ClarinetMike’s Texas TMEA All-State Clarinet Clinic 2016-17: Soprano Clarinet Etude No. 1, “The Polonaise”

ClarinetMike says, "It's all about MUSIC! Push yourself to play as beautifully as possible."

ClarinetMike says, “It’s all about MUSIC! Push yourself to play as beautifully as possible.”

Below are my complete clinic notes on Etude No. 1, “The Polonaise,” from this year’s Texas TMEA All-State Soprano Clarinet Etudes. My notes on Etude No. 2, “The Slow Etude” and Etude No. 3 “The Caprice” are available HERE and HERE. Watch for more All-State Help from ClarinetMike coming soon!

ClarinetMike’s Texas TMEA All-State Clarinet Clinic 2016-17: Soprano Clarinet Etude No. 1, “The Polonaise”

Etude 1, “The Polonaise,” Page: 22, Key: G Major, Etude Title: 40 Studies, No. 20, Play from beginning to end. Tempo: Quarter Note = 76-84 [NO FASTER!], Errata: m65 beat 3 change articulation to slur 2 tongue 2.

Composer and Style: This Rose etude is based on a violin etude by French composer, conductor, violinist, and pedagogue, Jacques Féréol Mazas (1782-1849), from his Violin Etudes, Opus 36, Book 1. A Polonaise is a polish dance generally of moderate tempo in triple meter with repeated rhythmic figures and sections. Listen to violinists (below in Suggested Listening) and copy the style of articulation, etc.

Overview: There are 3 main issues in this etude: THE FIGURE, Dynamic Contrast, and Polonaise Violin Style (especially articulation).

Sections and Phrases: Etude breaks into 3 clear sections defined by key changes: S1 = m1-m36, S2 = m37-m67, S3 = m68 to end. Section 1 has 4 phrases: P1 = m1-m8, P2 = m8-m16, P3 = m16-28 with m25-m28 as a transition and cadenza, P4 = m29-m36. Section 2 has 3 phrases: P5 = m37-m44, P6 = m45-m56, P7 = m57-m67. Section 3 has 1 phrase and a Coda: P8 = m68-m75, Coda = m75 to end.

THE FIGURE: Measure 1, beat 1 features the first of 11 occurrences of a repeated rhythmic figure of a grace note to 4 sixteenths with a trill on the first sixteenth – I call this “THE FIGURE.” This kind of repeated figure or “lick” is very common stylistically in a polonaise. I suggest playing each of the 11 occurrences of THE FIGURE exactly the same way. Put the grace note just before the downbeat with one trill only on the first sixteenth note. This is tricky because that THE FIGURE be done absolutely in time with no change in tempo or rubato – for example, the last 3 sixteenths of THE FIGURE must be exactly on the second, third, and fourth parts of the beat. This must be worked out VERY slowly. I suggest going slow sixteenth as the beat and then speeding up the tempo with a metronome. It seems to help to work on several occurrences of THE FIGURE at the same time. IMPORTANT: Do NOT work on THE FIGURE by leaving out the grace note and/or the trill. Don’t tell yourself, “I’ll fix it later” – you’ll end up fussin’ and cussin’ when it takes you forever to relearn it the right way. (This is the same idea as learning the dynamics as you go – see #6 HERE.)

Musical Issues: Think VIOLIN. Think DANCE. David Hite’s comment, “stately and with buoyance” = stately means “having a dignified, unhurried, and grand manner; majestic in manner and appearance” and buoyance means “lightness of spirit; cheerfulness.” Thirty-second notes in m3, m4 and similar ones elsewhere should be only slightly separated (i.e. detached) as indicated in the small notes above m3. In P3, slow down on first 2 beats of m26, take a breath, and then start slowly and softly on beat 3 and do a cadenza with a speed up (pressamente) and crescendo in m27 and m28. P4 should, therefore, be A Tempo. Notice All The Dynamic Contrasts! In m38, play the upbeat of beat 3 forte – “inquieto” means “restless, uneasy, or agitated.” M61 is marked Dolce in the original violin version starting on beat 2.

Problem Passages: THE FIGURE – work on all 11 of them! Transition and Cadenza in m25-m28, High Notes in m63 and m64.

Technical Issues: Watch for phrases and measures that repeat. Tonguing. Staccatos should not be too short – think “separated” or “detached.” In the slow preparation of any short-articulated or staccato type passage (especially the sixteenths), do NOT practice it slowly with the notes real short. In other words, when you practice slowly, play the articulation with a mostly normal or regular tongue stroke with not much separation. As you go faster over time and the passage becomes ingrained and learned, it will be easy to adjust the length of the articulation to the desired shortness. Be sure to use your ears to help you decide how short to play the notes. Playing the notes too short can sound bad. Also, there are some repeated notes that are tricky – esp. the high D m63-m64. Consider “Dee” air position (See HERE.) Fingerings. In m1, I like using left C#. This is just my preference. (FYI, I think the teaching of “keep everything in the same hand” is sometimes “too cute by half.” I think every problem must be addressed on its own merits.) In THE FIGURE at m8 I like to use regular A on grace note and side key on trill. M10 use a left C. In THE FIGURE at m29 use Eb key with right pinky until upbeat of beat 2 (i.e. don’t take Eb key off on high C# as usual). At THE FIGURE in m31 AND m74, use regular high D for grace note and side key trill fingering for trill. In m64: for high D#’s use fork fingering and for high F# use overblow Bb fingering (use Bb second space above staff fingering with very high air position – see E-Tips for E-Lips #3 and #5 HERE).

Scale and Arpeggio Cheat Sheet: G and C major scales. Important Arpeggios: G, D7, D, A7, C, and G7

Suggested Listening: Listen to other Polonaises for violin. Here’s a good one:  Also, listen to great violinists, such as Joshua Bell. (When I was a student, one of my teachers told me, “If you really want to learn to make music, listen to singers and string players.”)

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 Italy, Spain, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas. In July, he will return to Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at Orfeo Music Festival 2017. 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. He's performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Southeast Chamber Players, Red Mesa Trio, and Duo 35. He performed for 11 years with the Paducah Symphony. His articles appear in journals such as Southwestern Musician, WINDPLAYER, NACWPI Journal and The Bandmasters' Review. As "ClarinetMike," he writes for his widely-read ClarinetMike Blog, in 150 countries on 6 continents. He was recently a tenured Associate Professor of Clarinet for 11 years at Southeast Missouri State University. He returned to his native Texas in 2012 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, Bob Ackerman, and Pam Youngblood. 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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2 Responses to ClarinetMike’s Texas TMEA All-State Clarinet Clinic 2016-17: Soprano Clarinet Etude No. 1, “The Polonaise”

  1. Mary Williams says:

    This brings back memories of my band days in the late 1940s-1950. I have taken up playing the clarinet again, in my 70s and 80s, and thoroughly enjoy it. I even take monthly lessons. Encourage you students to keep it up – it adds much enjoyment in later life. Of course I did take about 50 or 60 years off for life, and raising a family. Music is such an enduring thing. I wish I could attend your clinic!

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