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
6 SPECIAL STUDIES
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…
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