Practice ideas

The hardest part of practicing an instrument (or anything) is undoing bad or counter productive habits. While practicing, full attention to the quality of every motion is essential. I tell my students-

"The body learns quickly, but it unlearns slowly."

Wind players: Are you aware of the quality of your air at all times? Most issues with tone, legato, articulation and attacks are caused by improperly used air and can be solved by awareness and improvement of air quality. I don't use the word support, because most people think and do something tense when they try to "support".

The best advice on air that I've heard recently is from trumpeter Tom Battenberg, a colleague in Columbus Symphony, Ohio. He gave me one tip-

"Don't hold the air between intake and out-blow."

Little does he know, but that is a very Alexander Technique comment. But then again, I'm sure any good idea shares quality with another good way of thinking! I can add to that advice-

"Don't hold or grip your air at anytime while playing."

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

3 comments for “Practice ideas

  1. October 19, 2009 at

    Good discussion. I usually have my students voice "ehyou" just before playing. and I'll try your "yaw,' as it probably prevents pinching/biting the reed. I usually tell them to keep the tongue as forward as possible and in the "ee" position, so I"m interested to know why "aae" instead.

  2. October 13, 2009 at

    Hi Diana!! Thanks for the comment and sweet support.

    I don't think shape when inhaling, just open sinuses and relaxed throat. Exhale, when playing, I think "aae" so back of tongue is fairly high. (not mid or front, not eee).

    I found that saying "yaw" just before playing gets everything lined up nicely. Jaw open, round embouchure, tongue floating up, soft palette up…. I'd like to know what other versions you find… Keep in touch.

    I bought your CD, and it didn't play, and I never got around to exchanging it. So I never got to hear you. Do you have any mp3s online?


  3. Diana Haskell
    October 12, 2009 at

    Great playing on the You Tube video of the Jean–Jean. I remember that sound well and it's still beeeauuuutiful. But I digress. I have a question for you: What shape do you think of when you inhale, and do you think another shape while actually blowing (exhale). Also, do you change the shape of your tongue while blowing in order to change either air speed or color or both? Just curious, I'm doing an informal poll. I've always thought of an eeeooooo sound and have kept the back of the tongue higher in the mouth, but am rethinking that a bit. Am also trying to think about whether or not my tongue shape is differen on inhale than exhale. Any thoughts? You can email me at if that's easier. Happy clarinerding!

Comments are closed.