I’m pleased to share videos from my recent Delta State University faculty recital.
I’ve been having fun with woodwinds enhanced with pickups or microphones. (If you’re interested in natively-electronic instruments like wind controllers, I’ve written about those elsewhere.)
I still have a lot to learn about working with electronics. But here are a few observations in case anyone finds them helpful.
Which instrument(s) to use? I find lower-pitched instruments to be more fun, since they can provide convincing bass lines. Electronics can pitch a high instrument down, of course, but I haven’t had the success I would like making this sound good. So far I’ve installed pickups into a bassoon bocal, a bass clarinet neck, and an English horn bocal. I’ve used microphones for other instruments.
Which gadgets to use? I’m personally using the Little-Jake pickups, a looper, and a multi-effects unit. When I started getting into effects pedals, I found it alarmingly easy to accumulate quite a few. This was a good and inexpensive way to get started. But I quickly discovered that it was becoming unwieldy to try use use more than a few in performance (I literally had to walk back and forth across the stage to get to them all). A multi-effects unit turned out to be much more practical, with a few foot switches I can configure to operate a large number of effects. (I’m currently using one by Boss.) It takes a little more advance setup than individual pedals, but greatly simplifies the onstage footwork. And I was pretty easily able to sell off the individual pedals to fund the purchase.
Which effects to use? I think the best-known guitar-type effects are distortion, delay/echo, and reverb. Those are fun to play with, but I’ve become more interested in ones I can use to give my instruments new capabilities, rather than just give their sounds a little grittiness or echo. For example, smart harmonizers (which add harmony lines based on a selected key) and pitch shifters (which add harmony lines based on selected intervals) make my instruments polyphonic, a significant upgrade for a woodwind player. And a looper, or even a cleverly-used delay, can create counterpoint.
Here are a few examples of my experiments:
Switching between any two instruments, even two closely-related ones, is a challenging prospect. You must practice for many hours to do it well. But often people switching between clarinets (such as between B-flat clarinet and bass clarinet) are making larger changes than necessary.
The fundamental concepts in clarinet tone production are breath support, voicing, and embouchure. These should remain basically the same whether you are playing the largest or smallest members of the clarinet family.
Breath support should, in all cases, be powerful and constant. Voicing, even on low clarinets, should be high (think “cold air”). You may find the lower clarinets are somewhat more forgiving of lower voicings, and even that some pleasing effects can be achieved. But a consistently high voicing across the clarinet family pays off in intonation, evenness of tone, and ease of response.
Embouchures must adapt, but really only to accommodate different sizes of mouthpiece. In general, the larger the instrument and mouthpiece, the more mouthpiece you will take into your mouth. However, this amount can vary even between two B-flat clarinet mouthpieces. To find the correct position for each of your mouthpieces, insert a piece of paper between the mouthpiece and reed. Where the paper stops is approximately the place where your lip should contact the reed.
Beware advice suggesting that larger clarinets use a “looser” embouchure. Embouchures for all clarinets should be airtight, but not tight.
The angle of the embouchure is also important. Clarinet mouthpieces of any size are best played at a relatively steep angle (compared to, say, a saxophone or oboe), around 30 degrees from vertical. Some larger clarinets, depending on their neck curves, seem to lend themselves to a more-horizontal angle. But bringing the bottom end of the clarinet closer to you helps to achieve a more optimal position.
Fingerings are mostly the same for members of the clarinet family, but there are some exceptions and adaptions. Advancing players should consult a good fingering chart (such as Stefanie Gardner’s bass clarinet chart) for differences. (Or even better, get a private teacher.) Note in Dr. Gardner’s chart some differences from B-flat clarinet: the use of the left hand index finger vent for C-sharp6 through G6, and the special fingerings for the extra keywork for notes below E3, if available on your instrument.
