ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Maximize Your Maxims

ClarinetMike Teaching a Lesson

ClarinetMike Teaching a Lesson

Using short, memorable comments during clarinet instruction is an effective way of quickly and concisely communicating an idea or concept. One of my heroes, John Wooden, was famous for his “Maxims.” (FYI, check out my recent John Wooden article HERE.)

It is important that teachers consider and evaluate their maxims. We need to make sure that what is being conveyed in a saying to a student is consistent with our overall pedagogy and teaching philosophy. For example, many teachers say, “Practice makes permanent.” While there is much truth to this saying, I prefer to say, “Practice makes habit.” I believe that change is possible and, in fact, constantly necessary. As John Wooden said, “Not all change is progress, but there is no progress without change.” (AND, I find the word, “permanent” a bit depressing!)

Some of my favorite teaching quotes:

“Relax in your body, concentrate in your mind [not the other way around!].”

“If you can’t clap it, you can’t play it.”

“Rhythm First!”

“It’s always the rhythm.”

“If you can’t play it slow, you can’t play it fast.”

“If you learn it at Mezzo-Nothing, you’ll perform it at Mezzo-Nothing.” [on the importance of working on dynamics as a piece is learned]

“Gain relaxation, maintain relaxation, and then regain relaxation.”

“Slow and steady gets you ready.”

“Be confident and play with a great sound.”

ClarinetMike says, “Listen to the words of the great Winston Churchill below.”

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.” (This and many other quotes can be found at

NOTE: The above is a slightly revised version of a previous post.

About ClarinetMike

American clarinetist MICHAEL DEAN performs and teaches internationally and across the USA to consistent praise such as "world-class clarinetist and pedagogue," "consummate performer," "inspirational," "outstanding teacher," "super," "brilliant performer," and "one of the best clinicians I have ever seen." His career is headlined by appearances at Carnegie Hall, ClarinetFest, NACWPI, Eastman School of Music, and Royal Northern College of Music with recent recitals and master classes in Canada, Italy, Spain, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas. In July, he will again return to Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at the international Orfeo Music Festival 2019. He is featured on 5 commercial CD's and on New Media, such as YouTube. He is currently preparing another new clarinet CD, Postcards from Silver Lake. Dr. Dean has given more than 500 clinics, master classes and performances at high schools, universities, conferences and other venues. For 11 years he was a clarinetist with the Paducah Symphony and he's also performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Southeast Chamber Players, Red Mesa Trio, and Duo 35. His articles appear in journals such as Southwestern Musician, WINDPLAYER, NACWPI Journal and The Bandmasters' Review. As "ClarinetMike," he writes for his widely-viewed ClarinetMike Blog, the Internet’s #1 clarinet blog read in 150 countries on 6 continents: After a successful 25 years of teaching clarinet at the university level, he relocated to his native Texas due to family concerns. He is a past president and former National Board officer of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI). Dr. Michael Dean studied clarinet performance at Texas Tech University, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas at Arlington. His teachers include Robert Walzel, Phil Aaholm, Carol Jessup, Jess Youngblood, and Bob Ackerman. His web page,, features video of his teaching and performing as well as information on his CD's and other publications. He is a BG France Performing Artist.
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8 Responses to ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Maximize Your Maxims

  1. Tommy frasca says:

    Great advice once again. I can’t tell you how much your words help me everyday. Thx again so much.

  2. Marc Taylor says:

    My teacher says, “If you can’t sing it, you can’t play it”. Same idea.

  3. jcdavis67 says:

    I agree! I believe in teaching the fundamentals from the moment a students has an instrument in their hands. I have learned to believe that students can achieve a beautiful sound from day one. Technique of course comes later, but fundamentals need to be taught (posture, hand position, embouchure, counting) right from the beginning. Thank you for these great reminders Mike!

  4. Pingback: ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: “I Will Clap The Music Every Day” | ClarinetMike Blog

  5. Pingback: Supercharge Your Teaching With Powerful Maxims! | ClarinetMike Blog

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