Deep Vacation Slow Practice

Several days visiting my father in Charleston, SC has allowed me the time to explore the edges of my technique. Relishing the open schedule, and sunny warmth of South Carolina, I had a great practice session yesterday. I always begin with slow scales.

Slow scales (quarter notes @ 60 or slower) allow one to connect all ranges of the instrument with full, legato air, smooth fingers moving "on the air", and to standardize voicing through out the ranges. I start with mezzo-forte to warm up, and then mix in some forte and pianissimo. I often add some extremely legato tonguing, to test tongue position and tonguing "on the air".

After moving through half the circle of keys, I switched to broken scales, in sixteenths, and also sextuplets. Broken scales are a great way to focus finger motions and fine tune concentration. Playing broken scales (both in groups of 4 and 3) without music is excellent for finger/mind concentration.

I then moved to measured trill exercises with a metronome, at least one for each finger motion. Starting slowly, half notes, and moving through all rhythms, to 32nd notes, making sure to keep the pulse clear without tensing the hand or the body. Measured trill exercises are one of the best ways to develop finger discipline, and also to develop subtle awareness of high speed finger rhythm and pulse. Staying aware of the beginning of each group of 32nd can be tricky at high speeds. Try not to accent to hear the note better. Play at a softer dynamic and "tune" your ear into the rhythm and notes to keep track of the number of motions. I also switch beginning notes to the top one (instead of the bottom one) to emphasize the other note pulse.

During all this, I work (but you don't have to) on circular breathing, quality of breathing, voicing, embouchure, extreme high range. The main goal is pure legato and even-ness of tone throughout the range.

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7 comments for “Deep Vacation Slow Practice

  1. June 7, 2010 at

    Thank you very very much… I will follow the practise method, except the circular breathing as I can't do. Thanks again!

    • June 8, 2010 at

      Hello Hui Hui. I hope it works for you. Let me know if you have any questions.

  2. waynemcevilly
    December 20, 2009 at

    As a pianist, I find these observations just as pertinent as they would no doubt be if I were a clarinetist-Thank you.

  3. November 28, 2009 at

    Excellent info & we will be passing it along to the students here in Chile. More Saxes than clarinets to pass info to as the school where Carl is teaching is 'ProJazz', a 4yr Univ degree in Jazz studies,MA next year. But this is great info for them too. They will love this routine! Also Thanksgiving dinner this W/E with the American/Canadian players, & Chileans who got higher degrees in the US. Your thoughtful blog will be mentioned there too. Classical has a long tradition here due to the European immigration in the 1800's & there is some great music going on here.

    • November 29, 2009 at

      Hi Suzie- It sounds like you and your husband have a good connection to the classical and jazz cultures there. Thanks so much for passing my blog along. I hope it helps some of them focus on some new ways to deepen their playing.

  4. November 28, 2009 at

    As a clarinettist who is working on improving fluidity in their own technique at present, this post could not have been more timely! Thank you for wirting such as useful and practical article. These insights deserve to be shared and I hope you don't mind, but will post a link to this on my own blog. More please!

    • November 29, 2009 at

      Hello Marion. Thank for the encouragement. I plan to post many articles like this. I also wish to remind you and other readers that these technical practices are like investments; sometimes they take a few weeks or longer to show a "return" on the original principal.


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