Pedagogy

Three New ClariNotes

Three New ClariNotes

I have added three new ClariNotes Newsletters to my website. This brings the newsletter up to 18 issues. I am pleased that Vandoren has also recently been linking to specific issues of ClariNotes for their new monthly WAVE Newsletter.

The three new issues are about:

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I hope you will check out all 18 issues and find something that can help you improve your clarinet technique.

New ClariNotes Issue: SmartMusic Scales

GET SMART WITH SMARTMUSIC

SmartMusic is best known as accompaniment software, but I have found it useful for assessing scales. The following exercises may be downloaded from my website as SmartMusic Assessment Files. Students get instant feedback and teachers may assess their progress.

  • Baermann Scales (Scale, Broken Chords, Interrupted Scale, and Returning Scale)
  • Klose Scales
  • Klose Arpeggios
  • Klose Thirds

My ClariNotes Newsletter Issue Number 15 gives an overview for how I use this in my studio.

New ClariNotes Issue: Changing Registers

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I have a new ClariNotes issue that provides tips for changing registers. Changing registers, or “crossing the break,” is a dreaded aspect of clarinet playing for most beginners. If fundamentals of hand position, embouchure and air aren’t taught from the beginnning, then changing registers smoothly is problematic at best.

Here are some tips for changing registers:

  • Keep the Right Hand Down
  • Rock the Index Finger on the Left Hand
  • Practice Specific Exercises for “Crossing the Break”

Read in more detail about these techniques with my latest issue of ClariNotes.

New ClariNotes Issue: Étude Books

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I have a new ClariNotes Issue that focuses on Étude Books. Études are essential for all serious clarinetists and many students are familiar with names such as Rose and Klose. This issue outlines those standards as well as a few you may not be familiar with, including:

  • Cavallini
  • Uhl
  • Polatschek
  • Bitsch
  • Mandat

Knowing about lesser-known methods and new works can bring a new excitement to practicing études. Checkout more details about these books in this new ClariNotes Issue.

Baermann and Klose SmartMusic Assessments

Baermann’s Celebrated Method For Clarinet is in many ways the bible for developing clarinet technique.[1] In my clarinet studio, the clarinet majors are required to work out of this method each semester and achieve specific skills and tempos.[2] In hopes to help my students to practice these patterns more effectively I have created SmartMusic Assessment files for the Freshman levels in the Baermann Method. These scale requirements include the following patterns in all major and minor keys:

  • full-range scales
  • broken chords
  • interrupted scales
  • returning scales

In creating these SmartMusic Assessment files, I decided to add breaks in the scales for breathing. In this way, a student should be able to record themselves through SmartMusic for an entire key without having to stop the exercise in between patterns. These files will give the student immediate feedback on the percentage of correct notes and the student can then send the recording to the teacher as an assignment.

In addition to the Baermann Method, I also use the Klose scales, arpeggios, and thirds in my daily routine. I have also prepared SmartMusic Assessments for these patterns. I have two versions of the Klose scales: one is broken up with breath marks and another without breaks for practicing circular breathing.

The Baermann files are accessible through my clarinet studio page or direct download links are below.

Baermann SmartMusic Files

Baermann Finale Files

Klose Scales, Arpeggios, Thirds SmartMusic File


  1. Carl Baermann’s Celebrated Method For Clarinet, Part 3 by Carl Baermann (1810–1885). Arranged by Jack Snavely. Published by Kendor Music Inc (KN.21045)  ↩

  2. Click here for the clarinet foundation requirements at Brigham Young University - Idaho.  ↩

New Links Added to Clarinet Resource

New Clarinet Links Added to Clarinet Resource

I have added a few new links to my Clarinet Resources. Each have some great information, but the Ultrasound Research conducting by Joshua Garder is particularly interesting. I was in attendance at his session for Clarinetfest 2011 at the University of California, Northridge. He used ultrasound equipment on Robert Spring to show what is happening inside of the mouth during register change and double tonguing.

