DAILY SKILLS Practice
Skills practice incorporates tone production (or "long tones"), scales, and other exercises designed to build and maintain your clarinet-playing ability independent of specific music. This should be your first practice session of the day, possibly your only practice session of the day. Make sure you follow the proper technique from the very first note you play; the following checklists might help:
- Teeth on top of mouthpiece.
- Chin flat.
- Left thumb on ring, pointing at 2 o'clock.
- Right first finger over bottom trill key, NOT ON THE ROD!
- Both little fingers on long keys, NOT BEHIND THE CLARINET!
- Decide on a tempo before you start. Mentally count yourself off.
- Always start with the tongue on the reed.
- Blow as if you can blow through the front of the mouthpiece, NOT down the horn.
- Support: Breathe from the diaphragm. Keep pushing out as you play.
- Plan your breaths. Anticipate the feeling of the upcoming breath.
- Try to hear the upcoming note before you play it.
- Trouble over the break? Keep blowing. Make sure your left thumb isn't late, and that it stays on the ring.
- Trouble moving to the altissimo register? Imagine supporting those notes while you're still in the lower registers.
Using your Time
Divide your practice time as follows. For younger students who cannot practice for a long time, I've included time to work on assigned music or band music. More advanced students should add another practice session after an hour of skills practice to work on repertoire, orchestral excerpts, or special projects.
10 minutes: Tone production
15 minutes: Tone production
15 minutes: Tone production
More? Practice skills for an hour as below, take a break, and practice repertoire or excerpts in another session.
20 minutes: Tone production
25 minutes: Scales and Arpeggios
15 minutes: Technical Etudes, Tonguing Practice, etc.
Long tones and similar exercises are the "push-ups" in the sport of clarinet playing. They teach you true legato and develop the muscles in your embouchure and air-support column. Twelfths, octaves and fifths are helpful to train your ear. Concentrate on support and airflow. Listen; keep the tone color consistent throughout the range. Keep perfect posture, hand position, and embouchure. Practice relaxing.
Try this exercise: Pick any note in the lowest octave. Play a major scale starting on that note in this pattern: 1st note-2nd note-1st note (rest, breathe) 1st note-3rd note-1st note (etc.). Continue for two octaves. Play very, very slowly; every note should be quite long. Tongue to begin the first note, slur up, tongue lightly to return. Listen carefully. Imagine the second note of each set before you play it, then move to it. Is it in tune? Was the slur smooth? Did you continue blowing as you changed notes? Is the tone color the same? Did you return to the exact same pitch you started?
Start each practice session with some "perfect" sounds. Hopefully it will become a habit.
If you learn all your scales and arpeggios, you have 95% of the technique of music
under your fingers. Start with C major, then add sharps and flats until you can play
all your major scales from memory. Then learn the minors, both harmonic and melodic
forms. Play at least two octaves; three octaves as high as you can. Keep the sound
consistent from bottom to top and back. Make sure the register breaks are smooth.
Practice slurred and tongued. Practice slow and fast. ALWAYS USE A METRONOME.
This site contains all major and minor scales that you can read or download for printing. There are several levels or increasing difficulty.
Remember in scale practice it's not enough to just play the right notes. The sound has to be even and every note has to be in tune. When slurred, work for absolute legato. When tongued, work for the same attack on every note.