Improve Clarinet Tone: The ABC Exercise!

ClarinetMike says, “The ABC Exercise is Easy and it Works! Check It Out!”

The ABC Exercise comes from my research into the amazing pedagogy of master single reed teacher, Joe Allard. I’ve experimented with The ABC Exercise (or ABC) on and off for a number of years. Recently, I’ve been consistently using it in my own practicing and with my students with much success.

Improve Clarinet Tone: The ABC Exercise!
by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

What? The ABC Exercise is simply saying the alphabet aloud a few times in a normal voice and then playing the clarinet. This very simple exercise always helps my embouchure and voicing.

When? I use ABC early in my daily Practice Routine as part of working on my embouchure and voicing. I often do ABC after going through the steps of the 5-C Clarinet Embouchure and the related E-Tips for E-Lips clarinet embouchure tips.

Why? So, why does ABC improve my tone? To be honest, I’m not 100% sure. I think what is going on is that saying the alphabet gets me “in touch with things” with respect to my mouth, lips, tongue, teeth, face, etc. in embouchure and voicing.  For example, what do babies do when they learn to speak? They try to copy what they hear by experimenting with their voice using mouth, lips, tongue, teeth, face, etc. They start with “Dada” and end up smoothly using words to easily persuade soft-touch Dad to buy them things, “Hey Dad, I need $100 for …..”

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Note: Saying the Alphabet is mentioned in The Joe Allard Project website which features part of Debra McKim’s important dissertation on Joe Allard (see HERE). The ABC Exercise above features my own ideas and thoughts on a technique that Joe Allard taught. As was true on my previously published 5-C Clarinet Embouchure and E-Tips for E-Lips embouchure tips, I happily acknowledge a heavy debt to the great Joe Allard.

Extra: FYI, clarinet people, Joe Allard studied clarinet with Gaston Hamelin (Boston) for 4 years. Note that Hamelin’s famous student was Ralph McLane (Philadelphia) and McLane’s was Harold Wright (Boston). (All of these are famous for their great clarinet tone.)

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 500 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 clarinetmike.com. Mike and his family live in Hurst, Texas. His family’s new Golden Retriever, Nimbus, is a relative of Andy.
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