  • Ultrasound Research on Clarinet Tongue Position - Joshua Gardner
  • Clarinet Clinic: An Organized Approach to Tonguing, Tone, and Tuning - Charles West
  • Three Components of Tone Production: Air, Embouchure, and Tongue Position - David Shea

Stay tuned for more links added to the link list over time. Send me anything that you find useful for clarinetists.

New ClariNotes Issue #12: Clarinet Voicing

New ClariNotes Issue #12 - Clarinet Voicing

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Voicing refers to the shape inside the mouth while playing the clarinet. We refer to this space as the “Oral Cavity.” The shape created by the back of the tongue has a large impact on tone quality, intonation, register change, articulation, basically everything about playing the clarinet well. Many young teachers focus on the clarinet embouchure, but neglect teaching students about what needs to happen inside the mouth. Helping students play with proper voicing, right from the beginning, has a large impact on how successful they will be as clarinetists. Bad habits with tongue position are very difficult to overcome, but relatively easy to teach beginners.Check out [ClariNotes #12: Clarinet Voicing: Hee Haw!](http://www.adamballif.com/resources/Clarinet-Resource/ClariNotes/ClariNotes12.pdf)

ClariNotes Issue #11

ClariNotes Issue #11

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The single most important piece of equipment you should upgrade, which will give you the most noticeable improvement in tone, intonation, and resonance is not your clarinet, but instead the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece, reed, ligature, and barrel, have the greatest effect on how you sound and how you feel as a player. The mouthpiece and ligature that come with a clarinet when you buy a new instrument, even professional-quality instruments, are merely basic and beginner in quality. There are hundreds of types of mouthpieces and ligatures on the market. Clarinetists are always interested in what is new and innovative in the world of mouthpieces. The above models are what have worked for me and would be a good place to start. Make it a habit in your clarinet life to try new equipment as you strive for your perfect sound.I have added another issue to my [ClariNotes Newsletter](http://www.adamballif.com/clarinetresource/clarinotes/) outlining some equipment choices to consider.

Clarinet Links

I have been wanting to add more clarinet resources to the site. I want this website to become a useful resource for clarinetists. Today, I have added several links to the Clarinet Resource page. These are articles written by famous clarinet pedagogues from the past and present. I have also added a few more stores for purchasing new instruments and accessories.

Here is a list of the new links:

Building Breath

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Breath Builder

Sometimes I think that we forget that the clarinet is a wind instrument. We can get so focused on fixing embouchure, articulation, and finger placement, we may neglect the root of the problem that may exist in how we are breathing. Despite what some may think, the clarinet takes a lot of fast, cold air to respond and have a focused tone quality.

When I was in high school, I attended a summer music camp. When I returned from camp, I went to my next clarinet lesson and after playing just a few notes, my teacher exclaimed,

"What happened at music camp? Your sound has changed. It is bigger and fuller. What happened at camp!

My epiphany at music camp came from working with the trombone professor, not the clarinet professor. I don’t remember why I was in the trombone teacher’s office, but he introduced me to a device that brass players have used for quite some time. It is called a Breath Builder. It is a simple device for exercising and building air capacity. I only needed to try it out to feel what it meant to take a deep breath and expel that air completely through the instrument. Taking a “Breath Builder” breath changed my playing almost instantly in the following ways:

  • My tone suddenly was bigger, more focused, and much louder.
  • Since my tone was improved, my intonation also improved.
  • The clarinet began to respond for me.
  • High notes came out easier.
  • Ascending skips were smoother and more connected.

The Breath Builder is a tube with a ping pong ball inside. Two straws are provided: a large bore straw and a narrow bore. The objective is to exhale and inhale through the straw in such a way that enough air pressure is exerted to keep the ping pong ball raised to the top of the tube, both on exhale and inhale. Holes in the top of the tube may be covered to increase the resistance.

I have used the Breath Builder with my students and the results are often magical. In just a few minutes, the tone and dynamic range are improved instantly. It takes repetition and daily practice to increase air capacity, but the instant feedback, from the ping pong ball, helps students feel what kind of air to use on the clarinet.

If your students aren’t sounding the way you want, go to the probable root of the problem. Teach them how to take a “Breath Builder” breath.