Saturday, August 20, 2011

Play With a Pro Free Download

Play With a Pro is an online video store dedicated to providing informative, helpful videos to classical musicians of all levels. Their videos are more focused on the serious musician, but the concepts touched in them have value for all players. Their store has masterclasses run by several well-known clarinetists and teachers such as Yehuda Gilad and Charles Niedich. They also provide videos for others instruments featuring other great musicians such as Emmanuel Pahud and Hansjörg Schellenberger. Their musical library is always expanding, so you will regularly find new videos on their site.

They are currently offering a FREE download of a video featuring Hansjörg Schellenberger, former oboist with the Berlin Philharmonic, and Emmanuel Pahud, currently principal flautist with the Berlin Philharmonic. Now you may wonder how a video with an oboe player and a flute player can be helpful to a clarinetist. Well, the topic of this video is "Breathing and Blowing." All of the things discussed here and extremely relevant and important to the work we do as clarinet players, or as wind players in general. It's a great video, full of great info, and for FREE, you can't beat it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Clarinet Instructor at the Interlochen Arts Academy

Jeanmarie Riccobono, currently principal clarinetist with the Traverse Symphony Orchestra, will be taking over the clarinet department at the Interlochen Arts Academy this fall. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and her Master's of Music from Northwestern University.

More on her HERE.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Yehuda Gilad Masterclass

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a masterclass run by Yehuda Gilad as part of the Clarinet-Fest. Below are my notes on the event.

The first player performed the beginning of the Copland Clarinet Concerto through the cadenza. Once she finished playing Mr. Gilad spoke about how every time he listens to a player he hears something. He's not always sure what it is, but it's something beautiful and unique. He likened it to a diamond.

He then told a story of how when he was young, he had a job working at a dairy farm. He said that in the old days they had to milk all the cows by hand, but that it was very good exercise for his fingers. He also, as one of the new guys, had the job of scooping manure.

He joked how it was not that different from his job now. He said it is the teacher's job to scoop away the manure (bad emboucher, slow fingers, etc.) so that their students diamonds can become uncovered. He then said how once it is uncovered, it is the students decision whether they will go and cover it back up, or continue to refine it.

Mr. Gilad suggested putting herself further into the piece as a way to calm her nerves. He said to evoke a memory, landscape, emotion, etc. to give the piece a meaning and purpose. He said to "imitate singing. NEVER imitate playing." He pointed out that as we train our ears to listen for good sound, good intonation, etc. we in turn train our ears to run our air support.

Mr. Gilad compared our air streams to the hose in his backyard. He can turn it on high or he can turn it on low, but the pressure of the water remains consistent and unchanged no matter where he aims the hose. He said our air streams need to be just as consistant.

To illustrate the air stream, Mr. Gilad had the student blow through a coffee straw, sometimes articulating with the passage, sometimes just blowing. He called it "laser beam air." He said there should always be a point to the air. He put his hand at the end of the straw and felt the point of air and tried to get the student to create that same point without the help of the straw. It also showed the student how it should feel if he was supporting properly.

He then gave the student an exercise. He called it the Reference Point Exercise.

Reference Point Exercise

For this exercise you must first choose a scale. The example in the graphic is C major. Start on the lowest C, your reference tone for this scale, and hold it until you feel you are playing with your richest, fullest tone. Then proceed to play the rest of the scale up and down slurred. When you land back on the lowest C, hold it again, waiting for your best tone. This exercise should also be done in reverse, using the high C as a reference tone. Repeat the exercise cycling through mezzoforte, forte, and piano. You are going for perfect legato; a completely fluid scale without small accents, crescendi, or diminuendi. 

Later on a girl played the cadenzas from the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto. Mr. Gilad said that we should never play cadenzas faster than we can sing them in our minds. "Patience is beautiful."  For the areas of fast tonguing he offered a different way of looking at articulation. He said while many of us think of tonguing as the tongue pressing forward into the reed, it's actually the tongue reflexing to the reed. If we think of the motion as pulling our tongue back and letting it reflex at the reed, we are able to articulate easier and better. To illustrate this he had the girl play a passage of fast tonguing while walking backwards. It produced impressive results and helped to emphasize that the tongue is moving backwards, not forwards. 

He also adressed intervals. He said he likes to think of big intervals like the following graphic. The black note is the one before the leap and the black line is the note after the leap. 

He said that the blue shape should be the shape of the inside of our mouths when we are making big leaps. He also said that when we face intervals larger than a 4th we need to put weight on the note before the leap. He said it's like a trampoline. The more you sink in, the higher you go. 

