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Clarinet Lessons: Brahms - Symphony #3, 1st Movement

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In Brahms' First Symphony,
there's quite a few little solos
that we always have to prepare.
One of the things that makes it
challenging is that it goes through raiser
upon raiser, and we have to try to
maintain a smooth quality of sound,
but making it still singing.
Now the other thing that is tricky
is that it has to have very
good rhythm and we need to make sure that,
while it is absolutely rhythmic,
that it's not stiff, and we'll discuss
that in a second, the stiffness.
Right now, in terms of the first solo
after B, one of the things that is
important to have a very nice
fingering for the high E flat.
I actually use the fingering right here we
call two, three, with the third finger.
I don't play the regular one,
the regular standard high E flat, because
it tends to be a little too bright.
Now, when it comes at
the top of a crescendo,
then instead of having to back off,
since Brahms was piano, and
dolce, and the crescendo.
I try to avoid [SOUND] because that note
tends to have a little bit of brilliance,
so therefore, I use a note that
it's actually much rounder, so
that then I can go for the note, and
therefore it will have the musical
inflection, but
it will maintain the quality of the sound.
So I'll show you with
the regular fingering, and
then with the one I use, to give you
an idea of the differences in sound.
And then with
the other fingering.
Now this one seems
to be more piercing.
And then you can play it anywhere you can
play this one, but for me, my approach is
I actually try to be thinking,
have a generous approach to the music, so
you can bring it forth to your
colleagues and to the audiences.
Instead of going
I hope that it's not as round.
I try to go toward it.
So that then you can always sing it.
Instead of actually fighting the tendency
of the instrument, you embrace it
by getting a fingering that will actually
help you to play the music better.
You see, and that way, I can actually give
it the little inflection so
it will be pointed, but
it will always give me a little bit of
room for it not to get out of the sound.
>> Now the name for
solo is, there are several
things that are tricky about it.
Number one, we have a metavocce and a
grazioso and a piano written in the part.
So metavocce's to medium voice,
and then we have piano.
But we also have grazioso, okay?
So we have to find a way of getting to
the sound that has a velvety sound.
That is sweet and nice but
then that is playful okay?
Gracisio is spelt playful.
So for this we have to make sure
it's then for it to have a lilt.
Because this is sort of like
a compound waltz tempo.
It's usually conducted in three.
in order to practice it
to get the rhythm to have fluidity and
I would recommend to think of it in one,
and either rewrite so that it's in 3/4 so
you can think [SOUND] Okay, so
that's a way to fragment this so
that there is not,
we tend to play too straight.
[SOUND] And that's going to be in tune and
you're going to be in rhythm,
but who cares?
We want it to mean something.
Therefore we need the grazioso
part of the operation here
is the most important thing.
Now I actually play this
solo on B flat clarinet.
Now it's traditionally for
auditions etcetera.
And the bottom writer part has
the rhythm for a clarinet.
But it's very important to know
that Brahm's actually wrote it for
B flat clarinet.
And it so happens that somebody
told him well you know,
it likes better for the A clarinets so
maybe you should change it.
And then he changed it for
the for the printing.
You can see still there is a B
flat clarinet rhythm, okay?
Now, there are several reasons why it
sounds better on the B flat, the first
thing is that, in practical terms,
is very difficult to make it a switch.
You're playing a B flat, and then you have
two and a half measures to switch, so
it's very risky, and not advisable.
So, some people actually just play from
the beginning, transpose in the beginning,
the first 30 bars until you get there,
then you play that little bit
on a clarinet, and then you switch,
because you have four measures.
It's also a little bit bumpy,
and it doesn't really look good.
You fitted your lips, a ta, ta, and
then orchestra starts playing quiet,
and you're moving.
It's just not very gracious, so
it doesn't work in practical terms for
me in my opinion that well.
Now the other thing is,
that the solo really is only
the first three measures, okay?
We only have a solo three majors.
The rest is counterpoint to what we
are playing with everybody else.
Therefore it's important to note that.
We don't have to be thinking,oh
my god we are playing in B major.
We can't play it.
B major is just a friendly key as C major.
Well, almost.
[LAUGH] But,
there's another thing that I like.
When you're going to the top note,
instead of being an E on the A clarinet,
which is nice.
If you don't h ave a superb A clarinet,
one of the things that is
noticeable right away,
is that the right hand tends to be a
little bit tubbier, meaning out of focus.
So therefore you will be playing and
then your top note that wants
to have the most bark is lacking it and
sometimes it might not even
be you it's just that you may not
have a super duper clarinet so
it will sound, [SOUND], and you don't
want that note to miss the spark.
And, therefore,
then we strive to get spark by trying to
get more highs in the sound with the reed,
and then we use a reed that's too light
and, therefore, the sound is thin and
then we lose a lot of the qualities that
we want in the warmth of the Brahms sound.
Now in the B flat clarinet,
the E instead of an E it's a D sharp,
okay or an E flat D sharp.
