TEXAS TMEA All-State Clarinet Audition Etudes 2018-2019 for Soprano and Low Clarinets Now Available! PLUS “ClarinetMike’s 5 All-State Practice Tips To Get You Started”

ClarinetMike says, “Take Private Lessons With A Good Teacher!”

Today, the official audition materials for the Texas TMEA All-State Band for 2018-2019 were posted online. BELOW I have posted screenshots from the official TMEA.org website of the audition materials for soprano and low clarinets.  The materials for all band instruments (including soprano and low clarinets) are available online HERE.

I’ve already started to break down the audition music for private lessons, all-state clinics and such. Here’s 5 all-state practice tips to get you started:

ClarinetMike’s 5 All-State Practice Tips To Get You Started

1 Have a balanced practice routine as you work on the all-state music that includes spending time on basics, scales, and sight-reading. My practice routine is available HERE.

2 Work on tonguing every day. Check out my “Betty” post.

3 Look over the etude before just diving in. A little analysis can be very helpful.

4 Start by working on the first few measures or first line. Go slowly and learn the rhythm, notes, and dynamics correctly the first time and every time.

5 Take private lessons with a good teacher or if one is not available in your area, at least read this blog.  I will post more helps on the all-state etudes on my ClarinetMike Blog in coming weeks. (FYI, I offer Skype lessons.)


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ClarinetMike to Give World Premiere at Orfeo Music Festival in Vipiteno, Italy!

ClarinetMike Performing at the Orfeo Music Festival 2017 in Vipiteno, Italy

In a couple weeks, I leave for Italy! As previously posted, I’m again returning as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at the international Orfeo Music Festival in the beautiful Italian Alps of Vipiteno, Italy (Sterzing) on July 5-19, 2018.

One of the works I’ll be performing at the Orfeo Music Festival is a new work, Small Voice of Calm, written for me by British Composer, Raymond Head. Joining me on the World Premiere is my wonderful Orfeo colleague Dena Kay Jones on piano. I’m excited to report that the composer will be in attendance at the premiere! Below are specifics on the premiere, some information from the composer and a blurb on the venue. Also, CLICK HERE to check out a Facebook Event I created for the premiere.

ClarinetMike says, “If you happen to be wandering around the Alps in early July, come on by!”

Small Voice of Calm for clarinet and piano by Raymond Head
(World Premiere)
Michael Dean, clarinet
Dena Kay Jones, piano

Orfeo Music Festival 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018, 8:30 pm (20:30)
Chiesa di Santo Spirito, Vipiteno, Italy (Sterzing)


Small Voice of Calm for Clarinet and Piano  (1st Performance)
by Raymond Head
Dedicated to Dr. Michael Dean

“This piece was inspired by a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, the 19th century American Quaker who became a household name in the USA and the UK. Despite all the earthquakes, wind and fire of our minds, if we let it, the “still small voice of calm” reappears to soothe us. Essentially this is what happens in the piece:  sudden, violent interjections are gradually pacified by the quiet authority of the insistent repeated melody.”

Raymond Head is the Musical Adviser to the Holst Birthplace Museum, Cheltenham UK, and a composer, teacher and Holst Scholar.   He was one of the featured commentators in a recent Tony Palmer film Gustav Holst – In the Bleak Midwinter which was shown on the BBC.

For more than 30 years Raymond has lived in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, UK and is a composer and a teacher of piano and singing. He was trained at Dartington College of Arts, UK where he encountered Indian music for the first time.

He was an early follower of Stockhausen but in the end rejected him in favour of writing music that was modern yet communicative. He believes music should be capable of the widest range of expression from angst to lyricism and even humour.

CD’s of his music are on the Prima Facie ASC label. A string orchestral piece is to be recorded in the Ukraine in August for the Toccata Classics label and a wind quintet Toda Cambia is to be premiered in Wales later this year. His music is published by Sky Dance Press, UK. His professional website is www.raymondhead.com.

VENUE: The Chiesa di Santo Spirito (Church of the Holy Spirit) was built in 1399. It is the oldest gothic church in Vipiteno Italy (Sterzing). In the nave are late Gothic-style frescos (1402) of the South Tyrolien painter Hans von Bruneck. (More)

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Top 10 Clarinet Things To Do On Summer Break!

