ClarinetMike’s Performing Checklist

Performing with my Duo 35 buddy, Todd Oxford in Austin, Texas

Performing  in Austin, Texas with my Duo 35 buddy, Todd Oxford.

ClarinetMike’s Performing Checklist

Below is a checklist based on many years of giving performances and presentations and teaching students to do the same. Every audition, jury, performance, clinic, etc. is different, so focus on the ones below that apply to your situation.

  • Be Organized and Confident: organized in preparation and confident in performance.
  • Morning Performances = Get up extra early. (Go to bed early the night before.)
  • Mentally walk through performing day and concert (or audition, etc.) the night before.
  • Check weather and dress appropriately. Take trench coat, umbrella, etc.
  • Wear layers of comfortable clothing for audition, especially in a long audition.
  • Dress up and have good grooming. This will help even in a blind audition!
  • Eat good food – especially protein.
  • Take extra set of music.
  • Have a short bio ready for introductions.
  • Carefully plan all speaking during concert. Fit comments to audience. Keep it simple.
  • Leave and arrive early. Check traffic on Google Maps.
  • Have good directions to venue (GPS or map). Know precisely where the building is.
  • Plan for parking at venue. Budget extra time.
  • Know where you can warm up at venue – on stage is best.
  • Have concert recorded if possible: video is best! Check weeks before and upon arrival.
  • 2 water bottles & 2 clarinet pegs. One on stage and one for off stage/green room.
  • Get on stage or in room for sound check before concert  – a day+ early would be best.
  • At sound check, carefully check balance between piano or CD, etc. Recruit a helper.
  • Make sure tech person is at sound check.
  • Be very clear with stage crew/usher on stage set up, hall opening time, etc.
  • Make sure there is no profanity or embarrassing writing on back of music stand!
  • Don’t let an audition monitor rush you. Respectfully insist on what’s right.
  • Make sure page turner is set!! Have a backup plan.
  • Make sure programs/handouts are put out. Take extra ones in case someone forgets.
  • MAKE MUSIC! Always “Go For It!” when performing – just unload what you’ve loaded.
  • No negative comments or looks – stay upbeat, even if feeling sick or upset.
  • Take extra business cards for meet and greet after recital.
  • Don’t forget to pick up music after concert, especially CD’s and pianist’s music.
  • Follow up soon after concert with emails or texts to hosts and other VIP’s you meet.
  • Reflection. What did I learn today? Write yourself a little note on Evernote, etc.

[NOTE: This is a slightly modified version of a previously published blog post, see HERE.]

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ClarinetMike’s Performance Anxiety Tips

ClarinetMike says, “Hey! Come to the Orfeo Music Festival in the Italian Alps! Great Performing and Learning Opportunities in July 2017 with Lessons, Coaching and Fun with ClarinetMike!”

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

Auditions! Music Juries! Finals! One of the most common questions I get in lessons, master classes, clinics, etc. is how to deal with the normal stress of performing. Therefore, I’ve decided to repost some common-sense tips on dealing with performance anxiety. Further help on coping with performance anxiety can be gleaned from the ideas of John Wooden – CLICK HERE.

Performance Anxiety Tips by Michael Dean, Ph.D. 

Successfully dealing with the concerns of playing or singing in stressful situations, such as recitals, contests, auditions, etc. is an important part of being a good musician. I have found the following tips useful with my students and in my own performing.

  1. Nervous is Normal. This is very important. The goal is not to eradicate nervousness. It is to perform well without letting nerves get in the way.
  1. There is a Tomorrow. Very few times in our lives do our careers hinge on a single performance. Also, not too many people die while performing!
  1. Be Confident/Be Positive. The key is to act or “be” confident whether you feel confident or not.
  1. Have a Routine. Most success is planned, so having a performing ritual will help.
  1. Prepare Music Well with Good Fundamentals. Music must be thoroughly practiced with sound basics of relaxation/body position, tone, rhythm, and technique. So, turn off that TV [and INTERNET!] and get to the practice room!
  1. Make Music. Understand that the point of performing is to make music. Careful reflection on this and related topics are an essential part of dealing with performance anxiety and good music-making in general.
  1. Avoid Alcohol, Drugs, etc. Be wary of chemicals that alter you. My band director would always tell us that, “Performing and alcohol do not mix.”
  1. Breathe. Spend the first few minutes on stage thinking about your air use. Further, make sure the breath marks are well-conceived and clearly marked on your music.
  1. Eat Bananas. Chop up a few of them on your cereal on the morning of a big performance. They have natural ingredients that help deal with stress.
  1. Eat Right/Exercise/Sleep 8 Hours A Night. Eating burritos at 1 a.m. the night before an 8 a.m. audition is usually not a good idea. Also, “Every hour of sleep before midnight counts as two” is a good old rule to follow.
  1. Relax in your Body/Concentrate in your Mind. Usually we do the opposite.
  1. Get in the Hall Before the Performance. The day before would be best, but playing a little on the stage even an hour or two before “Showtime” helps.
  1. Check your Clothes Before You Walk on Stage. Make sure your performing clothes are not too tight and/or restrictive. (I think we all know why clothes we have not worn recently might be too tight, don’t we?)
  1. DO IT!! There is no magic formula for dealing with performance anxiety. Learning to perform well takes time. It is more like exercising than turning on a light switch. Try to make small improvements every time you perform. Always be looking for opportunities to perform.

