Trying to find tips about clarinet practice?
Practice is definitely the aspect of playing a musical instrument that’ll help make or break you. That’s why we have developed these focused tested piano practice tips that you must find out as part of our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning The Clarinet’ series.
Proven Clarinet Practice Ideas You Need To Know
Practice. If you do it regularly enough, you will be great. Everyone knows this. So just why is practice so difficult?
Motivation is vital. Without motivation, you will not push yourself to return to the instrument day after day. How do you get motivated?
By winning. Yes, that’s correct. Winning. You’re in continuous competition with yourself, and when things go perfectly, you are feeling like you’re winning. When you’re within this mindset, it’s effortless to practice. It’s the circle of life – winning a lot more will give you a lot more motivation, therefore you practice more. Practising more means you win more, as a result, it gives you even more motivation. And this continues exponentially.
So if it’s that easy, exactly why is practice still so difficult?
And the answer? Because it’s not really that straightforward! Just practising isn’t adequate. You could practice for fifteen hours every day but not improve.
Therefore if it’s not the quantity of practice that puts you on the circle of life, what does?
Practising for fifteen minutes per day, focused, beneficial good quality practice is a great deal more useful than 4 hours of unfocused, ‘auto-pilot’ practice.
So you simply need quality practice for you to hop aboard the circle of life train?
If only! There is nothing that easy. Merge quantity and quality, and you’ll finally be a first-class passenger.
Stay with me to discover how to get your first-class ticket, and how to stay on the train so long as you want…
Structure Your Clarinet Practice
How much time should you be practicing each day?
15 to 20 mins is a good place to start, and probably not any longer than 45 minutes or so at the same time. After that time period, all of us humans are likely to zone out – and then the practising gets to be a lot less successful. As a rule of thumb, once you sense your awareness waning, stop. Be pleased that you just showed up to your practice session, and don’t fear the length of time you practice for.
How often do i need to be practicing?
This is a simple answer – practice every day. In that way, you’ll turn your clarinet practice into a routine. A compressed, concentrated day-to-day practice is far more valuable than twice each week 1 hour at the same time. And try to remember, if you’re thinking “but how can I spare the time to carry out 20 mins a day? !? ” – just steal some of your energy and time from social media over to the clarinet. We do in fact, dedicate on average 142 minutes on social media every day!
When do i need to be doing my practice?
It will make no difference whenever you practice, simply just providing you do the practice. Try out creating a fixed schedule for yourself versus simply being ad-hok. Find which options work most effectively, and stick with it.
Clarinet Practice Top Tips
1. Stop Likely Disruptions
This is ‘you’ time. Just as when you visit the cinema, ensure you turn off all those nagging gizmos that can ping, ding and disrupt you. Focus is definitely the name of the game.
2. Make Sure You're Comfy
As you’ll hopefully be playing for hours and many years to come, it’s really crucial that you are comfy. The comfier you are, the better you’ll play. Tension is usually our opponent, and so make it out of your practice area.
3. Goal Setting
What should you achieve? Try and establish a mission you could realize as part of your practice session. Utilizing aims, you’ll develop at a faster pace plus much more proficiently.
As a suggestion, Monday you might fix one goal, subsequently Tuesday one other. Wednesday may well be a moment of integrating your achievements of Monday and Tuesday. Thursday might be one final ambitious target, with Friday the day of putting all the things together. However, you allocate your desired goals or objectives, stay consistent – and even more importantly, be strong with yourself to keep your system going. As a benefit, be sure to treat yourself to a box of chocolates, or something red in a glass…
4. Say Hello To Bad Habits
Nobody is perfect at the first try. Consciously be aware that until you’ve repeated a section a couple of times, you will get some things wrong. Be as methodical as possible handling these mistakes, because if you don’t, you’ll uncover undesirable habits begin to creep in.
And once you find a terrible habit – say hi to it. Recognize it’s there, and crush the little blighter before it’s too late…
The same goes for correcting specialised problems with things such as posture and your technique. Even though it takes longer up-front, it’ll pay dividends down the road and will save you a huge amount of time.
5. Keeping It Pleasurable
Have you been driving a vehicle, and suddenly realized that you can’t remember the last thirty minutes? Or been on a trip which lasts a long time, however, you can only recall particular parts? This is what I call being on ‘auto-pilot’. It is exactly what we should steer clear of during practice.
When you play exactly the same thing, time and time again, you won’t develop. You’ll lose interest. Your drive will disappear altogether. But is there a solution? Alternating your practice techniques!
This can be as simple as having fun with your eyes closed. Performing one hand only. Missing out every other note. Bypassing every note that your thumb plays. Performing every little thing really quietly, or perhaps extremely noisy. The list is unlimited. Be creative. And whatever you decide to do – don’t ‘just’ perform the same again, and all over again, and again…
6. Turn into Your Very Own Instructor
We have a reason many of us go to school; and it’s because we discover best when we have an instructor standing over us, motivating us to advance. But unless you are the Founder of Microsoft, you’re extremely unlikely to be able to pay for a teacher 365 days of the year. Does it make any difference? Absolutely not! You happen to be your own instructor – and also you come for free!
To start with, it’s more than likely that at least 50% of the time you are performing the clarinet, you’re too busy concentrating instead of actually paying attention to what you are playing! It sounds absurd, I am aware. But it’s true… Now that you’re conscious of it, fix it! Listen to your playing WHILST you play…
Secondly, we live in an age where one can generate a decent recording of your playing with nothing but your mobile phone. So take action. Watch it back and self-critique. Carry on doing this until you improve.
And whether or not the world’s richest individuals wanted to seek the services of my own personal teacher, they couldn’t manage to pay for it!
