Playing Vuvuzela, or Clarinet, with Style, Maybe

No. I am not switching careers... though it sure looks like fun.... maybe, for a minute.

clarinet vuvuzela

Fun? Vuvuzela or Clarinet?

But perhaps that's the whole point. Having fun.

Music, especially classical music, takes itself too seriously.

So how can learning and performing clarinet be as fun as playing Vuvuzela? Teachers, clarinetists, any performer or music educator, this goes out to you.

I say throw lessons out the window and start blowing to see what comes out. After you grow accustomed to the whole vibrational concept of the buzz against your lips, see if you might like it to sound another way. Then, without asking how, just head in that direction, the direction you wish to hear.

There are tons of fun sounds which come from the clarinet, some intended, some not. Why not keep the chaotic freedom in it as long as possible? Explore. With just a couple of guiding tricks, anyone can figure out the patterns that make different notes.

So I ask you, and you and you. How can learning clarinet be more fun, AND still be productive, meaning, it sounds like you want it to sound?

Would it help to have video duets to play with, so you can see the other person playing and having fun, the better to play with?

How about learning to play songs without needing to learn to read music, at least at first? Suppose you could learn songs by having someone demonstrate them in tiny parts? Again, using videos, you can watch someone play and copy them, or make up your own version. No biggie.

What if someone demonstrating the clarinet, or any other instrument, danced around as they played? Dancing certainly looks a lot more fun than standing or sitting like a zombie to play.

What if singing and playing were both encouraged? Singing and playing would happen most likely one after the other. But I have been known to sing AS I play. In harmony.

I like to sing a phrase and then play it. Singing is usually easier than playing clarinet, music is easier to feel when singing than playing clarinet. At least at first. So sing and then play.

Then, as you learn to play better, KEEP the fun in it. What is funny is that you may have to work to keep the fun in it. But that shows the problem with learning anything. The less fun it is, the more work it becomes.

What are your ideas for music education which might keep the fun in it a bit longer?

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2 comments for “Playing Vuvuzela, or Clarinet, with Style, Maybe

  1. horninsights
    June 29, 2010 at

    Loved your post and the great questions, the central one I hear as being: How can you have fun on the instrument and be a classical musician? Sort of the opposite of the nonclassical musician, who might ask: How can I continue the fun I have on the instrument and get really good on it? The problem is that we don't "play" our instruments. We serious them. In a way, we're like a boy who is always in his Sunday best, never allowed to get dirty and play in the mud or tramp through the fields and woods, be a pirate with a stick for a sword, etc. I certainly wasn't. I spent many decades never playing a note on horn that wasn't written by somebody else. I did get out of the box and get dirty – but not on horn. I explored other musical worlds on guitar (dabbling also on banjo, mandolin, bass, percussion, autoharp, etc.). The twain didn't meet until a decade ago when I switched from symphony work to university teaching. I simply had to try something different – I was so tired of doing the same thing for so long. It was scary, but I learned to make up music on the horn. I ended up giving improvised concerts, workshops, making recordings, a semester course (Improvisation for Classical Musicians), and some books (Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians; Improv Games for One Player). Adding the dimension of aural (no printed notes) music making and music training changes everything. It completes you as a musician. It provides the missing fun as well as being a great way to work on technique. The two sides (literate and aural) are not mutually exclusive. They need each other. Adding an aural component to music ed needs to start at the earliest levels. It would lead to all kinds of transformative wonders, and get a lot more people to stay in music (many drop out in the current system).

    I haven't thought about the dance part (although I've improvised for improvising dancers before). But I like the idea very much. I'll give it a shot and let you know how it comes out.

    Jeff Agrell

    • June 30, 2010 at

      Hi Jeff. Wow. What a great comment. Tons of great insight, a lot of which you have learned through experience. You are a living example of how even a mature musician can \”backload\” their improv skills and experiences. (something I am also doing, very intermittently.) I also wish I had been encouraged to \”play\” as I learned classical music, instead of feeling compelled to paint by number.

      Thanks again for the comment. It is comments like your which make blogging fun. I took a chance with that post, and it was well worth it!

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