ClarinetMike says, “LOAD the music carefully with lots of SLOW PRACTICE and then UNLOAD fearlessly – GO FOR IT!”

[NOTE: The above information is based on the lecture presentation, “Perspectives on Performance Anxiety,” given by the author at the UMEA conference in February 1998]

This article originally appeared in and is © InterFACE (Journal of the Utah Music Educators Association) Fall 1998 (Volume 44, No. 1). (NOTE: This journal is now call The Utah Music Educators Journal.)

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ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Right Hand Down?

HandsRight Hand Down? It is a well-known band director trick to have clarinetists cover the holes of the lower section to help improve pitch in the throat tones. Is this really a good idea? I think the best answer is “Maybe.” Let me explain.

My understanding and experience are that throat tones (open G to third space Bb) tend to be flat acoustically. (There will always be exceptions, of course.) Someone might immediately ask, “Hey ClarinetMike! The clarinet players in my band are ALWAYS sharp in the throat tones!”  So, what is going on?

Here’s what I think is the issue: Embouchure. Clarinetists with an immature (or bad understanding of) embouchure will usually bite down hard on the mouthpiece and thus push the pitch sharp. Clarinetists with a mature (i.e. good) embouchure will find that the throat tones tend to be flat. Therefore, those 3rd clarinets with crummy embouchures (and likely soft reeds!) are going to be biting down hard on the mouthpiece and thus be sharp in throat tones.

Obviously, the best solution is to have the clarinetists play with a good embouchure [easier said than done!]. This would eliminate the need for “right hand down.”  However, in the heat of a rehearsal (with contest looming!) I think it is reasonable to have a clarinetist put his/her right hand down for tuning if sharp in throat tones in a slow passage.

A few notes (pun intended) on this:
1. If your clarinetists are sharp and you have them put down their right hand, I suggest telling them that this is likely because they need embouchure improvement. Possibly a good time to plug private lessons! (Check out my Embouchure and Embouchure Tips.)
2. Many clarinet teachers teach special “resonance fingerings” on throat tones to improve the quality of the sound. I support this; however, I strongly suggest that learning to voice notes well is even more valuable. (Also, do not conflate “right hand down” and “resonance fingerings.”)
3. Make absolutely sure that students ONLY put down fingers (right hand down or resonance fingerings) in slow passages and NOT in technical passages or scale work. Otherwise, good technique will be hindered.
4. If a clarinetist’s embouchure is good and throat tone pitch is not sharp: DO NOT have them put down their right hand. This will make a flat situation even flatter! Put this together with 3rd clarinets biting down hard and you’ll have a mess!
5. If a student has a good embouchure, then the natural slight flatness of pitch should be addressed by slightly raising air position/tongue position aka “voicing” a little higher.  This is what I do, fyi.
6. Beginner clarinet teachers should not teach “Over The Break” using the right hand down short cut.  The only exception to this is when a student is having real trouble and “freaking out.” Then, for a very, very limited time the student should be allowed to put it down. It is absolutely critical that students learn to move all the fingers together going “Over The Break” as this is how they will really play the clarinet.

Teachers: I’ve seen lots and lots of students over the years who had very dirty technique due to various pedagogical errors like #6 above. It is simply unacceptable for teachers to hamstring their students with having to go through a mountain of mind-bendingly slow practice to fix these sort of issues later.

ClarinetMike says, “Embouchure is everything!”