7. Start At The End
It seems right to start a piece at the beginning. The issue is should you do that every session, the initial few notes will sound incredible, yet become disproportionately practised compared to the rest of the piece. Mix it up. Start right at the end! Or in the middle! Or close your eyes and randomly choose a part. Just don’t always begin from the beginning!
8. Don't Just Have Fun Playing The Simple Parts
It can feel great to play sections we know perfectly well. Nonetheless, if that’s all you ever play, you’ll have half of the piece to a superb standard, but the tougher half will be a catastrophe. And yes, you’ll naturally be attracted to the easy parts, which results in the problematic bit out in the cold. All alone. Shivering for some comfort and love.
Think logically now; which elements do you need to learn first? Yes, that’s correct. The difficult areas. The simple parts will sort themselves out.
Go on then! Discover those difficult elements…
9. Don't Perfect The Piece
One of the best techniques you can learn is sight-reading. But precisely what is sight-reading? It’s playing anything that is put before you, immediately and without fuss. The aim isn’t to always be perfect. It’s to get through it as best as you possibly can whilst keeping rhythm.
10. Use The Clock, Tick Tock
The metronome is there as your buddy, not foe. So make sure you use it and abuse.
For segments which are really fast and difficult, the metronome can be a wonderful resource. Set it up with a nice and simple speed, that you can have fun playing the part correctly. Then on a daily basis, notch up the tempo by a little. Eventually, you’ll end up being at performance tempo, and it also should truly feel as comfortable as whenever you began at a slower tempo.
And right here is a bonus word of advice – always make an attempt to overshoot by ten percent. If you wish to be at 150BPM, ensure you can play it at 165bpm – that way 150bpm will feel easily achievable!
11. A Bottle Of Red
Recall in number three I mentioned a nice bottle of red? I thought this was essential enough to mention it twice!
Exercises are a necessary evil. It’s a must that we have to do them in sports to warm-up, and playing the clarinet is absolutely a sport for your fingers (and mind). There are many different exercises that strengthen your fingers and lungs, but the main ones are:
Playing long tones on the clarinet will improve your sound quality and breath control. Practising them at different dynamics will also expand your dynamic range. Top tip: practice them with a metronome!
Yes, I know they can be more boring than watching a politician talking about Brexit – but they are important. And they do their job well. So yes, you do need to do them!
Hyacinthe Klose’s Complete Method for Clarinet is considered by many to be the ‘clarinettists bible’. It’s heavy, but it contains all you need from the basics to the most advanced exercises, studies, duets and orchestral excerpts.
Some clarinettists groan when they think back on practising Vade-Mecum finger etudes, but they are a great set of exercises for working on hand position and dexterity. And for those very brave clarinettists, he wrote some challenging etudes for advanced clarinettists!
Cyrill Rose actually studied the clarinet with Klose and taught Jean Jean. He also composed sets of etudes and studies for clarinet. Not only are these beautiful, but each one targets a specific technical difficulty as a clarinettist. You really can’t beat them!
Clarinet Practice Bonus Tips
1. Separate your fingers and air
Playing a difficult passage without breaking things down can seem like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time. By jumping straight into playing, you’re confusing your brain. You’ll make mistakes, and your learning will be slow and inefficient.
Be kind to your brain! It’s your friend.
Work on your air and fingers separately. First, finger the passage on the clarinet without playing anything. Then, try the passage with air and fingers but without making a sound on the clarinet. It’ll sound a bit like you’re whispering into the clarinet. This will help you coordinate your air with your fingers.
And here’s the bonus tip- see if you can finger the passage on the instrument with your eyes closed. By building up your muscle memory, you won’t have to think about what you are doing with your fingers and you can focus on making a beautiful sound.
So finally, combine your fingers and air- slowly at first, then increase speed. Now celebrate with a bowl of ice cream (again)…
2. Practice slurred passages tongued, and vice versa
Ever played a difficult passage and your fingers felt like they were on a runaway train? Sometimes it’s hard to slow down our fingers when things get tricky.
Let’s slow things down and tongue every single note of the passage. Start slow and gradually speed up the tempo. Now, slur the passage and notice how much cleaner your finger technique is!
The great thing about this exercise is that it works the other way around. Having trouble with a fast articulated passage? Try slurring the passage, making sure your fingers are moving evenly. Now build up the tempo and finally, add the tongue.
3. Maintain Your Neurons!
The brain learns whenever you choose to do new things. It produces a neuron, similar to a little branch of a tree. Anytime you repeat precisely the same thing, with absolutely no differentiation, that branch gets a little more robust. If you do the task enough times, in precisely the same way, that branch becomes a strong arm. This is basically the point where your body and mind can accomplish a thing ‘without thinking about it’.
Alternatively, whenever you change something, a completely new branch is established. If you play the very same passage of music 4 times, and each time you start using a different fingering or are not completely consistent, you’re developing four branches.
So is that a concern? Absolutely! A branch is a choice. Whenever you come to a performance and get to the relevant segment, if your brain has a choice of various different neurons to select from, it can select the wrong one. It may select the one that has a blunder inside it. For once, the choice isn’t a good thing. When you have just one single neuron that is definitely accurate, the brain has no choice – it provides just one choice – the best one.
To become consistently accurate from the 1st time of performing something. Understand stuff at a speed it is possible to perform well. And focus on your neurons!
4. Recommended Reading
Here are some great books that really helped me when I was starting out and I regularly recommend them to students to this day.
Clarinet Practice - Summary
If you’ve learnt one thing from all the above, it has to be the following:
Don’t leave practice to chance. Structure it. Be conscious and never go on ‘auto-pilot’. Shorter is absolutely sweeter. Print off the list and read it at the start of every week. And above all, keep a good stock of ice cream in the freezer…
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