ClarinetMike on the Balcony of a Nice Hotel in San Antonio, Texas.

Summertime and the livin’ is easy…. I love summer! When I’m wearing shorts, I’m always in a good mood! Below is a follow-up on my recent post, 7 Ways to Improve Your Clarinet Playing This Summer!

Top 10 Clarinet Things To Do On Summer Break!
by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

  1. IMPROVE. Work on improvements and adjustments in your clarinet technique. (Hey Students! How about working on what your teacher emphasized last semester – posture, embouchure, tonguing, etc.?) See my related recent post.
  2. STUDY. Study an orchestra or band work you don’t know (or a solo, chamber work, etc.)
  3. BASICS. Work on Etudes, Sight Reading and Transposition.
  4. LIVE MUSIC. Go to concert. When was the last time you went to a LIVE concert just to enjoy the music?
  5. REPAIR. Clean out your clarinet case! Take clarinets to the repair shop.
  6. CLEAN. Organize your office and/or practice space!
  7. LUNCH. Contact an older musician – especially a retired private teacher or band director. Go have lunch with him/her.
  8. MOVIES. Watch old movies (check out TCM) and listen to the music. Learn about the composers. Some of them have written solo music for the clarinet!
  9. JAZZ. Work on Jazz or a style that is new to you. If you don’t know anything about jazz, now is the time to learn – yes, right now!
  10. LIFE. Most importantly, take some time off and NOT think about the clarinet. Attend a church or philosophical meeting, get some exercise, read a good book, go to a baseball game, become a volunteer in an organization that helps people, etc.

ClarinetMike says, “Have a Great Summer!”

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Little Mistakes Make Big Problems Happen: Bridge Key Alignment!

Carefully line up the upper and lower bridge keys.

Little Mistakes Make Big Problems Happen: Bridge Key Alignment!
by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

Recently, I had an excellent student announce that her clarinet wasn’t working properly. After I did an inspection, I noticed that she had not lined up the bridge keys correctly. I lined it up for her and, Presto!, things were fixed! I’ve taken to inspecting this every time there is a similar issue. I’ve been surprised to find that a number of my students are careless in this small, but important issue.

Therefore, let us make sure our students follow the instruction of Dr. Westphal, “Pressing down the rings on the upper joint to raise the upper bridge key, add it to the lower joint with a slight twisting motion. Line up exactly the upper and lower bridge keys.” (Westphal, Guide to Teaching Woodwinds, 5th ed., p. 53)

ClarinetMike says, “Remember John Wooden’s words: ‘Little things make big things happen.’”

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7 Ways to Improve Your Clarinet Playing This Summer!

ClarinetMike says, “Take Clarinet Lessons This Summer!”

7 Ways to Improve Your Clarinet Playing This Summer!
by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

  1. Take Clarinet Lessons. Make sure you have a good teacher who spends time improving your clarinet basics and teaching you how to practice.  Rote-only clarinet teachers are BAD clarinet teachers.
  2. Upgrade Embouchure.Check out my 5-C clarinet embouchure HERE and related embouchure tips HERE.
  3. Improve Tonguing. Spend quality time with your new best friend, Betty: CLICK HERE.
  4. Enhance Posture.  Check out these posture links:  Head PositionDon’t Lean OverDon’t Look Down, and Unkink Your Hose.
  5. Get Better Reeds. I strongly recommend checking out the ReedGeek – I find the ReedGeek easy to use and it really helps! Also, make sure your reed strength matches your mouthpiece. For example, if you are playing on a 2.5 reed on a more “closed” mouthpiece such as a Vandoren M13 Lyre (what I play on), you simply cannot play well or at all in the high register without biting the mouthpiece hard since the reed is not strong enough. [Biting is BAD, folks!] FYI, on my Bb clarinet, I play a Vandoren v12 3.5 reed on a Vandoren M13 Lyre mouthpiece using 5-C Clarinet Embouchure (listen).
  6. Learn New Practice Techniques. Try these out: Rhy-No PracticeFeed The Rhy-No!The Fast Way!Note Grouping, and others.
  7. Play Duets.Get together with your buddies and have FUN playing chamber music – duets, trios, quartets, etc…. Go to the local music store and buy a duet book (ALL of us must support local music stores!). Of course, there’s a lot of free music on the Internet.