- International Clarinet Association: Clarinet Chronicles: Repertoire as Representation (Hailey Cornell, Eric Schultz); Reprints from Early Years of The Clarinet: Bass Clarinet (Edward S. Palanker, Josef Horák, Norman Heim, Harry Sparnaay, et al)
- DoctorFlute (Angela McBrearty): Evening Out Your Registers
- Khara Wolf: Getting back in shape on the oboe; Synthetic Oboe Reed Review
- Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever. (Doron Orenstein): How to Use Breath Support to Fatten Your Sound and Fix Intonation
- Cornelius Boots – Bamboo Shakuhachi Master & Composer – Zen, New Music and Bold Creativity.: Grandmaster Boots: Shakuhachi Renegade or Champion? Dai Shihan Certification
- Joffe Woodwinds (Ed Joffe): Tribute to Gene Cipriano
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): Clarinetists’ New Year Refresh
- The Bis Key Chronicles (Jim Glass): Wood or Metal Clarinet Prediction – 1920
- International Clarinet Association (Jason Alder): Etude and Method Books for Bass Clarinet
- Jennet Ingle | Oboist: Trust but Pay Attention
- DoctorFlute: Concentration and Stamina in Your Playing and Fixing the D to E Glitch
- Joffe Woodwinds: Clarinet Tone by David Weber
I’m pleased to share videos from my recent Delta State University faculty recital. I performed for a reduced in-person audience due to COVID-19 precautions.
All the repertoire involves electronics of some kind: prerecorded tracks, a looper, an actual electronic instrument (the Akai EWI), and/or live signal processing. This was my first time doing something so electronics-intensive, and I was learning to use some new equipment, so I’m including here some videos from the live recital and some from a dress rehearsal depending on audio quality, etc. (You will still notice some distortion and other issues, which I’m learning from and hoping to improve in future performances.)
I’m pleased to share videos from my recent Delta State University faculty recital. I performed for a very small in-person audience due to COVID-19 precautions.
All the repertoire is unaccompanied. The program begins with multiple-woodwinds repertoire by Samuel Adler, Kyle Tieman-Strauss, and Nicole Chamberlain (a world premiere of a commissioned piece), followed by some odds and ends on recorders, clarinet, and tinwhistles.
- oboeinsight (Patty Mitchell): Empty Stage & Pit
- bassoon blog (Betsy Sturdevant): Rhythmic fingering on bassoon—a K. David Van Hoesen concept, and Beeswax for Bassoon Reeds
- Bill Plake Music (saxophone): Clarifying A Common Misconception About “Tension” In Playing Music
- Hodge Products, Inc. Double Reed Supplies Blog: COVID-19 Reed Sanitizing
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): Clarinet Method Books to Help Develop Diverse Musical Genres and Styles
- JazzBariSax.com (Andrew Hadro): Essential and Deeper Listening Lists
- Blog :: –– Jason Alder :: (Bass) Clarinetist: The Big List of Contrabass Clarinet Albums (with
- The Flute Examiner (Kelly Wilson): Why We Should Love Our Ribs
- Blog :: –– Jason Alder :: (Bass) Clarinetist: A Guide to Understanding Bass Clarinet Clef Notation
- JQ Flute (Jessica Quiñones): 5 things I no longer believe about flute playing.
- Sax ProShop: #WednesdayWisdom: Making Saxophone Low Notes that whisper and wail! It’s all in the set-up.
- Bill Plake Music: The Value Of Having (But Not Always Following) A Daily Practice Plan
- International Clarinet Association: How to rock your college music auditions
- ProneOboe (Jennet Ingle): Reed Mindset
- Nicole Riner, flutist: You Will Survive Your College Auditions
This year I played all jazz at my Delta State University faculty recital. Program and some selected videos are below.
I’m very much a part-time jazz player, so it was fun to spend the summer trying to get my chops in shape to play tunes in a variety of styles on a variety of instruments. This was my new record for number of instruments on a recital: flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon (electric bassoon), soprano/alto/tenor saxophones, and EWI, 9 in all. I’ve written previously about the challenges of improvising on multiple instruments, which I suspect might be surprising to non-doublers or non-improvisers.
An additional challenge is that I live in a small town in an isolated area, so I had to bring in some rhythm section players from out of town and rehearsal time was extremely limited. Enjoy the videos warts and all.
I have previously done some things with bassoon and electronics, but I took that to a new level this time around with a Little Jake pickup and a few new effects pedals. This was lots of fun and I’m already brainstorming how I can use the Little Jake with some other instruments.