to this:  untrained fingers, insufficient familiarity with alternate fingerings, or tone production issues in extreme ranges. Some also struggle with nerves or other psychological baggage (“I’ve never been good at scales, Dr. P.,”). Even among students who are moving rapidly through advanced repertoire, and have all the necessary facility to play the scales, there are some that find the memorization to be very difficult.

metronome
Photo, CZMJ

Here are some of the issues that my students have: Continue reading “Memorizing scales”

Clarinet/saxophone doubling and “loose” and “tight” embouchures

I have been watching with dismay some recent online message board conversations about clarinetists picking up the saxophone and saxophonists picking up the clarinet. I am of course a big supporter of doubling, but much of the discussion seems to center around embouchure, and the language used is not only misleading but also vaguely pejorative. Clarinetists seem to regard the saxophone embouchure as “loose,” a term I think most saxophonists would take exception to, and saxophonists consider the clarinet embouchure to be “tight,” a concept I would expect clarinetists to shy away from.

Photo, Adrian Midgley
Photo, Adrian Midgley

I am not aware of any difference in looseness/tightness between the embouchures of the two instrument families, and can’t think of a reason why there should be one. In both cases, the embouchure—the lips and surrounding facial muscles—need to be “tight” enough to form a non-leaking seal around the mouthpiece and reed, and “loose” enough to allow the reed to vibrate at the desired amplitude (volume). The most common looseness/tightness problem I see in teaching both instruments is excessive tightness, often used in an attempt to compensate for pitch stability problems caused by poor breath support, and resulting in sluggish response, restricted dynamic range, and stuffy tone. Continue reading “Clarinet/saxophone doubling and “loose” and “tight” embouchures”

Required recordings, spring 2013

As regular readers know, I have my university students (oboists, clarinetists, bassoonists, and saxophonists) each add a new recording to their library each semester. During the course of their respective degree programs, they should each accumulate a nice curated collection of recordings. Here are this semester’s selections:

Peter Cooper: Cooper & Marriner

Peter Cooper: Cooper/Marriner

Amazon (CD) | Amazon (download)

Repertoire: Concerti by Strauss and Mullikin. Continue reading “Required recordings, spring 2013”