German system…oh my!

Ok, so yeah. I have barely touched my clarinets since my last post. I’ve gotten a real bad case of the lazies the past couple weeks. Probably the only productive thing I’ve done in the last two weeks is go to the gym!  Oh and I’ve been playing Mario Bros Wii. Man, that game is hard! But that’s another and completely unrelated matter…

I think I probably need to readjust my plan.  Obviously only practicing when I want to may not be the best idea, apparently television and video games are much more enticing than being in the practice room. I am very uncomfortable of the idea of not playing at all for the next 5 months…so maybe I should strive for a minimum amount of playing each week. I’m going to start trying to get into the practice room for at least an hour at least 3 times a week. Also, I’m finding that the reason I don’t want to practice may be because of my warm up routine – I’ve been doing the same thing for almost a year now and I am probably getting bored.  Its a good system, but if not if I dread doing it!  Last night I tried a new routine, that is much shorter and with the aim to maintain, not necessarily to get better.  And I’ve got some fun recording projects I want to do…involves getting my flute chops back!  I can focus on getting better at clarinet once I’m out of boot camp.



German (Oehler) clarinet key set up

In other news (and the subject of this blog entry), I recently started lessons with a new beginner student. She is an adult who used to play when she was younger and wants to pick it up again. To my surprise, at our first lesson, she pulls out a GERMAN CLARINET! Oh geez, I’ve never even seen one of these instruments in the flesh and now I have to teach it! She grew up in Germany, and it was the instrument that she had played when she was a kid.  I really didn’t want to tell her to get a new instrument, so I needed to suck it up and do some learning myself!  Luckily, we were starting from the very beginning – she couldn’t remember how to play, so I didn’t have to worry about teaching fingerings the first day (we only worked on tone production).  But I spent the next week scouring the internet for Oehler fingering charts. I found a great resource for fingering charts for all clarinets (Albert, Oehler, and Boehm systems)

A French (Boehm) system clarinet for comparison

At our second lesson, armed with a fingering chart, we started with a small scale from C4 to G4…except I couldn’t figure out the F.  On a french system (Boehm) it is played with just the thumb (not shown on the pictures I included), but on her instrument (according the the fingering chart) it is played with the thumb and the middle finger.  But it sounded like an F#.  WTF.  I checked and double checked the fingering chart.  Checked and double checked the seal on the instrument, everything was fine!  Her instrument does not have the key that is between the top two finger holes, I thought that maybe this had something to do with the weird pitch – because the alternate fingering for F uses this key.  I told her to practice using F# (which is thumb – it is an F on a French Boehm system) just so she could get used to making sound and practice her finger coordination.  I said I would research her instrument and see if there was something different about it – it looked pretty old so I figured maybe the fingering system was a bit different..  I wrote down all of the identifying markers of her instrument including the serial number.  Here’s what I found out: her instrument is made by F. Arthur Uebel (check out the website here – but be aware that it is all in German), which is a pretty well known German clarinet maker, although I hear that the newer instruments are not of the same quality of the older ones.  I discovered that the serial number gives the model number, the year it was made (1975) and the product number.  I looked at pictures of the specific model online, and everything was the same except for that missing key!  I was still pretty stumped, because everything I was finding told me that it was a normal Oehler instrument (except for the missing key).  An unrelated but very unique thing about the instrument is that its stamped with “DDR”.  My student told me that “DDR” means “East Germany”.  Cool!  Most of the clarinets I researched on the internet had “GDR” stamped on it (which is “regular” Germany, I guess).

Anyway, our third lesson was a breakthrough.  I had brought my Yamaha clarinet just in case we couldn’t get her pitch issues resolved…but I didn’t even need to take it out!  All of the sudden, she was matching my pitch and her F sounded like my F!  I was so relieved.  I did not take into consideration that the pitch difficulties could be a result of her not being used to playing!  After a week of steady practice, all the problems from before were gone.  Yay!  We even played some duets which we were not able to do before (we were so far apart in pitch the week before!), and she seemed to enjoy it that a lot.
We’re now almost a month into lessons, and she’s progressing very rapidly.  Last lesson, we ventured into the pinky keys (playing low F) – which is farther than I anticipated her being at this point.  I attribute that to her commitment to practicing (she says she tries to play every day), and the fact that she had taken lessons when she was younger.  She told me at our last lesson that she’s having fun playing now, because she has the choice of playing.  When she was young, her parents forced her into it (she said she didn’t even get to choose the clarinet!), which probably led to the fact that she quit and never looked back.  I’m super excited to be teaching her and introducing her back into the world of clarinet, and it is extremely educational for me too!  I think I’m having as much fun as she is.  I’m kind of sad that our time together will be brief, since I’m leaving for Navy in 3 months.


Speaking of…my countdown has finally gone under 100 days!  95 days to go as of today…I’m getting excited, I’m so ready to do this!
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One comment

  1. Hi, I like your story. actually Im trying teach my self plying clarinet ( German sys ), could you please tell me where did you get the finger chart. could you please send me some links.
    Thanks,

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