He went on to ask the student what it took to play the clarinet. The student replied, "You have to blow." Mr. Gilad took the clarinet and blew very hard, but no sound came out. He looked at the student confused, asking what else he had to do. The student made suggestions, but none were what Gilad was looking for. He said he liked to call it the "Duh Rule." "Blow and don't restrict. That's it!" He proceeded to have the student blow air through the clarinet without making the reed sound. You could easily ear the air moving, but no notes. It took a very loose jaw and lip to do this, but it helped to loosed the biting and improved the sound a lot when the student tried it. 

Mr. Gilad then outlined the things he thought were important to be a great musician and clarinet player. He put them into three sections. 

Section 1

Section 2

Section 3
Consistency (discipline) 

The class was incredible and very inspiring. I know I missed a lot in my notes, but I hope this gives some insight into his methods and approach to the clarinet. If you ever have the chance to take a lesson or see a masterclass, definitely take it!

Robert DiLutis on Adjusting Reeds

Figure 1
Some issues you may encounter are below, along with some ways to remedy them.

Stuffiness - The tip of the reed (Zone 1) is too thick.

Brittle, Buzzy - The tip of the reed is too thick (zone 1, figure 1). This is opposite what the initial thought would be. The buzziness comes from the heavy tip slapping into the mouthpiece.

Heavy, Dull - There is too much heart. Be careful when working on the heart. Only take away in small bits. Once it's gone, it's gone.

Stiff - Taking some material away for zone 2 (figure 1) can make it easier to blow.

Figure 2
Working on the Tip - Zone 1
Take a piece of 600-grit sandpaper and fold it in half and then in half again to create a square with a stiff corner. Next, wet the sandpaper and reed with saliva then proceed to to scrape away at the tip. Use very little pressure and push towards the tip and off onto the glass. Do this about 20 times across the tip. (Figure 2)

A good reed should have a tip thickness somewhere in the range of .003 - .005 inches. Unfortunately most commercial reeds have tip thickness from .005 - .009 inches.

When working on the tip, it's important to get the shaving right. You don't want to sharpen your reed into a knife (figure 3), rather create a thinner tip, while maintaining                                       the slope. (figure 4)

Figure 3
Figure 4

Mr. DiLutis suggests to have a reed case with 8 reeds that are concert ready. The reeds you just broke in will go into a “dry bag," once again, case-less. These are reeds that will take the place of your select 8 as they slowly die away. Be sure to play on each of the select 8 every day in order to keep them conditioned and ready for a performance. Mr. DiLutis says that commercial reeds seem to last an average of 30 hours of playing. 

Robert DiLutis on Reeds

The new Valley Performing Arts Center at CSUN

This past week I had the pleasure of being able to attend the International Clarinet-Fest which took place at California State University Northridge, just outside Los Angeles. It was a great time with many opportunities to learn from great teachers, see amazing performances, and try out some new products. I will be doing several posts based on the things I experienced and learned there. This post being the first. Some things to expect later are my notes on masterclasses done by Yehuda Gilad, Ricardo Morales, Richie Hawley, and Philippe Berod. 

On Friday afternoon a attended a lecture lead by Robert DiLutis all about clarinet reeds. During the class he discussed his process for breaking in and adjusting reeds. 

Breaking in Reeds

Day 1 - The Day the Box is Opened

Step 1 - Polishing
Take each reed out of the box and discard their holders (the small plastic or cardboard "cases" they come in). Set the reed on a piece of glass or plexiglass and, using the paper back of a piece of sandpaper (600-grit),  polish the vamp and the back of the reed. This is done by rubbing the paper over the surfaces of the reed for several seconds. 

Step 2 - Wet and Store the Reeds
After all of the reeds are polished, wet them one at a time. To do this place the reed in your mouth for about one second and then place it, without a case, into a plastic, Ziploc bag. Once all of the reeds have been placed into the bag, seal it and let them sit for 24 hours.

Day 2 

Step 1 - Polishing
Repeat the process described in Step 1 of Day 1. 

Step 2 - Date Reeds
Take each reed and, using a Sharpie, write the current date on the bottom of the reed to help you keep track of how old they are. Mr. DiLutis likes to keep track of all his reeds in a small notebook. It helps him know what they play like and how much they have been used. 

Step 3 - Testing the Reeds
Put each reed in your mouth for a few seconds. Once wet place it on the mouthpiece and, holding it in place with your thumb (ligature-less), play an open G. 

Step 4 - Evaluate the Reeds
After playing the open G, think about how to label the reed. Was it stuffy, hard, soft, buzzy, etc? Make your choice and then mark the reed accordingly. ("S" for stuffy, "B" for buzzy, etc.) After marking, place it back into the bag. 

Step 5 - Adjust Immediately
Now it is time to start making the adjustments necessary to create a quality reed. This part of the lecture will be covered in my next post.