NOTE: Thanks to my dear friend, Bill Powell, for mentioning this issue a few years ago and sparking my thinking.

[The above is a revision of previous post.]

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ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: “Feed The Rhy-No!”

"I love Rhy-No Practice!"

“Dynamics are yummy! FEED ME!”

It was a dark and stormy night and I was practicing Robert Fruehwald’s Andy and Me for an upcoming recital. I was getting sleepy, so I went over to my nearby couch and took a nap. I had the most amazing dream. In the dream, the Practice Rhy-No came to me. Below is our brief conversation.

Practice Rhy-No: “ClarinetMike, Feed The Rhy-No!”

ClarinetMike: “Who are you?”

Practice Rhy-No: “I’m the Practice Rhy-No that you blogged about!”

ClarinetMike: “Uh,  do you want some plants to eat? I have some used clarinet reeds.”

Practice Rhy-No: “NOOOO!  I eat DYNAMICS!!!”

ClarinetMike: “What????”

Practice Rhy-No: “Yes! My food is Dynamics!”

After that, I woke up from the dream. I realized that when doing the Practice Rhy-No Practice Technique, you must always add dynamics.

ClarinetMike says, “Feed The Rhy-No!”

NOTE: The above image is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ceratotherium_simum_kwh_2.jpg

[The above is a very slightly revised version of previous post.]

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ClarinetMike Recital at Tarleton State University on Thursday, November 17!

Michael_Dean_color

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

I’ll be giving a recital at Tarleton State University on Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 7:30 pm with a clarinet master class in the afternoon. Admission is FREE! Program and Program Notes are below.

Tarleton State University
Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center Theatre
Stephenville, Texas
Thursday, November 17, 2016, 7:30 pm
Admission is Free
More Information HERE

Michael Dean, clarinet
Heather Hamilton, piano

Program

Summer Sunrise on the Mississippi (clarinet & cd) (2009)…….Robert Fruehwald (b. 1957)

Distant Voices (clarinet & cd) (2011)………………………………………………….Robert Fruehwald

Andy and Me (clarinet & cd) (2006)…………………………………………………..Robert Fruehwald

Intermission

Just A Thought (clarinet & piano) (2010)…………………………………….. James Grant (b. 1954)

“Bittersweet” (from Chocolates) (clarinet & piano) (2010)……………………………James Grant

Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa (clarinet & cd) (1997)…..Phillip Kent Bimstein (b. 1947)

Program Notes

Summer Sunrise on the Mississippi by Robert Fruehwald

There is an eloquence of silence…fruehwald
There is a haunting sense of loneliness…
The tranquility is profound, infinitely satisfying.

That is all beautiful, soft and rich and beautiful,
A pink flush, a powder of gold, a purple haze.

from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain

“I teach music composition and theory at Southeast Missouri State University. Every day, when walking home, I would see a glint of blue through the trees on the horizon. For many months, I thought I was seeing the sky. Then, one day, I saw a stern-wheel steamboat squarely in the middle of that patch of blue – what I had been seeing was the Mississippi River. Every day after that, I would watch the river and observe its moods. It’s been my daily companion ever since. Recently, our music department at Southeast Missouri moved from the main university campus to a new one on the banks of the Mississippi. Now I observe the river up close. I see different things every day.

I decided to write a piece about the river, a piece that expresses its mood on a warm day, early in the morning, just as my own day would begin. I looked to Mark Twain for some lyrics and found a suitable passage in his Life on the Mississippi (published the year before The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn).  I thought Twain’s words would make a great basis for a song, and I think that someday they will; however, instead of a vocal work they inspired me to write this instrumental solo. When I recorded the river sounds on the CD accompaniment, I put the microphone right down on the Mississippi River (at Cape Girardeau, Missouri). I also recorded some other nearby sounds: birds, cicadas, a passing train, etc.” Robert Fruehwald

Summer Sunrise on the Mississippi was commissioned by Michael Dean. He premiered it on his October 2009 tour of universities in Florida. It is on the CD, Woodwind Music of Robert Fruehwald, Vol. 1 – available at cdbaby.com, iTunes.com and Amazon.com for purchase and download. The sheet music and CD accompaniment for Summer Sunrise is available for free download at http://www6.semo.edu/fruehwald/downloads.html. Robert Fruehwald’s bio and contact information are available at http://semo.edu/music/faculty/fruehwald.html.

