ClarinetMike’s Texas ATSSB All-State Clarinet Clinic 2016-17: Soprano Clarinet Preparation Tips

Dr. Michael Dean "ClarinetMike"

ClarinetMike says, “Play with BOLD dynamics!”

Below are my complete clinic notes for this year’s ATSSB (Association of Texas Small School Bands) All-State Soprano Clarinet Audition Materials.

ClarinetMike’s Texas ATSSB All-State Clarinet Clinic:
2016-17 Soprano Clarinet Preparation Tips
Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”
“Building Great Clarinetists”
BG France Performing Artist
Clarinet Performing, Teaching and Consulting * 682-888-7639 *


Prepare your scales as if they are etudes or solos. Don’t just run through them quickly and thoughtlessly. The required etudes are built on scales, as is almost all music. Therefore, careful preparation of scales with good fundamentals (relaxation, tone, counting, etc.) will pay big rewards on the etudes and all the music you play.

Practice a scale slurred first, then work on the tongued version. Slurring will allow you to hear how smooth (or not) the connections between notes are.

Don’t forget to practice the chromatic scale. Many consider it to be the most important scale. I suggest starting your scale practice with it.

Work on cleanly going over the break! This is often neglected and results in a lack of smoothness in the playing. The finger combinations for going over the break are tricky and must be addressed daily by clarinetists at every level. Also, DO NOT use throat tone resonance fingers (or keeping right hand down, etc.) when doing scales. This will slow down and dirty the technique.

Make sure you have good tone, relaxed body position, good breathing, etc. as you learn the scales. Otherwise, you will be memorizing flaws that will be harder to fix later.


Etude Book: David Hite editor, Artistic Studies, Book 1 – From the French School, Published by Southern Music [Rose Etudes] (For official ATSSB listing, CLICK HERE.) Use Year A For 2016-2017

Note: Cyrille Rose (1830-1902) was a very important clarinet teacher at the Paris Conservatory and 1st clarinetist with the Paris Opera orchestra for 34 years. Rose did not compose these etudes, but he adapted and enhanced etudes written for other instruments. He “clarinetized” them.

Practice Tip: Load accurate information by using Rhy-No Practice Technique with BOLD Dynamics – CLICK HERE

Etude 1, “The Slow Etude,” Adagio by Fiorillo, Page 26, #24, Etude Title: 40 Studies, No. 24, Play from beginning through measure 15. Tempo: Quarter Note = 54-60 [learn in 6/perform in 6 or 3], Errata: The last note of line 1 should be an Ab.

Composer and Style: This Rose etude is based on a violin etude by German mandolinist/violinist/violist/composer Federigo Fiorillo (1755-1823?) from his 36 Caprices for Violin [#22 is our etude]. This etude is almost certainly influenced by opera – Fiorillo was the son of an Italian opera composer. Also, and most importantly, recall Rose was 1st clarinetist with the Paris Opera orchestra for 34 years. So, THINK OPERA! “Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve” and make the judges cry!!

Overview: This slow etude has many opportunities for emotional musical expression and creativity. There are 3 major issues in the etude: Tone, Phrasing (especially Dynamic Contrasts), and Counting.

Sections and Phrases: Etude breaks down into 2 phrases: P1 = m1-m7 and P2 = 8m-m15.

Tempo: Some students will be able to learn and perform this etude in 3; however, many students should learn, if not also perform, this etude in 6 with eighth note as the beat (one eighth note = one beat). Learning and performing in 3 at a slow tempo would make it difficult for many students to keep a consistently steady beat and keep rhythmic patterns proportional.

Musical Issues: The tempo indication, “Adagio,” means “slow.” In m1, “Con grandezza” means “with grandeur, with dignity.” In m8, “intimomente” means “intimately, private and personal.” Notice the big contrast between m1, forte with grandeur and m8, piano and intimate. Always know and follow the terms and indications that are on the music. Always play with the most beautiful tone possible. In m2, move the piano dynamic to the G#. In m6 don’t accent the G too much. In an audition, tone quality should be considered one of the most important factors. [Note to All-Region Judges: This the Slow etude! Please do not reward students who play extremely fast with a bad sound and no dynamics or musicianship at all. At the audition, please don’t sit there just bean-counting mistakes as your only adjudication – this is music, not football!]

Problem Passages: The counting in m6 and m8-m9 is tricky.

Technical Issues: Fingerings: In m11, use left F#. Trills: Start the trill in m7 slowly and speed it up. Stop the trill on beat 6 and do the grace notes on the upbeat.

Scale and Arpeggio Cheat Sheet: Scales: A minor/C major. Arpeggios: A minor, E major, D minor, and C major – esp. m10 and m13.

