Vibrating Reed

Returning to the clarinet after a long hiatus

20 June 2018 · Comments Off on Returning to the clarinet after a long hiatus

It has been an unforgivably looooong time since I last wrote for this blog and the only explanation I have is: life happened.

The details of how life and everything in my life changed dramatically may well make it into the pages of a best-selling autobiography one day.  But in the meantime, I’m back!  And I will attempt to revive both my clarinet learning and this blog.

So, what’s been happening to me musically in the intervening years?

Well, not an awful lot. 

I’ve listened to music of course (many different genres) – recorded and live.  And I’ve listened to other people playing the clarinet, so maybe that counts as ‘practising by loose association’. 

And I did do some real-life practice a handful of times.

Seafront sessions

Last year I moved to the coast and during my many walks along the seafront each week, I encounter, at irregular intervals, a guy propped up against the sea wall, playing the clarinet. 

He doesn’t perform for money.  His sessions sound like practice sessions; more for his benefit than anyone else’s.

But I have benefitted.  Because each time I walk past him, and in particular one day when he was having trouble and squeaking badly (reminding me of my own struggles with squeaking), I have thought wistfully of my own clarinet languishing at the back of a cupboard, much loved but sadly neglected.    

Getting myself ready to play again

And slowly but surely I have moved closer to re-starting my clarinet learning.

I’m convinced that I’ve forgotten everything, and I have a feeling that I’ll need to start at the very beginning.

My clarinet is no longer secreted in a cupboard; it is proudly on display on my bookcase (albeit in its case). 

I’ve opened the case a few times to look at it.  I’ve bought a fresh supply of reeds, a reed storage case (the one I used previously having been discontinued and along with it, the integrated humidity control unit), humidity control sachets, and cork grease.

I contacted ABRSM to get my clarinet exam certificates (I have Grade 1 and Grade 2) changed to my maiden name.  ABRSM were very obliging and for a small fee per certificate, they made the changes and sent me my new certificates.

Today I visited this blog and read through my old posts.  Reading them again has rekindled the joy I felt when I was learning the clarinet from scratch.  I really have missed it and want to get back to playing it again as soon as I possibly can!

I still have all my written notes and every single one of my clarinet learning books, so I’m good to go.

But I need one more thing to seal the deal: a good clarinet teacher.

Looking for a clarinet teacher (again)

Having moved far away from where I used to live, re-starting classes with my last clarinet teacher is no longer an option.

But where to find a good teacher?  My last one was recommended and did not disappoint. 

So, to start with, I’ll be using my own pearls of wisdom about clarinet teachers.

I may try to reach out to my last couple of clarinet teachers to see whether they can recommend anyone in my area.

Three saxophone teachers put to the test

But if the last point on my action plan fails, I’ll resort to a process I made up when my daughter expressed a wish to learn the saxophone some years ago. 

I lined up four saxophone teachers over a 7-day period and booked my daughter in for a half-hour lesson with each one. 

The idea was that after four lessons with four different teachers, she would be able to tell me which one she liked best and which one she wanted to continue to have lessons with. 

She was used to music lessons, having had piano and violin classes in the past – plus her ongoing weekly flute classes.

The first class was ok.  It was with a male teacher and he had a soundproof room near his front door that he used for classes.  It was windowless and crammed with music paraphernalia.  Both my daughter and I came away from the session feeling he wasn’t the right teacher for her.

I had high hopes for the second teacher.  She had experience of teaching children with Asperger’s and I thought, if nothing else, she would be patient. 

High hopes and reality don’t always converge, and part way through the class, my daughter turned to me and asked, ‘Can we leave now please, mummy?’. 

My daughter was very young at the time and yet to learn about social mores.  On the way home, I taught her about being kind and saving things she wanted to tell me about people for when the people in question weren’t present.

The third teacher seemed good.  She came to our home for the class.  But after she left our home my daughter informed me that she didn’t want to learn the saxophone any more.  She admitted that the only reason she wanted to learn it was in order to drown out the sound of my clarinet playing.  She had wanted to play a louder instrument than me.

I hope that one or more of these approaches will help me to find the right clarinet teacher for me.

Categories: Clarinet teachers · Motivation levels

Key Signature Conundrum

17 June 2011 · Comments Off on Key Signature Conundrum

 Unveiling the mysteries of the key signature Every week brings new challenges – and new musical knowledge, and the other week, my music teacher revealed to me the mystery of the key signature.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t noticed the key signature. I have come across it before, but never really looked at it or thought about how it related to my playing.

