My Daily Routine, Part Three: Articulation

And continuing on to the third part of my warm-up routine!  Articulation is an important fundamental every clarinetist needs to become proficient at.  For this part of my routine, I actually do a couple different things.  I usually switch it up when I get bored with doing one or the other.

For the first routine, I choose a scale or pattern “of the day” (for example, I will usually start with a pattern – such as a major scale – on low E, and move up a half step each day, until I get to Eb, then I will start at the bottom again).  I do two different things with it.  First, I start with an articulation pattern on only the starting note of my selected scale, in all octaves possible (I used C as an example).  I would play this pattern as written, then an octave higher, then two octaves higher, then if I’m feeling saucy, 3 octaves higher:articulation

I try to get the speed as close to 60 as possible.  That’s really fast when you get to the sixteenths!  Right now, I can do it cleanly at quarter = 58.  Only duple vs. tripleplay as fast as you can get it all clean, including the sixteenths.  You are not helping yourself if the sixteenths are a sloppy mess.  Next, I take my pattern and use the “scrubber” on it.  I’ve mentioned it before in a post when I was talking about playing duple vs. triple.  The exercise has so many uses!  I play it the way it is prescribed, except I articulate everything!  Once again, I recommend playing it at quarter = 50-60 (or faster if you can manage it!), and in all possible octaves.  I do that because articulating in the chalumeau register is quite different from articulating in the altissimo register!  I focus on shortness of the notes for the slower rhythms, and the faster the rhythms are, the more legato my articulation becomes.  If you try playing staccato at a fast tempo, you will not get very far!

I often use this to practice patterns that are in the music I am learning.  For example, in a piece that the VWS played at Midwest last month, there was a section full of whole tone scales.  So I used whole tone scale as my pattern for articulation, and switched up the starting note each day.  Two birds with one stone!

The other routine I do to practice articulation is something I got from my Navy SOM clarinet teacher.  It consists of three articulation exercises from the Langenus method book (#11, #12, and #22).  I don’t play the entirety of each exercise, I think I would drive myself crazy if I did!  I work each one until I feel satisfied I’ve gotten what I need from each.  It usually comes out to a few lines of each.

#11 from the Langenus method

#11 from the Langenus method

For #11, I play it super, super slow… at eighth note = 40, and as short as possible!  This gives me a chance to really focus on the technique of articulation.  I also focus on making each note exactly the same length.  For #12, I put the metronome on 50, also for the eighth note (six clicks per measure), so we’re still pretty slow.  Once again, I focus on making each note exactly the same length.  For #22, I actually play it at the tempo marked (quarter=66), or sometimes a bit faster if I’m feeling

#12 and #22 of the Langenus method

#12 and #22 of the Langenus method

up to it.  Here I focus on having a more legato tongue, and keeping it light.  You would be amazed how short a legato tongue can sound at fast speeds!

So that’s what I do to practice articulation.  I’m so relieved after I’m done, because I hate practicing it!  But it is essential to good clarinet playing.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of being able to easily double tongue like other instruments, so learning how to single tongue at fast tempos is very important.  Daily practice of it will get you there.  Start slow, and don’t get discouraged!

On a completely different note, today is Mozart‘s birthday!  Hope you all take a moment to pay tribute to a man who gave us so much great music in his short life.  He has been a part of my life in more ways than I can count.  Thanks Mozart!  (or no thanks…LOL!)

Also, today marks 7 years since my first graduate audition at Eastman.  It was my first audition outside my home state of Colorado too.  I learned a lot that day, and although it sucked at the time, I’m thankful for the harsh lesson it taught me…that I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought I was.  I worked so hard in that year after because of it.

And look at me now!

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3 comments

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