Kids here in Texas are already starting to work on this fall’s ATSSB All-State audition materials. So, below are my 5 Steps to Great All-State Preparation. The steps below are loaded with information from my ClarinetMike All-State Clarinet Clinics (click here). Also, below is a template I use in preparing my annual Complete Clinic Notes on the all-state etudes. Watch this blog for more All-State help from ClarinetMike!
5 Steps to Great All-State Preparation
Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”
“Building Great Clarinetists”
Clarinet Performing, Teaching and Consulting
Hurst, Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas USA
firstname.lastname@example.org * 682-888-7639
clarinetmike.com * clarinetmike.wordpress.com
Step 1: Preliminary Concerns
- Get quality equipment. FYI, my Bb soprano clarinet set up: Buffet R13 clarinet , Vandoren M13 Lyre mouthpiece, Vandoren V12 3.5 or D’Addario Reserve Classic 3.5 reeds, BG Super Revelation ligature, metronome/tuner, GEM swab, ReedGeek, etc.
- Find a good private teacher who teaches solid basics and expressive musical style. Stay away from Rote-Only Teachers and YouTube Videos. [Don’t just copy a recording. Learn to count! Rote-only playing will not get you past a good university audition.]
Step 2: Core Concepts
- It’s All About the MUSIC. So, work on ARTC Basics & ARTSY Musical Style (Phrasing, especially Romantic Era Style)
- Loading & Unloading. Slow Careful Practice = Speedy, Confident Performing. The Tortoise and the Hare – Be a Turtle! (See Frank R. Wilson)
- Focus on What You Control: Preparation & Effort. Success, John Wooden, etc.
- Genuine Excellence = Talent × Practice Time × Practice Quality.
- Power of Habit. Work on Basics (ARTC) & Scales, along with the All-State Music in a Practice Routine.
Step 3: General Preparation Tips
- Practice and perform only on good reeds.
- Use a metronome and tuner.
- Record yourself – check out phone apps!
- BOLD Dynamics.
- Sound Projection
- Plan and mark breathing carefully.
- Understand terms, notation, ornaments, etc. that are on the etudes.
- Create a cheat sheet. Write each etude’s scales and arpeggios at top of music.
- Clap and sing the music.
- Check out additional Practice Tips.
Step 4: Scale Preparation Tips
- Thoroughly prepare your scales as if they were etudes or solos. Don’t just run through them quickly and thoughtlessly. Careful preparation of scales with good fundamentals (relaxation, tone, counting, etc.) will pay big rewards not only on the scales themselves, but also on the all-state etudes and all the music you play since they are built on scales.
- 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 all-state 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 hand position and finger movement, etc. as you learn the scales. Otherwise, you will be memorizing flaws that will be much harder to fix later.
Step 5: Etude Preparation Template
- Composer and Style
- Tempo and Key
- Sections and Phrases
- Special Issues (repeated figure, etc.)
- Musical Issues
- Technical Issues (articulation, rhythms, fingerings, etc.)
- Problem Passages
- Scale and Arpeggio Cheat Sheet
- Breath Marks
- Suggested Listening
ClarinetMike says, “It’s all about music. So spend your time preparing to give a beautiful performance.”