For this week’s blog, I made a practice log to describe how much I usually practice, and what I work on when I practice. I had no rehearsals and not many engagements this week, so I was able to really focus on practicing the clarinet. Since I do not have so much repertoire to learn at the moment, I spent a lot of time working on basic techniques in the hope of improving my overall standard of playing. As the year gets underway, and I have more and more music to learn, I will be spending less time on long tones and articulation exercises, and more time learning notes. Hopefully the work I am doing now will make it easier to learn music later in the year. My logic goes something like this: ‘If I can already play in tune at piano and forte and play crisp staccato in slow and fast tempos, then I don’t have to practice these things when they show up in orchestral, chamber or solo music.’
The following is log of what I did when I practiced this week. In future posts, I will elucidate how I practiced some of these techniques.
10.50 – 12.40 Practice
10.50-11.30 Support exercises (see previous blog post)
11.30-11.50 Vade Mecum exercise no. 2 (for the left hand)
11.50-12.05 Legato tongued scales in all tempos, C major
12.05-12.25 Opperman Master Study no. 12
12.25-12.40 Long tones, chromatic, two octaves, pp<ff>pp
16.30 – 17.45 Practice
16.30-16.40 Played about 6 reeds until I found a good one :(
16.40-16.55 Slow staccato exercise, p and f
16.55-17.45 Repertoire: Chausson, Andante and Allegro, technical passages
18.45 – 19.50 Practice
18.45-19.10 Double tonguing practice
19.10-19.30 Repertoire: Denisov, mov’t. 1 Played through whole movement and recorded
19.30-19.50 Repertoire: Denisov, mov’t. 2 (mostly slow practice)
Notes: Chausson practice not effective. The challenge is playing tongued arpeggios with sixteenth notes at quarter note = 140. Try something different tomorrow. When warming up tomorrow and doing the legato tonguing exercise, try to tongue the tricky arpeggios from the Chausson as part of the exercise.
The Denisov first movement recording sounded great. I had a really good reed on and I got many gradations of dynamics from ppp to ff. Next step: keep the rhythmic integrity, but make it sound like I am not constantly counting and subdividing.
I usually don’t practice for one hour and 50 minutes as I did this morning, but everything was going well so I decided to keep going until I got tired.
09.30 – 11.05 Practice
09.30-10.00 Support exercises and breaking in reeds
10.00-10.20 Vade Mecum l.h. exercise
10.20-10.50 Legato tonguing exercise in C major scales and then Chausson arpeggios
10.50-11.05 Long tones pp<ff>pp
15.30 – 18.50 Practice
15.30-16.00 Double tonguing
16.30-18.30 Listen to an old lesson on the Chausson and practice the things we worked on in the lesson.
18.30-18.50 Repertoire: Denisov, mov’t. 2, only middle part with very difficult leaps
Notes: Todays legato exercise using the difficult arpeggios from the Chausson was also ineffective. The problem, I can now hear, is evenness of the fingers. So, from now on, when I practice the arpeggios in the Chausson, I will practice them only legato and strive for evenness in the movement of the fingers. In several days, I can add the tongue, and see if the passages sound better.
I did not practice the whole time from 16.30-18.30. I practiced about half of that time and listened to the lesson for the other half.
11.30 – 13.00 Practice
11.30-11.45 Support exercises
11.45-11.55 Vade Mecum l.h. exercise
11.50-12.40 Repertoire: Chausson
12.40-13.00 Repertoire: Denisov, mov’t. 2
14.30-15.00 Double tonguing on A clarinet
15.15-15.45 Vade Mecum l.h and long tones pp<ff>pp on A clarinet
17.30 – 18.30 Practice
17.30-18.05 Repertoire: Chausson
18.05-18.30 Repertoire: Denisov, mov’t. 2
Support exercises and Vade Mecum l.h. exercise
Yehuda Gilad exercises
18.00 – 19.00 Practice
18.00-18.20 Double tonguing
18.20-18.45 Slow staccato exercise
18.45-19.00 Repertoire: Chausson, last page slow and legato
Notes: Today my old teacher Yehuda Gilad gave a masterclass at my school. He taught for 6 hours, and I took copious notes and came away with some great new sound concepts and practice techniques. After the class, I tried to practice a number of the things he talked about. The practice was not particularly focused, but that’s ok. Some practices are about achieving greater stability on the instrument, and others are about trying new things to achieve greater flexibility and creativity. Today’s practice was definitely of the latter sort.
12.00 – 13.00 Practice
Legato tonguing exercises
Long tones pp<ff>pp
Yehuda Gilad exercises
16.20 – 17.30 Practice
16.20-16.40 Support exercises and f sharp minor scales
16.40-16.55 Slow staccato exercise
16.55-17.30 Repertoire: Prokofiev’s 5th symphony, 2nd clarinet part
19.00 – 20.15 Practice
19.00-19.20 Double tonguing
19.20-20.00 Repertoire: Prokofiev 5
20.00-20.15 Repertoire: Denisov, mvm’t. 2
10.30 – 12.05 Practice
10.30-10.55 Support exercises and f sharp minor scales
10.55-11.15 Legato tonguing, C major and f sharp minor
11.15-11.25 Vade Mecum l.h.
11.25-12.05 Repertoire: Prokofiev 5
13.00 – 13.35 Practice
Slow Staccato exercise
Repertoire: Prokofiev 5
After this, I had to run to a concert, and then I had meetings for the rest of the day, so it was not possible to do any more practice
FREE DAY!!!! Spoil yourself!
Things that got better throughout the week: double tonguing and the short staccato exercise yielded real and noticeable improvement over the course of the week.
Things that did not really yield much improvement: The clarity of the articulation and the cleanness of the leaps in the middle section of the Denisov Solo Sonata, second movement got a little better, but I am still not devoting enough time to it. I need to just sit down with the music and conduct it and get all the rhythms in my body. Then maybe the fingers will fall quicker into place.
I followed a similar schedule last week and I found that my tone and support and ease of playing were better in the beginning of the week. I think that too much practicing throughout the week causes me to build up tension and reduces the suppleness of the embouchure. After taking Sundays off, though, these problems seem to evaporate.