Distant Voices by Robert Fruehwald

Distant Voices was originally composed for flute, oboe, clarinet, and CD. This new version for clarinet and CD was commissioned by Michael Dean. He premiered it on his 2011 tour of Arizona, California and Nevada.

“Years ago I became fascinated by the idea that sounds from long ago could be preserved. I read an article about Richard Woodbridge III, who was supposed to have extracted sound from 6,500-year-old Mesopotamian pottery. The recording was supposed to be scratchy and indistinct, but it was supposed to contain the sound of a potter’s wheel in addition to vocal sounds. I have never been able to track the recording down, I’m not even sure whether the recording is real or a hoax. Still, the idea of the thing is evocative and it gave me the idea for a piece—Distant Voices.

Most of the piece is based on recordings made more than a hundred years ago. These include the sound of a choir of thousands singing Handel in London’s Crystal Palace on June 29, 1888, a bit of Brahms, a concert band circa 1900, an advertisement for an Edison phonograph, and the voice of Edison himself. The end of Distant Voices was inspired by the Mesopotamian recording. It contains noise, with faint vocal sounds. The very end of the piece includes the most distant sound of all, the sound of the Huygens space probe flying through the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon, Titan.” Robert Fruehwald

Distant Voices is on the CD, Woodwind Music of Robert Fruehwald, Vol. 2 – available at cdbaby.com, iTunes.com and Amazon.com for purchase and download.  The sheet music and CD accompaniment for Distant Voices is available from the composer at rfruehwald@semo.edu.

Andy and Me by Robert Fruehwald

Andy and Me is a whimsical look at the relationship between Mike and the newest addition to his family, Andy. The sounds on the CD accompaniment represent (and feature) Andy in a kind of conversation with the clarinet music played by Mike.” Robert Fruehwald

Andy and Me was commissioned by Michael Dean. He premiered the work at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri in December of 2006. Andy and Me is on Michael Dean’s CD, Desertscape: New Music for Clarinet – available at cdbaby.com, iTunes.com, and Amazon.com. The sheet music and CD accompaniment for Andy and Me is available from the composer at rfruehwald@semo.edu.

Just A Thought by James GrantJames Grant

“Just A Thought is the third of four recital pieces commissioned by and dedicated to 78 adventure-seeking tubists representing 30 states and three countries, who fearlessly joined the 2001 Solstice/Equinox Commissioning Consortium. As each Solstice and Equinox approached during the year 2001, a new piece was sent out to the participants. All four pieces now exist in versions scored for virtually every orchestral and band instrument and are programmed frequently at conferences and on student and faculty recitals throughout the year. Just A Thought is a gentle, lyrical ballad that, in the end, is just a thought.'” James Grant

“Bittersweet” (from Chocolates) by James Grant

“Slow Jazz. Chocolates are jazzy torch songs in the tradition of the passionate, tuneful ballads of the American 40s and 50s. Chocolates was commissioned by and is dedicated to violist Michelle La Course. The first Chocolate served here, “Bittersweet,” offers a soulful narrative that speaks to devotion, poignancy, romance, uncertainty and longing.” James Grant

James Grant’s bio and the sheet music for Just A Thought and “Bittersweet” are available at http://www.jamesgrantmusic.com/.

Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa by Phillip Kent Bimstein

“On a summer night several years ago, not far from my home in Southern Utah, an unsuspecting group of frogs sang by a slickrock waterhole up a narrow side canyon in Zion National Park. Little did they know their voices would soon be heard on concert stages all across the world and on the Internet. And they certainly never expected to share the bill with chirping crickets, howling coyotes, and a classical musician.

But I was hiding nearby and had stealthily placed a microphone and a digital recorder at the edge of the waterhole. I also recorded the sounds of coyotes, crickets, rocks, thunder, and the rushing waters of the Virgin River. After transferring these natural sounds into my computer, I shaped and arranged them on my synthesizer keyboard. Finally, I orchestrated the sounds into a piece of music for tape, and wrote an accompanying score for a live musician to interact with the natural sounds.” Phillip Kent Bimstein

Bimstein composed Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa as a part of his three-year Meet The Composer residency, which celebrates the landscapes of Southern Utah.  It was originally written for Sierra Winds’ oboist Stephen Caplan, who premiered the work in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1997.

