Extra Time Management Tip!

ClarinetMike in the studio recording a new CD.

I recently posted 10 Time Management Tips on my ClarinetMike Blog. The third tip is:

  1. Learn how to quickly (and courteously) get rid of unexpected visitors when they drop by your practice room or office to just “chat.”

A few years ago, I posted these tips in a ClarinetMike Blog post on various social media outlets and an astute person on LinkedIn asked how this could be done, i.e. “nicely get rid of people.” Below is my response to him.


Years ago, I heard a recording of a time management/motivation speaker and former minister named Coy Quisenberry.  He explained how he quickly and courteously “moved along” overly-chatty visitors to his office when he was a minister at a church.  The following is similar to what he said.

After a few minutes of letting the visitor speak, I would get up from my chair and walk out of my office at the same time continuing the conversation. The visitor would always follow me through the doorway into the hall outside. I would then walk the visitor down the hall toward the elevator (to put him/her on it!). I would gently say, “It’s great to see you and have a chance to catch up on things, but I really need to get back to my office. Please give me a call some time. Thanks!” And then I would head back to my office. Most of the time this worked and the visitor was gone.

If the guest was a woman, I sometimes would head toward the Men’s restroom. This also worked well. On a few occasions, when a guest just wouldn’t stop talking, I would tell them with more firmness, but nicely, that I had work to do and just couldn’t keep speaking to them. They would invariably realize they were being a pest and would apologize. And, importantly, leave without offense being taken.

ClarinetMike says, “Be like old pastor Coy Quisenberry.”

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Upper Midwest Tour 2020: ClarinetMike to Perform and Give Master Classes in Michigan and Ohio in February 2020!

ClarinetMike’s tour will include a recital and master class at the University of Michigan!

HEY! I’m excited to announce that I’ll be giving clarinet recitals and master classes on a solo tour of Michigan and Ohio this coming February 2020! I’ll be performing new music for solo clarinet, including a world premiere and possibly two! Details on music, venues, dates and times coming soon!

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10 Time Management Tips

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are often a super busy time for musicians (and everyone!). Therefore, I offer the following 10 Time Management Tips – with a few NEW updates – from an article I published in the NACWPI Journal (citation below).

10 Time Management Tips by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

1. Handle mail only once. Read it now or read it later (not both!). Emails should be answered within 24 hours. Extra Teacher Tip: If you use your school’s email, make sure that your school’s email storage has not reached its limit. NEW: These rules also now apply to texts!

2. Practice/study/work where you cannot be interrupted by the phone. If possible, turn off your cell phone. NEW: Don’t look at that phone!

3. Learn how to quickly (and courteously) get rid of unexpected visitors when they drop by your practice room or office to just “chat.”

4. Always strive to improve your time management skills: Google it, read a book, attend a lecture, etc.

5. Exercise/Eat Right/Sleep 7-8 hours every night. “Every hour of sleep before midnight counts as two” is a good old rule to follow.

6. Recruit help. You do not have to do every chore yourself.

7. Carefully consider goals and goal-setting. Remember the Chinese proverb: “A journey of
a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

8. Just do it! Be disciplined. The more you are disciplined, the more disciplined you will

9. Failure: If you fall down, don’t just lie there and complain. LEARN, get up, and keep going. Remember the words of John Wooden, “Don’t whine, complain or make excuses – just do the best you can.” NEW: John Wooden also said, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

10.  Television and the Internet are your enemies (at least as far as time is concerned).  Now, a new enemy is here: the SMARTPHONE. [NO! You don’t have to check Twitter on your iPhone every few minutes to see if your college football team has a new offensive coordinator….]

ClarinetMike says, “Re-read these tips and then put down your iPhone and get back to work!”

Original Article © by The National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors NACWPI Journal, Vol. XLVI, No. 3, spring 1998. Thanks to NACWPI for kind permission.

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10 Performance Anxiety Tips

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

One of the most frequent questions I get in master classes, clinics, lessons, etc. is how to deal with the normal stress of playing in front of people. Therefore, I’ve decided to repost 10 common sense tips on dealing with performance anxiety.

10 Performance Anxiety Tips by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

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.
  2. Have a Routine. Most success is planned, so having a performing ritual will help.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Relax in your Body/Concentrate in your Mind. Usually we do the opposite.
  9. 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?)
  10. 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.

EXTRA: ClarinetMike says, “Carefully Plan and Arrive Early! If possible, try to get in the audition room early and play some.”

[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]

The 10 tips above are from an article that originally appeared in and is © InterFACE (Journal of the Utah Music Educators Association) Fall 1998 (Volume 44, No. 1).

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Don’t Look Down!

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

I’ve noticed that many young clarinetists, especially beginners, at times have a tendency to look down their clarinets while playing. Looking down the clarinet while playing can create bad habits and problems:  embouchure, head position, posture, etc. can be impacted.

This tendency to look down is especially common when students are having difficulty on a fingering, such as going over the break. Also, some young students have small fingers and can have trouble covering the open holes.

Therefore, make sure to teach your students to look straight ahead at the music and trust their fingers.

ClarinetMike says, “Don’t Look Down!”

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Upgrade Your Sound: Project!

ClarinetMike just gave six all-state master classes to high school clarinet and bass clarinet students.

