Thursday, January 20, 2011

Does Material Matter?

An interesting article about whether or not the material of an instrument makes a difference in how it plays. Both from musical and scientific standpoints.

Does Material Affect Tone Quality of Woodwind Instruments?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Quality Tonguing is Possible!

Image: graur codrin /
Tonguing. Another one of those things with the clarinet. Improper tonguing is one of the most common playing problems among clarinet players of any skill level. Pros and beginners alike are continually trying to improve their tonguing both in terms of speed and cleanliness. Something that my teachers always told me finally clicked and when it did, it was amazing! Quality tonguing really is possible!

The realization was that tonguing is the interruption of the air stream, not the stopping of it. Think of it this way. Imagine a full balloon. If you don't tie the end all of the air shoots out at a high speed because of the pressure. When you pinch the end of the balloon, no air is escaping, but the pressure is still there, waiting to escape once you stop pinching it.

The balloon represents our lungs, filled with air from a deep, healthy breath. When we play the air flows from our lungs through our instrument, causing the reed to vibrate and create a sound. Articulation is putting our tongue on the reed, stopping the air and sound, but what we need to remember is that the pressure should still be there! Too many clarinet players, myself included, get into the habit of "bouncy" tonguing. And this is literal bouncing! If you are playing staccato and you notice your body bouncing or your stomach bouncing along with the staccato you are "tonguing" with your air and not your tongue.

Make an ooooooo shape with your mouth. Now blow through it. Now stop the air with your tongue and make sure you keep the pressure behind your tongue. Is your stomach tight? It should be! If it helps, keep a hand on your stomach to check. Now remove your tongue and feel the air escape. Your stomach should feel the same as when you were holding the air back.

This is a hard concept to try to get across with words alone, but hopefully this confusing article has at least helped you understand a little more about proper articulation on the instrument.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The High Register

Image: Maggie Smith /
Ahhhh the high register, also known as the altissimo. The bane of many a clarinet player. Most clarinet students won't get any higher than a high D or E, but those of us pursuing more advanced study have experience playing notes high in the stratosphere of the instrument.

So what is the key to playing in the high register? A harder reed, a more open mouthpiece, a more expensive barrel? These things may help, but it really all comes down to, as is almost always the case, AIR.

Air is the absolute most important thing when it comes to playing in the altissimo. You can practice your fingerings all you want but without proper support the notes will not speak.

Too often clarinet players beginning work in the high register resort to biting in order to get the note to speak. While this is somewhat effective, it results in a pinched and strident sound and is not at all reliable.

The key is to use as little jaw pressure as possible and a lot of air! Don't be afraid to play loud in the high register. There will be MANY MANY squeaks but don't worry! That's what practicing is for. Heaven knows that any good clarinet player has squeaked thousands of times and will continue to do so for the rest of their lives. Squeaks can be frustrating, but they are a natural by-product of practicing and trying out new things.

Players that have been relying on jaw-pressure alone will have a lot of trouble moving to an embouchure that allows the reed to vibrate freely on these high notes, but it will pay enormous dividends. Let the squeaks of progress resound!

Picture of the New Backun and MoBa Clarinets

Just posted to Backun Musical Services Facebook Page. They sure are beautiful!

The Curious Clarinetist is Now on Facebook!

Be some of the first to like our new Facebook page!

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Ricardo Morales playing on the new MoBa clarinet. Taken from
Backun Muscal Services Facebook page. (head on over and make sure you are a fan!)

Backun Clarinet

This image was just posted to Backun Music Service's Facebook!!!


It's today! Looking forward to the new Backun clarinets! According to a post from Tom Puwalski (who is accompanying Mr. Backun to show) "The new MoBa clarinet is the "f"ing bomb... Getting to play this clarinet, was like getting to take a Porche out on the autobahn."

Backun Musical Services also commended telling us this clarinet has a precision granadilla body, low F vent key, and golden posts with silver keys.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Little Peak of the New Backun Clarinets

"Ricardo and Tom testing the new MOBA and Backun Clarinets in our hotel suite. The debut is less than 15 hours away. Are you ready?"

Taken from Backun Music Services Facebook page. Check it out and become a fan!

Backun Clarinets

As most of you probably know, Backun's new clarinets are being debuted tomorrow at the NAMM show. I am really looking forward to it! I will try to get information and hopefully pictures up here as soon as possible!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Practicing Workout

I was practicing today and it got me to thinking about how we, as musicians, train in a way very similarl to that of a pro football player.

A football player lifts weights to stay strong, does agility drills to stay fast, studies old games and tapes to develop strategies and ideas, and they must do this everyday to become or stay at the top of their game. At the same time though, they must take time to recover from long workouts and have days off every once in a while.

We play long tones to keep our air support strong, we do scales, thirds, and other exercises to keep our fingers fast, we listen to live performances and recordings of great musicians to expand our artistic palette, and we must do these things everyday to stay in shape! I just thought this was an interesting thing and it really applies and makes me want to work harder. But let's all not forget, breaks are necessary! Short breaks during practice sessions and taking a day off weekly. Breaks allow our bodies to heal and our brains to restore. Practice is good, but too much without time to recover can be detrimental.

Martin Fröst and the Aho Clarinet Concerto

This is a video about Mr. Fröst and Mr. Aho. Fröst commissioned a clarinet concerto from him and this video goes over both their thoughts and insights about both the clarinet and the piece. It's pretty interesting. Also, if any of you are from Minnesota or nearby, the Minnesota Orchestra will be performing this concerto with Fröst in February.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Sorry it's been SOOOO long since my last post. I didn't think I would fail at posting so quickly. It's just hard to find time to write a post. I'm on break right now, so I have had lots of time. Possibly too much as I find myself being unproductive. I hope you are all practicing more than I am! I don't think I am going to be audition for any summer programs. I don't think I would be ready for the auditions and I don't think I want to spend that much money at so-so auditions. Maybe next year I will work harder and actually try out for something. I feel like such a failure right now. So lazy and bad.