Bimstein arranged Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa for clarinet for Michael Dean in 1998. Dean premiered the clarinet version at the NACWPI National Symposium at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana in January of 1999. He recorded Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa on his Red Mesa Trio CD – available at vcisinc.com. The work has also been arranged for other solo instruments such as horn, trombone, bassoon, flute, and violin. Bimstein’s bio and the sheet music and CD accompaniment for Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa are available at http://www.bimstein.com/.

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ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: The Rhy-No Practice Technique

"I love Rhy-No Practice!"

Clarinet Mike says, “Spend quality time with the Practice Rhy-No!”

The Rhy-No Practice Technique

Phyllis: “ClarinetMike! The All-State Music is hard! I don’t know how to work on it!”

ClarinetMike: “Don’t panic Phyllis. Just spend quality time with the Practice Rhy-No.”

One of the most important things that a music teacher needs to do is to teach students how to practice and prepare music. A few years ago I came up with a simple system: The Rhy-No Practice Technique. Originally designed for young students, I have found this technique to be very helpful with all my students’ (and my own!) music preparation.

The system is simple – just break a short passage into two parts: rhythm and notes. Work on each part separately and slowly, and then put them together. Hence, Rhythm-Notes or Rhy-No Practice!

Here’s how Rhy-No Practice works:

1. Pick out a hard passage – a measure or two.

2. Clap (or sing) the rhythm of the passage. Go as slowly as needed to accurately learn the counting. A metronome is essential, of course.

3. Play the notes of the passage without rhythm very slowly and deliberately.(If students don’t understand this, just have them play all notes as slow steady half notes.) Concentrate on finger movement, tone quality, note connections, etc.  Repeat several times making sure that all notes speak well and there are no breaks in sound – esp. “Over The Break.”

4. Sing, then Play the passage with rhythm and notes combined as written.

It seems to help my students to sing the passage as best they can after Step 3 above, i.e. before playing it in Step 4.  Make sure students at least get the rhythm correct when singing – singing on pitch is not important here. When doing this in lessons, some students are often shy to sing. So, I sing with them loudly. This generally encourages them to sing, at least a little!

I strongly encourage you to freely combine the Rhy-No Practice Technique with other practice methods. Also, make sure to include dynamics as much as possible.

NOTE: The above image is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ceratotherium_simum_kwh_2.jpg

[The above is a slightly revised version of a previous blog post.]

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ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Fingerings for F# and Eb

ClarinetMike says, “Teach good fingerings.”

ClarinetMike says, “Teach good fingerings.”

ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Fingerings for F# and Eb

Fingerings for F# and Eb. Below I discuss two common fingerings that should be taught to beginning (and all) clarinetists.

First space F#/Gb.  Beginners are often taught to play this note in a chromatic scale with thumb and right bottom 2 side (trill) keys. I strongly suggest that teachers teach the standard fingering of left hand index finger instead. Have students use it all the time, even in the chromatic scale.  In actual music it almost always is the preferred fingering for F#/Gb. Learning to “flip” between thumb F and index F# is an important technique for all clarinetists.

I was taught to introduce alternate fingerings early and often – and I agree. However, I would make it clear to the students that the basic (or guide) fingering for F# is index finger. FYI, legendary clarinet performer/teacher, Robert Marcellus, said in an interview, “…the two side trill keys are not chromatic ‘F#’ like a lot of people play. The chromatic of “F#” is just the index finger in the left hand.”

[However, if for some reason you simply MUST teach trill key F# in a chromatic scale, I plead with you to make sure your students also know regular index finger F#. I’ve seen far too many clarinet students use trill key F# all the time as their usual fingering – I suspect their junior high band directors never taught the standard fingering to them.]

First line Eb/D# (also Bb/A# second space above the staff). Beginners are often taught to play this note with the left hand fork key (also called the “sliver” or “banana” key). Instead, teachers should teach the students to use the normal fingering of the top two fingers of left hand with right bottom side (trill) key.  And, as above, I strongly suggest this fingering be used also in the chromatic scale. Again, this fingering is almost always the preferred fingering in actual music. Further, the left hand fork key is very difficult to use if a student’s fingers aren’t slender. FYI, one of my teachers told me a story about a famous clarinetist who disliked the left hand fork key so much he had it taken off the clarinet and its hole plugged up!

I want to restate that I think alternate fingerings should be introduced early and often. The more fingerings a clarinetist knows, the better he/she can solve technical problems in music. As John Wooden said, “Little Things Make Big Things Happen.”

(Above post is a slightly revised version of a previous post.)

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