Recommended: Jeanjean “Vade-Mecum” du Clarinettiste

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Lately I’ve been doing some clarinet work out of the Jeanjean Vade-Mecum. The title page translates charmingly to:

“Vade-Mecum” of the Clarinet-player



render the fingers and tongue rapidly supple

But this is what really sold me:


The aim of these 6 standard-studies (combining the essential parts generally contained in several exercise books) is to prepare instrumentalists in a very short space of time (about 1/2 hour) when, due to their occupations, they are not able to devote the time necessary for developed exercises and must nevertheless be ready to execute difficult passages, from the standpoint of lips, tongue and fingers.

The movements to which these Studies oblige the clarinet-player to submit will rapidly overcome those imperfections, the diminution or the passing weakness that might result from either fatigue or irregularity of technical work.

“…not able to devote the time necessary … and must nevertheless be ready to execute difficult passages…” This, in a nutshell, is the quandary of the woodwind doubler.

The Vade-Mecum is only six etudes (though some are as many as four pages long), but intensely focused. At this point I’m a long way from being able to play the whole book down in a half hour, but what a half hour that would be!

Check out the kind of stuff that’s packed into this book:

First, there’s a whole lot of this…

Not especially exciting, but great for getting your fingers moving and ironing out little hidden weaknesses. Think this is easy? Think again.

Then etudes that focus on problems of each hand. How fluent are you in the throat tones? No, I mean really? These tackle all your least favorite fingering issues…

Left hand

Right hand

Something for your tongue…

Then a quick tour though all the major and minor scales and arpeggios, with varied articulations…

And finally an expressive etude. This one really covers a lot of ground—extremes of range and dynamics, varied articulations, long phrases, lyrical passages and technical hurdles, and more expression and tempo markings than you would expect to find in the entire book. It even calls for vibrato in one spot.

The Vade-Mecum is a Leduc publication, so as usual it’s a little pricey for its 20 or so pages. But this is money well spent if you’re an intermediate to pro-level clarinetist and interested in a serious and thorough workout in a short time.

A few of tips:

  • You’ll need your French dictionary. The text is very specific about which keys to use, etc., and only the front matter is translated into English (and German, Spanish, and Italian). Here are a few important words to get you started. Corrections/clarifications welcomed in the comments as I am not a real French speaker.
    • gauche = left; M.G. = L.H.
    • droite = right; M.D. = R.H.
    • sans = without
    • lâcher = release
    • clé = key
    • soulever = raise
    • pouce = thumb
    • et = and
    • ni = not
    • You’re on your own for the rest.
  • Jeanjean uses a not-entirely-straightforward fingering scheme, and doesn’t provide a legend. As best I can tell:
    • 1 = LH E/B
    • 2 = LH F#/C#
    • 3 = RH F/C
    • 4 = RH G#/D#
    • 5 = RH sliver Bnat/F#
    • 6 = LH C#/G#
    • 7 = RH 1st (lowest) side key
    • 7 bis = LH sliver D#/A#
    • 8 = RH 2nd side key
    • 9 = LH throat G#
    • 10 = LH throat A
    • 10 bis = RH 3rd side key
    • 11 = RH 4th side key
    • 12 = LH thumb register key
    • A = RH E/B
    • diamond shape = LH thumb tonehole
  • The man himself is a little mysterious: Paul Jeanjean’s pitifully short Wikipedia entry



13 responses to “Recommended: Jeanjean “Vade-Mecum” du Clarinettiste”

  1. Yes! I’ve used this study daily for years and consider it invaluable. Almost a “secret weapon.” Now the secret’s out!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jack! I clicked through to your website and enjoyed your audio clips. Sounds like daily Jeanjean is paying off for you.

  2. Very good exercises for LH and RH and well devised too,The staccato exercises show were our weak points are! i used them for teh bass clarinet also.The exercise for scales and arpeggios I don’t find so useful.Ever tried the Bobbit exercises? you will find them on

    1. Hi Art, thanks for stopping by. I haven’t ever tried the Bobbit exercises, but I’ll hope to check them out at some point.

  3. Also try my website Ther you can liten to my quartet arrangements that are played all over Youtube.
    Read my biography there or on
    Do you know my Book Take Up Jazz? It is on cherry valley.

    The Bobbitt exercises are three note exercises and actually cover the Jeanjean LH and RH exercises.
    Are you familiar with all other works by Paul Jeanjean: 3 Cahiers. Etudes Progressives et Melodiques. His etudes with chord referrals?
    There is no country in the world that has systematized clarinet education in the way France has done. From the time of Klose, who introduced the Boehmsystem mid 19th century on the Paris Condervatoire. His method was written for that purpose.
    Perier, Jeanjean, Klose. Every year the Conservatoire National de Paris invites composoers to write a Morceau de Concours (exam piece)Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsody was also a Morceau de C.

    Kind regards Art Marshall

  4. Hi,

    I was wondering what is the name of the peice in the last etude and who wrote it?

    I have seen that he mentioned something about berlioz, but I couldn’t understnad if he wrote/arranged it, and couldn’t find it in the internet.


    1. Jeanjean entitles it “Pour remettre l’embouchure en place et améliorer la sonorité” (To restore the embouchure and improve the tone). I don’t know of any reason to believe that Jeanjean didn’t write it himself.

      A marking at the beginning of the etude mentions Berlioz: “Dans son traité d’instrumentation H. Berlioz appelle: ‘Son crépusculaire’ l’écho de l’écho.” In his book on orchestration, Berlioz writes about the clarinet’s unique ability to play extreme pianissimo dynamics, what he calls “the echo of an echo” or a “crépusculaire” (twilight) sound. Jeanjean requests that very soft volume in this etude.

  5. Jonathan Avatar

    You may also want to try Modern Daily Studies for Clarinet (Book 1) by Kalmen Opperman, which attempts to do much the same. From the forward:

    ” This book meets the daily requirements of the professional clarinetist who doubles and cannot devote himself to long practice sessions, as well as the student…”

    And happy to say, all in English. It’s not always so easy to get hold of (published by M. Baron Company), but try Vancott Music Services. This is a keeper and you won’t be disappointed. My copy cost $13.95

  6. Do you know of any similar books for doublers pinched for time for sax and flute?

    1. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that is obviously analagous. You might try the Taffanel/Gaubert for flute and some selections from the Universal Method (Exercises of Mechanism, etc.) for saxophone.

  7. The Vade Mecum is a great book. I have used it for years. It really challenges your fluency on the instrument and gives a very intense workout. I think it is essential.

  8. Thanks. I had a look at the Modern Daily Studies Book 1 mentioned above and it has 21 exercises in 43 pages, LH (3), RH (3), Register key (1), Chromatic (1), Scales (1), Staccato (2), Grace Notes (1), Octave (2), Chords (4), and Etudes (3). I saw a youtube of Keith Ridenour talking about Kal Opperman and how in his lessons he used both the Modern Daily studies and the Vade Mecum.

    I also was thinking the Tafanel & Gaubert would be one to try for flute. Just 17 studies. For sax the most consise book seems to be the Klose 25 Daily Studies that some say is all you need.

  9. Hi!
    Could you provide a visual guide for the fingering numbers?

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