10 Practice Tips for All-State, Solos, and Everything!

ClarinetMike in Italy performing a World Premiere at the Chiesa di Santa Margherita (1670) in Vipiteno, Italy at Orfeo Music Festival 2019. ClarinetMike uses these tips in preparing music.

Here are 10 general practice tips for preparing the All-State etudes, solos, or any music. I have marked a few spots, Bad Pedagogy, to indicate opportunities for teachers to upgrade their instruction.

10 Practice Tips for All-State, Solos, and Everything!
by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

  1. Go Slow. Load correct information only! Go slow and learn the rhythm and notes correctly the first time and every time.
  2. MORE Go Slow. Generally, begin work on an etude by counting in eighth notes. This means twice as slow or three times as slow if in 6/8 — one eighth note gets one beat, one quarter note gets two counts, dotted quarter note gets three counts, etc.
  3. DYNAMICS! DYNAMICS!, DYNAMICS!!, DYNAMICS!!! every step of the way!  Learn dynamics as you learn the rhythm and notes. Adding dynamics later does NOT work very well. [Dynamics Later = Bad Pedagogy]
  4. Learn Ornaments From the Start. Do not put off the ornaments until later! In preparing the etude, YOU MUST learn it the right way slowly from the beginning or very soon after starting! DO NOT skip grace notes, trills, turns, etc. and think you will add those at a later time. BAD IDEA! Your “muscle memory” will be messed up and you’ll be relearning those spots forever. [Ornaments Later = Bad Pedagogy]
  5. Performance Tone. Learn etude with a “performance tone,” not a “practice tone.” In fact, never use a “practice tone.” [This idea comes from the Note Grouping video below.] A bad tone always sounds…BAD!
  6. Practice Routine. Work on basics and scales every day as you work on the all-state etudes, solos, etc. Use an organized Practice Routine. Put special attention on tonguing every day.
  7. Sight-Reading. Do some sight-reading (and work on other music) every day to keep your playing fresh.
  8. Metronome. The metronome is a valuable tool and should be used a lot. However, do not use it 100% of the time when you practice an all-state etude, solo, etc. Do not get “Metronome Addiction.” This is where a person can play an etude or solo well only with a metronome. Common Sense is also a valuable tool! [Metronome Overuse = Bad Pedagogy]
  9. Practice Rhy-No. Check out Rhy-No Practice,  Feed The Rhy-NoThe Fast Way, and other practice techniques from this blog – Click Here.
  10. Note Grouping. The Note Grouping Concept works great for fast passages. It is described in a Note Grouping video featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Nathan Cole HERE.

ClarinetMike says, “Use these tips to help you enjoy the grace of making music.”

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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2 Responses to 10 Practice Tips for All-State, Solos, and Everything!

  1. Mike Vaccaro says:

    I am so glad you emphasize starting slow and playing it perfectly slowly. We all want to play fast but the only way to do that is to practice slow a first. I learned the hard way that if I play something up to speed for my students they will try and imitate me. So now I am very careful to demonstrate at the speed I think the student should play. I also every few months take the whole lesson and learn a piece I don’t know in front of the student so they get the idea that no matter how good we are if we can’t play something we learn it slow. And I hope the understand better how to practice. If we can’t see it and have it in our fingers we will never really “own” the piece of music.
    Thanks for the sage advice Mike

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