And it's coming from your D which
is what usually in a clarinet
is one of the nicest resonance.
So you're top note just has that same
color so it gives you the spark.
So musically
speaking it goes
like this
Okay, so we have the
It has more ring,
it's better to control and it's easier.
And now, when we go to the third measure.
It's actually easier than going for
the open A, the G and
then just hard to put the whole hand.
You can actually control it better
because you can leave the pinkie down for
that note.
And then the piano.
Pianissimo subito is better because
you're going from throat notes that
are the G sharp or A flat, G flat, A flat,
B flat, and then the C flat, which
are actually a little bit more covered.
So musically speaking Brahms knew
what he was doing, actually.
So it works better to get that pianissimo.
just notes that are more covered so
you can play the music better.
Now, that same thing applies for
the second solo.
We just have a three major solo and
then you go.
Now, the greatest advantage
of this whole thing is what
goes at the end of the solo,
which is the staccato [SOUND].
In the regular clarinet,
if you play it on A clarinet it's usually
a little tricky because the D
is usually not so friendly.
It's very bright if you play it with the A
flat, E flat key, the regular fingering.
And if you play it without,
then it's too resistant so
it's very risky to get
the quality of the sound.
So in here,
we're just in the same register because
we stay in the clarion
because we do a D flat.
And then we just have a very smooth
transition from D flat to A flat.
We're in the same register so in theory we
should be able to play that much smoother.
And then you have something to hold onto
with the last C-flat and the F-natural.
It tends to be a little easier
than to get the high C.
The same thing applies to the other solo,
then the transition,
instead of from A to an E,
which is actually,
it's okay to practice it when we
practice it with the half hole.
Then it can work, but if we get nervous,
then we just go with the regular
fingering, and it tends to pop out.
Usually it pops out because we have
sometimes If we have these ring keys on
the A clarinet, opening too much slide,
then we can get very good clarity,
then we just lose that.
Now, on the B flat clarinet,
we go from an A flat to an E flat.
So, I mean it's always smoother.
And then, let's say that we play bumply.
If you use this rounder,
the rounder E flat.
Then even if it pops out,even if we go
there is a D in the sound because
it's not perfect.
Right now it's behaving, but
in performance sometimes it
just gets a little bumpier.
But because it has the right
kind of sounds then it
doesn't detract from the line.
And you have many options.
You can play.
Regular E flat, or without the E flat key.
Without the A flat E flat key.
So we got that.
And we have it much smoother.
Okay, I know my explanation of playing
it on the B flat sounds sorta radical.
And most people would be
like oo I rather no do that.
What if when I audition, someone can
tell I'm not playing on the B flat.
That I'm not playing on the A.
Now, two things that
you have to understand.
If you are playing an audition for
a second clarinet, where the first
clarinet is just listening for
somebody who will want a musical partner
and they usually expect that to be
the case in terms of what everybody plays,
then okay, play it on the A clarinet.
But the things that we discussed
still apply in terms of
the mezzo vocce, the lilt,
and those things.
Now, in order to help you
with the upper register.
I will say the best fingering for that
is what I call the backless D fingering.
Now, the backless D fingering,
I call it backless because we are not
covering the tone hole in the back.
But we're using the register key.
Therefore, the backless D goes as follows.
Register key, one, two, three.
One, three, and the A flat E flat key..
In many of my performances you will
see that I use that fingering a lot.
It goes like this.
In comparison, I'll play the regular D and
then I'll play the other one.
I hope that you can hear
that difference online.
If not, there are several factors that
I like better about than this one.
The first one is the color of the D.
It comes out much more like
the German style instruments.
Now German style instruments,
one of the reasons why their upper
register tends to sound much nicer.
Other than the bore and
reed combination that they have to do
that contributes to their sound, is that
their fingering also uses more fingers.
Therefore, it controls the sound, you have
more tone holes that are being covered.
And therefore, you have more of
a tone that has to be dealt with
the fundametal sound with the air.
And the French clarinet, we have it
that it's much more efficient, and
because we have less air,
you get more resonance.
You have less tone holes, more open holes,
so therefore, you have more
spaces where the air can go out and
it be much more open and more flexible,
but in this kind of music, when we want to
play delicately in the upper register and
softly and with good sound,
the regular fingering is not that great.
So therefore I use the backless D and
the backless C sharp.
Now the backless C sharp is thumb,
one, two, three.
One, two, three, and
the A flat E flat key.
So going from the D which is lifting
the middle finger which is this.
Re, Do, Re, and then we have just to
work on the smoothing out from D to A.
But if we work that out
then we can play it.
And there you have it.
If you'd like to submit this Brahms
excerpt, here's what I'm looking for.
Good rhythm, smooth tone,
and a singing style.
Make sure to keep the bouncy feel and
that it also has the grazioso.
Very important.
Before you submit your video, be sure to
watch the other video exchanges on this
excerpt, and
see what I have told the other students.
Once you have done that,
submit your video.
I'll take a look, and
give you some feedback.