I wouldn’t call myself an expert by any means, but slowly but surely the scales (no pun intended!) are falling from my eyes and it is all starting to make much more sense. If only I had known this stuff from day one!

The Mercedes-Benz factor

Before I go on I must admit that I actually started writing this post two weeks ago, but due to a combination of being busy, slightly lazy, working on another new blog and taking up another new hobby (cycling), it was not completed at that time.

I am returning to this topic with a fresh new approach, and reading the beginning of the post again reminded me of my third car purchase. I traded in my troublesome decade-old Corsa in August 2009 for a two-year-old Mercedes-Benz B Class.

I had only stopped by the dealership to ‘look around’ but before long, I was test driving the car and my daughter and the car dealer were soon looking expectantly at me while I toyed with the idea of buying the car or not.

At the time, one of the things I remember the salesman said to me was that the car had many features, and that he would only show me a selection of them because the beauty of the features was in the discovery.

Sure enough, two years on, I keep discovering new things including, more recently a concealed panel in the arm rest which is now used as a handy and capacious pencil case.

Key signature and the meaning of clarinet scales

But getting back to clarinets, the ‘unveiling’ of the key signature has been a delight – and helped me understand what I am doing with my scales.

I’ve found a very handy chart on Wikipedia that shows – in a circular diagram of Circle of Fifths showing major (in red) and minor keys (in green) and their signatures – genius!

While I personally wouldn’t get into the mathematical side of things, the Circle of Fifths is a very useful aide-memoire for key signatures.

Categories: Clarinet scales & arpeggios · Key signature · Practice

No clarinet exams!

29 May 2011 · Comments Off on No clarinet exams!

 Perfecting your clarinet practice time

It was bound to happen.

My lack of consistent, quality practice, my dodgy scales and my focus on perfecting my exam pieces means that I am having trouble playing any new material.

My clarinet teacher broke the news to me in a (more…)

Categories: Clarinet exams · Practice

Should you aim for quality or quantity in your clarinet playing?

21 May 2011 · Comments Off on Should you aim for quality or quantity in your clarinet playing?

 Should clarinet practice be about quality or quantity?
Last week’s posts plus this week’s Twitter activity have got me thinking more and more about quality versus quantity when it comes to learning or perfecting the clarinet.

While personal preference (more…)

Categories: Practice

A note on clarinet teachers

13 May 2011 · Comments Off on A note on clarinet teachers

Hitting the right note when changing your clarinet teacher

Some music students start music lessons with one teacher and remain with that teacher for many years. 

Some stay with the same teacher for a year or two before moving on.  (more…)

Categories: Clarinet teachers · Motivation levels

On joining an orchestra

4 May 2011 · Comments Off on On joining an orchestra

 Finding the right orchestra for your clarinet playing

Last week on this blog I mentioned that I would talk about playing in an orchestra, and as promised, here are my thoughts…

Around July 2010, I decided to supplement my weekly one-to-one clarinet lessons with orchestral sessions. 

(more…)

Categories: Practice

Sight unseen

26 April 2011 · 1 Comment

 Playing new music as part of your regular clarinet practice

I have decided to set myself a new challenge.  A practice challenge.

For the best part of a year, my practice sessions have consisted of me doing a brief warm-up (when I remember), my scales, and then one or more of my exam pieces.  That’s it. (more…)

Categories: Practice

Are you getting in enough practice?

13 April 2011 · Comments Off on Are you getting in enough practice?

 The little and often approach to clarinet practice
During last weekend’s warm weather spell, my daughter and I were sunning ourselves in the garden when a sound grabbed our attention.

It was the sound of scales being played on a woodwind instrument; an oboe.

(more…)

Categories: Clarinet scales & arpeggios · Practice

Week of the squeak

5 April 2011 · Comments Off on Week of the squeak

 Playing the clarinet without squeaking

Last week’s blog post failed to materialise. 

This was partly due to a combination of poor time management, and the arrival of my latest gadget: a Kindle.

(more…)

Categories: Note quality

A warm welcome to all adult learners of the clarinet

23 March 2011 · Comments Off on A warm welcome to all adult learners of the clarinet

Clarinet and music sheets for adult learnersThanks for visiting my blog – Vibrating Reed – and welcome to my first post!

The Vibrating Reed blog is for adult beginners and learners of the clarinet. It is a place to discuss and share experiences – and exchange tips.

(more…)

Categories: Motivation levels

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