BONUS: Go To A Summer Band or Clarinet Camp. For example, in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas there are several: CLICK HERE.

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The Best Clarinet Fingerings for F# and Eb

ClarinetMike says, “Teach The Best Clarinet Fingerings!”

The Best Clarinet Fingerings for F# and Eb by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

Below I discuss two common fingerings that should be taught to beginning (and all) clarinetists.

First space F#/Gb.  Beginners are often taught to play this note in a chromatic scale with thumb and right bottom 2 side (trill) keys. I strongly suggest that teachers teach the standard fingering of left hand index finger instead. Have students use it all the time, even in the chromatic scale.  In actual music it almost always is the preferred fingering for F#/Gb. Learning to “flip” between thumb F and index F# is an important technique for all clarinetists.

I was taught to introduce alternate fingerings early and often – and I agree. However, I would make it clear to the students that the basic (or guide) fingering for F# is index finger. FYI, legendary clarinet performer/teacher, Robert Marcellus, said in an interview, “…the two side trill keys are not chromatic ‘F#’ like a lot of people play. The chromatic of “F#” is just the index finger in the left hand.”

[However, if for some reason you simply MUST teach trill key F# in a chromatic scale, I plead with you to make sure your students also know regular index finger F#. I’ve seen far too many clarinet students use trill key F# all the time as their basic fingering – I suspect their beginning clarinet teachers never taught the standard fingering to them. Further, the inadequate preparation of beginning clarinet teachers is an important topic for another day!]

First line Eb/D# (also Bb/A# second space above the staff). Beginners are often taught to play this note with the left hand fork key (also called the “sliver” or “banana” key). Instead, teachers should teach the students to use the normal fingering of the top two fingers of left hand with right bottom side (trill) key.  And, as above, I strongly suggest this fingering be used also in the chromatic scale. Again, this fingering is almost always the preferred fingering in actual music. Further, the left hand fork key is very difficult to use if a student’s fingers aren’t slender. FYI, one of my teachers told me a story about a famous clarinetist who disliked the left hand fork key so much he had it taken off the clarinet and its hole plugged up!

I want to restate that I think alternate fingerings should be introduced early and often. The more fingerings a clarinetist knows, the better he/she can solve technical problems in music. As John Wooden said, “Little Things Make Big Things Happen.”

NOTE: As mentioned offhandedly in another post, I eventually will be writing a series of “I DO NOT RECOMMEND” posts on questionable clarinet teaching and performing practices.

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Mega Mega Super Cool Summer 2018 Clarinet Events for Dallas-Fort Worth Clarinet Students!

ClarinetMike says, “Hey DFW Clarinet Students! Go to Camp this Summer!”

The Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area will be having some fantastic clarinet events for students coming up in June and July! If you know of more, let me know! The camps below are listed in mostly chronological order.


UTA Concert Band Camp, Grades 7-12
University of Texas at Arlington Campus
Sunday, June 10 to Thursday, June 14
Click Here For More Details




TCU High School Music and Leadership Experience Band Camp 2018
TCU Campus, Fort Worth, Texas
Monday, June 18 to Thursday, June 21
Click Here For More Details

TCU Middle School Music Experience
Band Camp 2018
TCU Campus, Fort Worth, Texas
Friday, June 22 to Saturday, June 23
Click Here For More Details



TCU Clarinet Workshop 2018
For Intermediate and Advanced Clarinetists
TCU Campus, Fort Worth, Texas
Monday, June 25 to Tuesday, June 26
Click Here For Details





ClarEssentials Clarinet Workshop 
University of North Texas Campus, Denton, Texas
Tuesday, June 26 to Saturday, June 30
Click Here For Details




Clearly Clarinet Camp
Fort Worth (Keller), Timberview Middle School
Monday, June 25 to Thursday, June 28

Dallas (Frisco), Vandeventer Middle School
Monday, July 9 to Thursday, July 12, 2018

Click Here For More Details

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