Below are my complete clinic notes for this year’s ATSSB (Association of Texas Small School Bands) All-State Soprano Clarinet Audition Materials. For official listing of audition materials, click here (Use Year C for 2018-19).
ClarinetMike’s Texas ATSSB All-State Clarinet Clinic 2018-2019:
Soprano Clarinet Preparation Tips
Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”
“Building Great Clarinetists”
Clarinet Performing, Teaching and Consulting
Hurst, Texas, USA * 682-888-7639
clarinetmike.com * firstname.lastname@example.org
TIPS ON SCALES
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.
Work on scales in an organized practice routine that includes basics, sight-reading, etc. My Practice Routine is here.
Practice a scale all slurred first, then work on the tongued version. Slurring will allow you to hear how smooth (or not) the connections between notes are.
Work on tonguing every day – check out my Basic Tonguing Exercise (BTE) click here.
Practice the chromatic scale every day. Many consider it to be the most important scale. I suggest starting your scale practice with it.
Use a metronome. BUT, don’t use it 100% of the time – DO NOT get addicted to the metronome. Common Sense is your most important tool in preparation of scales and music (and everything!).
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 every day 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.
TIPS ON ETUDES
Etude Book: David Hite editor, Artistic Studies, Book 1 – From the French School, Published by Southern Music [Rose Etudes] (For official ATSSB Etude listing, click HERE.)
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.
Etude 1 Adagio non troppo, Page 59. Key: D Major. Rose 32 Etudes #13. Tempo: Quarter Note = 54-63; Play from the beginning through measure 24. (NOTE: This is etude is also one of this year’s TMEA All-State Soprano Clarinet Etudes – click here.)
Composer and Style: This Rose etude is based on an etude by court oboist Franz Wilhelm Ferling (1796-1874) – to view the original etude, click HERE and go to Etude #9. This etude is similar to the slow movement of a sonata or concerto with Ferling possibly influenced by the great violin virtuoso Paganini (cite). In our version, Rose not only adapted and enhanced this Ferling etude for the clarinet, he also added a lot of measures. The original Ferling etude was likely marked Adagio con espressione. So play expressively like a great romantic virtuoso with lots of emotion and feeling!
Overview: This moderately slow etude is very sophisticated with lots of “Over-The-Top” Romantic Phrasing and tricky rhythms. There are 3 major issues: Tone, “Over-The-Top” Romantic Phrasing, and Tricky Rhythms.
Sections and Phrases: Our part of this Etude has 3 phrases with each phrase 8 measures long: P1 = m1-m8, P2 = m9-m16, and P3 = m17-m24. The first 2 phrases can be viewed as a 2-phrase set. In fact, P1 and P2 together form a parallel period [or something like that!].
Tempo: Quarter note = 54-63. It would be best to perform this etude in quarter notes (in 3); however, if you can’t play it accurately in 3, then you must perform it in eight notes (in 6).
Musical Issues: As noted above, the original Ferling etude was likely marked Adagio con espressione, “slow with expression.” Rose changed this to Adagio non troppo, “slow, but not too slow.” The editor of our edition, David Hite, (who tended to overedit at times) added the word piangevolemente “plaintively” at m1. It seems that Rose had originally written espress., “expressively” here instead. I suggest going with Rose (and Ferling) and try to be as expressive as possible. Note all the extreme dynamics. They clearly indicate an over-the-top romantic style of phrasing. Always learn a work with dynamics, do not try to add dynamics later! Always play with the most beautiful tone possible. In any performance, tone quality should be considered one of the most important factors.
Problem Passages: There are a number of spots that are rhythmically sophisticated and have to be carefully counted with lots of slow, careful practice – 5 of the first 8 measures in the first phrase (P1) are tricky! Pay special attention to the difference between double dotted eight/thirty-second and dotted eight/sixteenth passages.
Technical Issues: Fingerings: M6 requires some kind of finger slide. I suggest doing the slide between the first 2 notes of the measure with the right little finger. Shorten the first note D# and then go quickly to right B. Practice this super slow at first. Consider resonance fingerings in exposed throat tone spots; however, remember that good voicing is the best resonance fingering! Articulation: The “mezzo staccatos” of m5, m6 and m22 are open to interpretation: try them lightly tongued with, and then without, separation to see what you like.