Suggested Listening: Listen to opera singers Natalie Dessay and Maria Callas. (I’m especially crazy about Natalie Dessay.) Here’s a few videos (click on the name): Dessay 1Dessay 2Dessay 3, and Callas. Here’s also a video of a Fiorillo etude on violin CLICK HERE.

Etude 2, “The Fast Etude,” Allegro Vivace by Schubert, Page: 25, #23, Etude Title: 40 Studies, No. 23, Play from the beginning to the first note of measure 28. Tempo: Dotted Quarter Note = 60-72 [learn in 6/perform in 2, if possible]

Composer and Style: This Rose etude is based on a violin etude by violinist/composer François Schubert (not related to the more famous Franz Schubert of “Unfinished Symphony” fame) from his 9 Etudes for Violin [#8 is our etude]. Listen to violinists (below in Suggested Listening) and copy the style of articulation, etc. (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.”)

Overview: There are 4 main issues in this etude: 6/8 and Counting, Tonguing (“Betty” CLICK HERE), Key/Accidentals in second section, and Dynamics/Style.

Sections and Musical Issues: Etude breaks into 2 clear sections: S1 = m1-m16 and S2 = m17-m28. Play this etude with lots of life (vivace!). Check out the dynamics and other indications carefully – DO THEM! The only exception to this is duramente (hardness or firmness). I do not recommend duramente; play the etude as “fun and light-hearted” as suggested in last year’s TMEA Performance Guide for this etude.

Problem Passages: Section 2, esp. m17-m28, is very difficult. Work on this at every practice session, if possible.

Technical Issues: 6/8 and counting: Learn in 6 and perform in 2, if possible. Tonguing:  Staccatos should not be too short – think “separated” or “detached.” Note the wedge indication. Play it half value and with an accent – but keep tone consistently beautiful. Also, in the slow preparation of any short-articulated or staccato type passage, 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. Grace Notes: Put m4 grace notes on upbeat of beat 6 in m3. Fingerings: Use left Db in m17, m20 and m22. Use left C in m18, m25, m27.

Scale and Arpeggio Cheat Sheet: Bb major, F major, and Chromatic scales. Important Arpeggios: Bb, C7, F, Db, Bb7, Ab7, Gb and F7.

Breathing: When performing up to tempo in 2, you will have to stop quickly and breathe in some spots – m7, m11, and m23. You must factor this in when preparing the etude slowly in 6 with a metronome!

Suggested Listening: Listen to François Schubert’s most famous work, The Bee, Also, listen to great violinists, such as Joshua Bell.

About ClarinetMike

American Clarinetist Michael Dean “ClarinetMike” performs and teaches internationally and across the USA to consistent praise and acclaim 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.” Dr. Michael Dean’s career is headlined by appearances at Carnegie Hall, ClarinetFest, NACWPI, Royal Northern College of Music, and Eastman School of Music, with recent recitals and master classes in Italy, Canada, Spain, Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas. He is currently planning an international recital and master class tour of Israel for spring 2022. He is on the faculty of the international Orfeo Music Festival in Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence. Michael Dean performs as principal clarinetist with the Dallas Chamber Wind Ensemble and Duo 35 with saxophonist Todd Oxford. He performed with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra for 11 years and has also performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Abilene Opera, Southeast Chamber Players, and Red Mesa Trio. As a clarinet performing and recording artist, he has commissioned, premiered, edited, toured with, and recorded new and lesser-known clarinet works. He is featured on 6 commercial CDs, including the soon-to-be-released Postcards from Silver Lake CD. He is also prominent on New Media, such as YouTube and Facebook. He has given more than 600 master classes, clinics and performances at universities, colleges, conservatories, festivals, conferences, and high schools. His ClarinetMike Blog and ClarinetMike QuickTips are widely read on the internet and social media and viewed in more than 150 countries on 6 continents. His articles also appear in professional journals such as Southwestern Musician, WINDPLAYER, The Bandmasters’ Review, and NACWPI Journal. He is a past president and former National Board Officer of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI). A committed teacher and noted pedagogue, Dr. Dean’s students enjoy successful careers as professional performers, educators, and administrators and are consistently accepted into prestigious university music schools. They consistently win awards and distinctions at competitions and festivals including solo & ensemble, all-region, all-state, and various concerto and other competitions. After a successful 20 years of teaching the clarinet and music at the university level, he relocated to his native Texas due to family concerns. He is currently an active clarinet and woodwind performer, teacher, clinician, and consultant based in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Michael Dean studied clarinet performance at Texas Tech University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Colorado at Boulder, and University of Texas at Arlington. His teachers include Robert Walzel, Philip Aaholm, Carol Jessup, and Jesse Youngblood. He is a BG France Performing Artist and his professional website is Mike and his family live in Hurst, Texas. His family’s new Golden Retriever, Nimbus, is a relative of Andy.
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