More Advanced Tone Improvements to Teach to Your Clarinet Students | Backun Educator Series

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I’M going to show you a few things that will really help improve the tone of your clarinet students. Now sometimes these are considered a little bit more advanced techniques, but I actually really like to teach them as early as I can. As a student is learning because if they learn with good habits, they don’t have to unlearn those bad habits later and it will make it much easier for them to play and they’re going to have a lot more fun on the instrument. So I’m going to talk about embouchure. Most people have a good understanding of how embouchure works, but I’ll show you some of my favorite ways of helping the students really learn it and absorb the best habits. I like to think of a clarinet embouchure as having three steps so step number. One is simply that they put enough mouthpiece in their mouth and it is important that they get the optimum amount and we have another video that goes into that in more detail. Now most players will play with their top teeth. Touching the mouthpiece directly, some people use, what’s called a double lip balm, be sure where their top lip goes over their top teeth either one is alright. My personal training has been with my teeth on the mouthpiece and I think either one is fine, but we want to make sure we’re putting enough mouthpiece in the mouth a really good guideline for the students if they were to turn their clarinet sideways and look at A bright light you’ll see a space between the reed and the tip of the mouthpiece and at some point it touches on my mouthpiece, that’s right about here. So if I were to just mark that spot and bring it around to the back of my mouthpiece, that’s right about where I want my teeth to go, so that gives you a really easy guideline for your students. So that’s step. One step. Two is the most important part of the clarinet embouchure: it’s what we do with our bottom lip and our chin. You want the edge of your bottom lip to go over your bottom teeth and then everything else needs to be pulled down and away, and when you’re looking at a student from the side, you want to see this nice curve here so that curve inward is a Sign that we’re pulling everything away from the Reed and we want the reed to vibrate as much as it possibly can. You know the world’s worst clarinet embouchure would look something like this now I know your students aren’t doing that, but that’s putting Maksim blob and flab onto the reed. However, many students play something like this. You can see my bottom lip was folded over and very, very loose and flabby. Now here’s the tricky thing for many many people, their muscles literally do not know how to do this. It’S not a skill. Those muscles have learned, and so students do have to train themselves how to do it and the best way I know of for them to do that. Yam, you can start without their clarinet is just to put a finger, holding the edge of their lip over their top teeth and literally pulling it down. With their other hand like this, when we do that, it actually sends a message to your brain that you’re wanting these muscles to move in that shape. I had a student who is a physiotherapist who worked with stroke victims who had lost the the neurons. That would help them move their hand and literally they would move the fingers until the brain developed new neurons to do it, it’s kind of the same way with clarinet embouchure. We pull it down and it teaches how to do it step two is, I would have them play an open G, so they can hold their clarinet in their right hand and literally have them pull the skin down away from the Reed while they play it would Look something like that. You know when they do that they might be pulling their jaw out a place and they might get some weird sound. So they’re, not necessarily gon na sound great when they’re doing this as a training tool, but it really helps to teach them. How to do it just to show you the difference it makes so I’m gon na try and play a note and let my lip go flabby and pull it down and you’ll see and hear the difference. When I’m doing that, you know I’m kind of throwing my embouchure out a little bit in doing that, but you can hear the difference as I was pulling it in and out and it’ll make a big difference for your students. So the way I work with my clarinet students is, I tell them every time they put it in their mouth before they blow just pull it down. So that’s the most important part of embouchure. The third part of the clarinet embouchure is what we do with the corners or the sides of our mouth, and what this does is it puts the polishing touches on the tone it warms it up. It gives it great resonance. It especially makes the high register sound. Warm and inviting instead of shrill and harsh, and what we want to do is bring the corners in as roundly as we can a good trick to help your students know that is. I have them put a finger in the middle of their bottom, lip just where the reed would go, and then I ask them to take their other hand and wrap the edges of their bottom lip around the edges of their finger. It’S like they’re trying to crush the sides of their finger like that. It gives them a feel for what you’re doing and then I would say, take away the supporting hand and try and crush the sides of their fingers just with the corners of their mouth. Now it’s kind of fun you can ask them to grunt. I find my students do it better if they go look and it kind of gets them into that shape other than the fact that my bottom lip when I do this is flabby in the middle. It brings my lips in the corners of my mouth into the perfect clarinet embouchure shape. This is a trick. I learned from Bill Jackson, who’s an amazing teacher and player, and it really helps to define how we want the embouchure to go. Then you can have them again and just try and open G and the idea is they’re going to crush the sides of their mouthpiece with the corners of their mouth. Just like that, and it’s a really helpful tool to. As I said to round the high register and give them a beautiful sound, so that’s our three-step embouchure, that’s how I like