ClarinetMike Teaching Tip: “Play Like You Are First Chair”

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike” Performing at the Orfeo Music Festival 2017 in Vipiteno, Italy.

ClarinetMike Teaching Tip: “Play Like You Are First Chair”
by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

I have noticed that it is sometimes difficult to get across to a student how to project their sound well when playing a solo for a contest, festival, recital, studio class, jury, etc.*  This seems especially true when working with students who have spent most of their clarinet (or saxophone or any instrument) careers as section players in a band.  As section players, these students work to blend in with a group and not “stick out” – and “sticking out” is exactly what you want to do on a solo!

A few years ago, while working with a student on this in preparation for a studio class performance and jury, it suddenly occurred to me to say, “Play like you are first chair.” The student (who was a section player in band) immediately played the solo with excellent sound projection! This comment has since proved to be very useful in helping students (especially section players) project their sound. Try it yourself!

ClarinetMike says, “Tell your students to ‘Play Like They Are First Chair.'”

*Click HERE for a ClarinetMike Blog Post on Sound Projection from last March.

NOTE: The above is a slightly revised version of an early ClarinetMike Blog 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 returned to Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at Orfeo Music Festival 2018. 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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