Today I gave six all-state clarinet and bass clarinet master classes at a high school here in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. In today’s master classes, I worked on improving the tone qualities of the students and this included working on their sound projection. So, I thought it would be good to offer the below article I wrote a few years ago. NOTE: These ideas should generally work with any wind instrument.

Clarinet Sound Projection
Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

“Andy! Pretend I’m on the back row of the hall and I’m half-deaf
from going to a loud concert. I want to hear your clarinet solo.
So play that solo straight to me.”

We’ve all heard and said similar things about sound projection to our students. We realize the importance of getting the sound out to the audience. Unfortunately, in the mad dash of preparing our students to perform we often neglect or under-emphasize this important concept.

Many of the important things I work on with my students (such as relaxation, articulation, etc.) can be tricky to explain and take a long time to achieve significant results. However, sound projection is much easier to teach and gets results much more quickly.

The following is a look at some ideas on sound projection and some suggestions on teaching them to clarinetists as a section and/or soloist. Most of these ideas will be useful to other instruments as well.

Know Your Place (Solo vs. Ensemble Sound)

We have all been to a junior high band festival and heard the 1st chair clarinet (or trumpet, etc.) play a solo that didn’t get off the stage – it had that “young band solo sound.” The main problem (other than possibly performance anxiety – a topic for another day) is that the student has likely not been consistently taught to get the sound out to the audience (i.e. the judges). He or she is not playing with a “Solo” sound.

My band director in graduate school, Allan McMurray, used to speak about the difference between performing with a “Solo” sound vs. an “Ensemble” sound. A “Solo” sound is a tone that zips right off the stage and straight to the audience. An “Ensemble” sound is one that blends and appropriately fits into the whole group. (The ensemble should project its sound, but it does so as a unit in support of the solos, etc.)

We can expand the concept of “Solo” sound to include a “Soli” sound. This is where a small group (a clarinet section, for example) blends their sound together and then projects it out to the audience – like one huge clarinet soloist.

Using the 4 (or 8!) Laws to Teach Sound Projection

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said,

“The four laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition. The   goal is to create a correct habit that can be produced instinctively under great pressure. To make sure this goal was achieved, I created eight laws of learning; namely, explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition and repetition.” (Wooden, p. 144. Check out Wooden’s books – they are a life-changing treasure trove of genuine wisdom.)


As per the above, explain to the students about the importance of good sound projection and the “Solo vs. Ensemble” sound distinction. Also, instruct them about how this relates to playing an ensemble soli with a “Soli” sound.

Also, I believe that it is much better to teach students to project the sound out to a specific point in the hall and NOT just a generalized “fill up the room with sound.”


You can demonstrate this easily with your voice or use an instrument.  Speak to the students in a non-projecting voice and then speak straight to a percussionist in the back row. Ask the students which one sounds better. If you could show them this in a large auditorium it would be even more effective.


Have the students copy you with their voices. Have the clarinet section sing a prominent soli section of a work with a “Soli” sound. Be sure to have them blend their voices together and then project out together as “one big clarinet soloist.” I like to say, “lock arms mentally.” (FYI, I have found that having students sing the music, rhythm, etc. is a great way for them to learn.)

After they get the idea with singing, have them try it on their instruments. You may need to make corrections to improve this. (“Correction” is included in this law of learning, FYI.) Work to get them to sense how it sounds and even “feels” when they are projecting as a blended section soli or soloist.


Talk about and work on sound projection often in rehearsals and lessons – I work on it a little in every one of my own practice sessions. (See clarinetmike.com/docs/Clarinet_Practice_Routine.pdf)

Also, when practicing in a small room, have the students pretend they are in a familiar large hall and play to a specific spot in the back.


In conclusion, I want to remind you that teaching students to project their sounds is really not difficult. However, I strongly urge you to mention this early and often in rehearsals, lessons, etc.  as you cannot just mention it at the “last minute” before a concert or contest.

I encourage you to think of new and creative ways to convey this information to your students. I would enjoy hearing about how you teach sound projection and I welcome any feedback on this topic (or anything else). I may be contacted at my professional website: clarinetmike.com.

NOTE: Thanks to the Texas Bandmasters Association for kind permission to reprint this article. The original article can be found HERE and appeared in the Bandmasters Review, Vol. 11. Issue 1 in September 2009.

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“Head In The Right Direction!”

Proportions of the Head (c. 1488 – 1489) is a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.

In a recent video post, I considered the importance of not leaning over too much when playing the clarinet. A related issue is that of head position/weight. The average adult head weighs about 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) – imagine a 10-pound bowling ball on your neck! Unless you are careful, leaning over when playing the clarinet can lead to biting down too much on the mouthpiece because of the weight of the head.

So, if I have a student who is leaning over too much when playing the clarinet, in addition to telling them to not lean over and have the clarinet come to them, I also often tell them to have more of the weight of their head resting on the neck. Sometimes I’ll mention this head weight issue by itself if I get the feeling they are biting down too much on the mouthpiece. This posture adjustment almost always benefits the student; it usually produces a better clarinet tone as the reed is allowed to vibrate more freely. (See E-Tips for E-Lips Clarinet Embouchure Tips)

ClarinetMike: “Try it out for yourself and with your students.”

NOTE: Image above is in Public Domain and can be found HERE.  This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.

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