Scale and Arpeggio Cheat Sheet: Scales: D major, Chromatic. Arpeggios: D major (D F# A), G major (G B D), A7 (A C# E G), and B minor (B D F#)
Breathing: As marked. Relate breathing to phrasing as much as possible.
Suggested Listening: Listen to slow movements of romantic era sonatas. Here are a few: Beethoven “Pathetique” Piano Sonata Mvt. 2 HERE, Schubert Piano Sonata in A Major Mvt. 2 HERE, Franck Violin Sonata HERE and HERE.
Etude 2, Allegro moderato, Page: 58, Key: D Minor. Rose 32 Etudes #12. Tempo: Quarter Note = 88. Play from the beginning to the downbeat of measure 25.
Overview: This “Straight Ahead” etude has 4 main issues, Tone, Even Sixteenths, Articulation (BTE), and Dynamics/Style.
Composer and Style: This Rose etude is based on an etude by court oboist Franz Wilhelm Ferling (1796-1874) – to view the original etude, click HERE and go to Etude #16. The original Ferling etude was likely marked Allegretto risoluto. Ferling was possibly influenced by the great violin virtuoso Paganini when he wrote this etude in the style of a Toccata. (cite). A “Toccata (from Italian toccare, literally, “to touch”) is a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections…generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer’s fingers.” (cite) So, play like a Romantic Era Virtuoso with lots of life, but keep your touch light and relaxed!
Sections and Phrases: I like to think of this etude as having 3 sections: S1 = m1-m8, S2 = m9-m16, and S3 = m17-m25.
Tempo: Quarter note = 88. It would be best to perform this etude in quarter notes (in 3); however, if you can’t play it accurately in 3, then you must perform it in eight notes (in 6). Generally, the plan on this one is to learn in 6, perform in 3.
Musical Issues: Carefully consider dynamics, crescendos, accents, etc. Learn these while preparing notes and rhythms. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL LATER! Adding dynamics, etc. later does NOT work very well: ClarinetMike says, “If you learn it at Mezzo-Nothing, you’ll play it at Mezzo-Nothing.”
Problem Passages: In the opening of S1, the ¾ time can turn you around.
Technical Issues: Articulation: Repeated tongues are tricky, go slow and be patient. Keep the tongue very light. Check out “BTE.” See section on Articulation below. Relaxation: This etude can create tension in your body. Staying relaxed is critical. So, GAIN Relaxation, MAINTAIN Relaxation, and then RE-GAIN Relaxation as needed. Rhythm: Keep the sixteenths rhythmically even with every note getting ¼ of a beat. DO NOT rush off the first sixteenth of each set of 4.
Articulation: Here’s a ClarinetMike Trick: In the slow preparation of any fast short-articulated or staccato type passage, DO NOT practice it slowly with the staccatos short. In other words, when you practice slowly, play the articulation with a mostly normal or regular tongue stroke with not much, if any, 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.
Scale and Arpeggio Cheat Sheet: D minor scale and especially D minor arpeggio. Chromatic scale. Arpeggios: D minor (D F A), A (A C# E), A7 (A C# E G), E7 (E G# B D), Bb (Bb D F), Eb (Eb G Bb), E Fully Diminished Seventh (E G Bb C#) and F Fully Diminished Seventh (F Ab, B D). More than a third of the measures in this etude are based on the D minor arpeggio. Work on this arpeggio!
Breathing: While learning in 6 [eight note gets one beat], breathe wherever needed – NO TENSION. However, plan early in the preparation where you will breathe when you play in 3 – be mindful of this while you learn the etude in 6. In at least 1 spot, m22 (and likely others), you will have to stop quickly and breathe. You must factor this in when preparing the etude slowly in 6 with a metronome!
Suggested Listening: Listen to J.S. Bach’s Toccatas and Fugues – also his Partitas. Check out this over-the-top version of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, CLICK HERE. Here’s a Toccata by the great piano virtuoso Franz Liszt, CLICK HERE. Also, watch this video depiction of Paganini [but don’t live your life like him!] CLICK HERE.