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Clarinet Lessons: Holding the Instrument

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So today we're working on
holding the instrument.
I believe that the most important
thing is to try to keep as much of our
natural posture and how we are as
it relates to the instrument.
So I like to think about the hand
position going from just how our hands
naturally lie, on our sides, and
how we bring them back to the clarinet.
So if you see I'm shaking my left hand,
just to make sure that I'm not doing
anything stiff for the camera or
anything like that, so
just to keep it as natural as possible.
And I try to just without looking
at it see I'm just lifting it.
And see where there's a natural
curvature to the fingers.
See, I just leave it alone.
Natural curvature, and
see how that relates to the instrument.
Now this for me, I have been
doing this for quite a while, so
then it sort of naturally gets
into the shape of the clarinet.
Sometimes it's not as natural for
some people, but
the important thing is to keep as much
of that natural feel without getting as
constricted into a little
shape that brings tension.
So again, we are relaxed.
I'm bringing the hand,
we see the angle, and
we see we bring
the instrument to the hand.
So right here, as we can see, there my
fingers are derived by the tone holes.
The most important finger to be
watching for is the index finger,
where the position of the finger has
to be in a place where it's relaxed,
yet it's at an angle where it can without
much effort touch this G sharp key and
the throat A key.
Many people have been
taught to curve the hand at
an angle like this so
when you have the first finger and
the thumb you can actually touch them at
an angle and bring up the hand like this.
I think that sometimes it's not the best
because if you have, short hand,
short fingers, then it makes you
have to overstretch your pinky,
your little finger, for these keys.
So I think that it's best to
have it in the natural place.
Again, we bring it to the instrument,
see how it goes and
then see where that angle is naturally
with the side of the finger.
It's close to being able to touch
without much effort the keys.
Same thing happens with the right hand.
We definitely need even more
relaxation for this one because
the right hand deals also with holding the
instrument and dealing with the weight.
And we want to make sure that we
are not tense, because tension
will lead to not being able to have
flexibility to move the fingers.
And if we do that for a very long time,
that tension builds up and
we can get hand problems, tendonitis,
and carpal tunnel in extreme cases, and
we don't want to go there.
So we go for the natural feel again.
See I'm shaking into my shoulders.
I'm not doing anything funny.
Just hanging out the way it is,
bring it up without looking at it, and
then I bring the clarinet
to where it goes, and
try to find the tone holes to
where the fingers are lying.
Again, natural.
Up, instrument, see where the fingers are.
Now right there we see there is an angle
for the thumb and the first finger.
In method books,
they always say that it's best for
the hand to be actually perpendicular.
And the way that I have my thumb rest
adjusted, it is not, as you can see.
I would say that when I have
it this way because the width
of my hand is not as strong
as many people have,
to be able to hold the instrument right
there when everything's parallel.
So I need a little leverage.
What I'm saying is that all the
instructional books are good up to a point
where it actually is like recommendations,
because it's based on true and
tried methods on how to
make things more efficient.
But we want it to work for you, okay?
And for me it's just a little bit off but
it's not a sin.
And I still can get around the instrument
and that's why I qualify as being correct.
Most of the time whenever we have
an adjustment, I usually try to go with
the most personalized feel in the way
that we get the instrument to our hands,
etc., so that then we feel more
as one with the instrument.
The instrument will
always be our microphone.
It's just literally our microphone for
us to be able to communicate.
And so if the microphone is in a way that
is hindering us, then it is no good.
So we have to try to make
it as natural as possible.
Now, we're going to talk about posture.
Again, as I mentioned before
with the lesson hand positions,
I believe the most important thing is for
us to find our natural place,
our natural way of standing or sitting.
Many times because of the instrument
angle we get a little tight
to bring the instrument in.
I'd say that the most important
thing is to try to maintain as much
relaxation as possible.
Shoulders down, we can just make
sure we are not all uptight.
Okay, so
with a little smile we close our eyes to
make sure we're not trying to do anything.
We try to find our inner balance and
then we bring the instrument to us,
relax and then it comes in.
I'm going to turn sideways now so
that we can see that
I'm not bringing myself to
the instrument or getting in tight.
We go sideways
a little.
And the instrument comes.
[MUSIC]. Hello. Now in talking
about holding the instrument,
one important part of it is
the angle of the instrument in
relation to tongue quality.
Now, the reason why the tongue
quality really changes when we change
the angle is because,
once we have the instrument on our mouth,
the angle will change where the pressure
point on the mouthpiece is.
And the speed and
the angle of the air have to go through
the mouthpiece into the instrument.
Now, the most recommended thing is for
us to try again,
to find what is most natural to us, and
how we are always starting to think about
what kind of tone we want to project.
For example, the more the angle is up,
the more direct the sound becomes and
a little bit more strident or projecting.
I will play just a high G in my normal
spot, which is what we will call 40%
angled, more or less around there,
and then I'm going to raise this so
we can see how it affects the sound,
and then bring it back up.
So, regular.
So when I increase the angle,
it also loses some of its focus,
but it becomes also much more more direct.
Gustav Mahler used to use this a lot in
his symphonies just because it actually
makes a instrument have the bells up and
then it just cuts through the sound
through the orchestra very well.
Not the most beautiful sound,
but it's very clear out there.
[LAUGH] When you have an orchestra of
150 people then it comes in handy to be
able to project.
Now, the same principle goes
when we close the angle.
The important thing about trying
to find a place that works is
that we still have plenty of space for
the reed to vibrate.
The closer we get this way,
we actually get a little bit
less of an opportunity to control
the reed, because the angle is such.
Therefore, we end up having to raise or
move forward our jaw,
like such, like this, and
that also starts eventually creating
tension which we would like to avoid.
So, I'm going with a regular,
my normal 40 ish percent of angle.
You see, when I get a little bit closer,
the sound for a little bit feels like
it can be getting a little focused,
and then we go to the point
of no return when the sound
loses its fluidity and
then gets a little tight.
Now, of course, this is, again, an
artificial way of saying do this angle or
that angle, because everything depends
on our mouth and our physicality.
For example I have my upper teeth
there's a gap between my upper teeth and
my lower teeth and therefore the angle
will definitely be completely different of
somebody who has the no gap in between the
upper and lower teeth so we have to always
try to find the angle where we get the
most of the sound that we want to project.