I’ve always hated practicing scales with a passion. They are just so boring! But unfortunately for me, they are a necessary evil for woodwind playing. So it has become the part of my routine that takes the most time. Its like exercise, I hate it at the moment, but after I’m done, I feel great and I’m glad I did it.
After I’ve gotten my breath and tone moving after part one of my daily routine, its time to get my fingers moving. The key is to start slow, and work up to faster movement. This part I do almost exactly as Robert Spring does it, except I change the fast tempos a bit (176 is a little too fast for me at the moment!). I do the scales in the Klose book (vary the type of minor by day) at quarter = 60, then do the Langenus arpeggios (page 14) also at quarter = 60. By now I’m ready to get moving faster, so I bump the metronome up to 80, and play scales in thirds in the Klose book. Then I repeat all three at quarter = 120…and that is pushing it for me.
You don’t necessarily need to stick to the Klose/Langenus exercises for this. You may do any scale excercise, or just plain ol’ scales! As long as you stick to the plan of playing slow scales and arpeggios (full range, of course!) first, and then repeating them at a faster tempo you should find that your technique will improve. And for the fast tempo, it should be fast enough that you feel “on the edge” without actually crashing and burning. If you find yourself being super sloppy and making a lot of mistakes, move the tempo down! It should feel uncomfortable, but not ridiculous. For example, when I am doing my warm up on Eb clarinet, I have to move my faster tempos down just because my technique isn’t as good on the smaller instrument. And that’s ok! Never feel bad for slowing tempos down.
Sometimes I will record myself just to check my rhythm. And 9 times out of 10, I’m ahead of the metronome on the slow tempos! So rhythmic awareness is essential here. Its easy to mentally check out and just go through the motions of playing scales and arpeggios, but resist the urge! In order to have efficient practice, constant awareness of what you are doing is key! Always strive for perfection.
So that is part two of my routine. Next time I will be discussing articulation!