Crossing the break on the clarinet is easy

The following is a comprehensive list of what clarinetists need to do to successfully Cross the Dreaded Break:

  1. Put the correct fingers in the correct places at the correct time.
  2. That is all.

I frequently meet young clarinetists who have been taught that a successful Crossing of the Dreaded Break requires many other things, including but not limited to:

Photo, MikeBlogs
Photo, MikeBlogs

If breath support, embouchure, and voicing are correctly established, then Crossing the Dreaded Break ceases to be a Thing. It’s just another note: a moment ago you were playing B-flat, and now you are playing B-natural. As long as your fingers get where they are supposed to go, then that’s all there is to it. Personally, I don’t even use the word “break” with a beginning student—there’s no need to get them all uptight about what really is a non-event. Continue reading “Crossing the break on the clarinet is easy”

It’s not too soon

Photo, thelouche

Frequently I think about something one of my teachers said to me as an undergraduate student. I was preparing for a rapidly upcoming recital, and played one of my repertoire pieces in a private lesson. There was a tricky page turn in the printed sheet music, and my run-through came to a halt while I fumbled with the pages. A little embarrassed, I assured my teacher that I intended to photocopy a page at some point so this wouldn’t happen in performance.

“You know, it’s not too soon to do that,” he said with a tired smile.

Of course I learned many valuable lessons from that teacher, but “it’s not too soon” is one that has really stayed with me, and now I try to pass it along to my students. Here are some things they (and sometimes I) like to procrastinate, but I try to remind them it’s not too soon to do:

  • Photocopy pages to ease page turns
  • Mark in all the places you intend to breathe, and practice them
  • Look up any unknown foreign musical terms, and pencil in the translations
  • Decide exactly what all ornaments, trills, and such are going to sound like, and practice them
  • Listen to recordings
  • Get that sticky pad or crumbling cork replaced
  • Plan good fingerings, mark them in, and practice them
  • Study the accompaniment part
  • Pencil in any rhythms, accidentals, or other reminders that will improve your performance
  • Start stockpiling good performance reeds
  • Add dynamics or other expressive markings that support your interpretation, and practice them

What small things are you procrastinating in your own preparation? It’s not too soon to do them now.

Yet more woodwind blogs you should be reading

I insist that you check out the following woodwind-related blogs, listed in no particular order. Also see my previous roundups:

David A. Wells

David A. Wells

David Wells is a bassoonist, educator, and scholar. His blog is excellent and rich in original, thoughtful, useful content. Try these on for size:

Continue reading “Yet more woodwind blogs you should be reading”