to teach it it’s it’s a way that most people can learn it pretty easily and if they look in a mirror they can see it Again, if someone’s working on the bottom lip taking a picture of them in profile is the best way to do it, so you can team them up with a friend. They can take a picture on their phone to see what they’re doing with their bottom lip and chin and if their corners are coming in when the corners are coming, and you can see a vertical line on the mouth and that’s kind of a sign that we’ve Got the corners in the right shape, so those are visual cues. You can look for as a teacher to see if your students have a good embouchure, there’s another part of embouchure that most people don’t know about when they’re teaching, clarinet and even a lot of players. Don’T know – and it has a drastic effect on our tone – it’s what we do with our tongue inside of our mouth, when we’re not tonguing just when we’re blowing and the technical term for this is the voicing how we hold our tongue makes a huge difference on Tone – and it’s really useful for you as a teacher to know this, because it will especially help your students when they’re trying to play their high notes in tune and with good tone. So you can see why I’m not an artist but I’m a clarinetist. Here’S. My very bad drawing of your student playing clarinet. I want to assume that they’re sitting with great posture and their lungs are putting out really fast air, which is what we want to support the clarinet. So it’s zooming up here through their windpipe at full speed in between our windpipe, which is about the size of a quarter and our clarinet, which has quite a small opening. We have a relatively big space here, which is our mouth. Our tongue will normally rest down here at the bottom of our mouth. That creates a big space for the air to hit and when it hits it just like a river hitting the ocean, it’s just gon na slow down and for clarinet to get the reed vibrating. We want the fastest air stream possible, so we have a bridge if we could take our tongue and put it up here. The air is just gon na whoosh through there and really really help your tone. Now. That’S to show you what we’re working at it’s a little bit abstract, but I’m going to tell you how you can teach it to your students and how you cannotice the difference when our tongue is in that position. It’S as if we’re saying the word he and we want to emphasize the H, sound kind of as if you’re hissing he that puts our tongue in just about the perfect position for clarinet. Now, if you’re going for a classical sound, which is what most school bands and our Striz would aim for, it we’re gon na keep it in that position virtually for every note. So when I’m teaching beginner intermediate students, that’s how it’s gon na be for the whole time, the only time we really change it is in the extreme altissimo register or, if someone’s playing a lot of jazz and klezmer and bending pitch it’s the tongue that bends it. For your purposes in teaching a good basic tone, he having that tongue high in arch is what we want using our high C, the thumb and register key, which is such a reactive note. We can experiment with that a little bit, I’m gon na play with my tongue and he and then I’m gon na slowly bring it down he down aw, which is where it’s in its lowest position and then bring it back up and you’re going to hear what It does to the sound in fact, as I’m playing I’m gon na try and have my hand sort of model what my tongue is doing inside my mouth. So this is your x-ray machine. You can see what I’m doing and you’ll hear the difference. Now I was trying not to move anything else I might have inadvertently, but for the most part that change in sound was my tongue and I probably could have made it go even lower, so it makes a huge difference. Most people aren’t playing in ha but they’re playing with their tongue kind of in the middle and what you’ll hear when the tongue is too low, you’ll see flat pitch on the tuner and you’ll hear a scratchy sound. Here’S me playing a scale with my tongue too low. That’S, not an uncommon sound when you’re playing with your beginner. It’S not a sound! I really like to listen to, but you may recognize that that’s just my tongue being too low lift my tongue up to that. He and the way I’ll have students work on. It is actually close their mouth on the mouthpiece and literally speak, hey, hey, it feels very strange and you can tell them it’s a goofy exercise. They should say he frees their tongue and then try playing that same thing. He so there’s me at the top, as you can see by my hand, moving the tongue down and up. It makes a huge difference in sound, so it’s a little bit abstract a really useful tool to use if you’re trying to teach your students to play with the proper voicing is a tuner and the exercise I recommend is a four note exercise if they’re playing in The high register to start on the high G to A to B, to C and have the tuner right in front of them as they’re doing this, and what we want to look for is that the tuner does not move now, if they’re in a cold room, They might be flat overall or in a warm room. They might be sharp overall. But if you see that tuner needle going down to flat it’s a sure sign that their tongue is too low. If the needle can stay high, then they’re in the right place. Even just taking a high C and using a tuner to see where the needle is will make a big difference, so the sure sign is we go from almost in tune to flatter to flatter to flatter and it doesn’t matter whether they start sharp or flat. It’S that progression, if their tongue is in the right place, it should stay much more stable than that. Now my clarinets a little cold, so I may be a little low, but what we’re looking for is that it stays constant. So when it’s staying more or less the same, then that’s a good indicator that our tongue is in the right position. This makes a huge difference not only to intonation but also to pitch so working on. That hi-c is a good way to gauge whether the student has it in the right place and once they do, if they keep it there, every single note from low to high is going to sound, better

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