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Clarinet Lessons: Single Tongue Articulation

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[MUSIC]
Talking about articulation is,
to me, we have to always be thinking
of the interruption of legato.
Which means that all the things that have
been important to learn from the previous
lesson, in terms of tongue position,
the air, the voicing,
the diaphram use, the finger legato,
we all keep building up.
Now we're going to go to interrupt all
of that smoothness using the tongue.
Now most of the time we are always
thinking that the articulation
is really 95% the use of the tongue and
how it moves around
inside the mouth but
I think that is actually the opposite.
It is about 95% the usage and
the voicing of the air.
And then,
with just that five to ten percent of that
interruption of the air with the tongue.
Now, the reason why I am explaining
it like that is, figure this.
The air is going through the mouthpiece
and getting the reed to vibrate.
Okay?
So, the better the air, and
the faster the air, the more vibration
we are going to get out of the reed.
And if it is vibrating fully, then any
minor interruption of that vibration
will bring an interruption
that will be clear.
Okay?
If, we are not putting enough
air through the instrument, and
the reed vibration is sluggish and
it's not that much.
Then several things
actually start happening.
When we are not pulling
enough air because it's not
vibrating as well then we tend
to try to get it a little bit
closer to the tip of the mouthpiece so
that it's not sluggish, okay?
But how we do that is by putting pressure,
biting, tension.
But that's not good because
then we are getting less air,
we're clamping down, and then that
amount of little vibration of the reed,
gets awfully interrupted by the tongue,
then it gets to be very hard
because there is no Enough of
the re-vibrating come bouncing back.
So that's how come most of the time
when we're in a supporting it gets hard,
[SOUND], and we get that.
And because we're afraid of hearing that
sound then we start using less air, and
then it becomes a down spiral, okay?
If the lesson gets harder, harder,
and harder, and less clear.
Now the way to be thinking
about this again is building.
Always with the air.
It sounds just a very simplistic way,
but really all articulation has to do
with the air, not with the tongue.
So then we get plenty of vibration.
Now, one of the things that
we will have to check is,
how do we stop that vibration.
Now, for the tongue,
everybody's tongue has a different shape,
and therefore, the way that it
will get to touch the reed.
It would be different on everybody.
Now I always try to think of three
spots for touching the reed.
The most common one that
we all talk about is
tip of the tongue to the tip of the reed.
But it's not literally the actual tip.
If you use the actual tip, unless you
have a really short tongue, you will be
curling that reed, curling your tongue,
excuse me, in a way that when,
by the time that we release that
tip of the tongue from the reed,
there is a moment of getting back to the
voicing that we have been talking about,
that is the proper voicing, and
therefore the sound is not as focused.
And even though it's for a microsecond.
That's what we call
the doink in the sound,
and you will,
I'll demonstrate it a little bit.
It sounds like doy, doy, doy,
doy, doy, doy, doy, doy, doy.
[MUSIC]
There's a little
bit of that spreadiness.
Now I don't do it that well
because I'm not used to putting
that particular part of the tongue,
which actually I'm grateful to my
teacher that they didn't let me do that.
But the point is that you can do that
to a certain degree of competence.
And they will sound doi,
doi, doi, doi, doi.
And therefore you don't have the real
pitch of the note or the real sound.
Okay.
So what we try to do is having the tongue
in the high positions that we're going
D, right.
So the tongue will go
forward toward the tip.
And what that creates is
the tip area of the tongue.
Not literally the tip.
So, for example,
when I tongue
[MUSIC]
right there.
It's not exactly the tip,
bit it's in the tip area, see.
There not literally there absolute tip.
And the reason for that I'm trying to
keep the tongue position in the right
spot in the same spot as
if I am playing legato.
So that when I interrupt
the tonguing when I get back and
release the tongue the tongue is in
the proper shape to maintain the sound.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC].
Now, the three spots where we have
to think about is in the middle of
the tongue, the middle of the mouthpiece,
we're thinking that it goes forward.
And then to where we have to
try to see what happens when
we are actually tonguing toward
the left side of the mouthpiece and
when we're trying to articulate going
toward the right side of the mouthpiece.
Now in our mouth, it seems like there's
not that much room to be going in
those directions but,
there is plenty of room, and particularly,
because of the shape of our tongues, one
of those sides will always work best for
closing and interrupting the sound.
For example, for me,
I'm gonna start with an open G and
I'm going to demonstrate the first
register change toward the middle.
Then its G and stopping abruptly
toward the left G again and
stopping abruptly toward the right.
[MUSIC].
That's in the middle.
Toward the left side
[MUSIC]
So that seems to close a little bit faster
and more abruptly.
And then I'm going to try
toward the right side.
[MUSIC].
And you see how that sound bleeds.
There is a [SOUND].
That means that the way that
my tongue is shaped When I try
to go toward that side,
the reed is not completely closed.
Now, that in of itself would seem like,
my God, there is a deficiency there.
But actually what I'm trying to do,
as we have been talking about,
is how to use our natural
physiology to our advantage.
And how to make sure that our physiology
helps us to communicate and to use for
music making.
So what I do is then, because those are,
for me how it happens.
By the way, I've had many students and
colleagues that they
are stopping the opposite side.
It just happens to be the way
that their tongues are shaped.
Then what we try to talk about is
what kind of quality of articulation.
Because sometimes we want
articulation that is clear and stops.
[SOUND] Right?
[MUSIC].
And sometimes we need a bouncier
one that is sort of like a leaning.
[SOUND] Not [SOUND].
So that then there's still a resonance.
[SOUND].
[MUSIC].
That is me actually going toward
the side that didn't seem to close.
Now there are many pieces where
we need those variations.
For example, one of the pieces that
is important to have that clear
articulation is one of the excerpts from
the Mendelssohn Scherzo, where we need
the clarity to be there so that
everything in the ensemble sounds clear.
[MUSIC].
Now, the other kind of articulation
that I'm talking about,
remember how I demonstrated that for me,
when I go to a particular spot in the our
tongue in the mouth piece,
it sort of bleeds.
It means that it doesn't stop immediately.
For me it was on the right side.
For you it might be the left side.
But, the important thing is
that there are differences.
That kind of articulation sometimes is
very useful because there are pieces
of music where we need a separation.
Yet, we still need the sound
to be outward and ascending.
And one of the great examples of that
different kind of articulation is
the staccato part, or
the articulated part,
in the long solo in the slow movement
of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony.
[MUSIC].
You see we have
articulation that is clear,
but is not pecky or
short or too brilliant.
For example, if I were to try on the
shorter side, it would sound like this.
[MUSIC].
It's clear.
But, in this instance, in my opinion,
it's better to have a longer
articulation while allowing for
the sound to keep developing even though
there is separation in between the notes.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC].
So as I explained before,
there is many different kinds
of exercises that we can do.
The two that I believe that are most
important are ones where we
get in touch with our air and
to get us used to being able to relax.
Therefore, I like to use a book
that is by Kalmen Opperman,
one of my former teachers.
His book is called Velocity Studies.
And this book, the intermediate method,
the one that comes in a white cover,
has an exercise where it's just moving
the fingers through the register and
it's relatively easy,
and I like to use it for
articulation because it just stays
a lot in the low register, so
it helps us to maintain a relaxed form and
to keep us having fluidity of air.
And what I like to do
is play a few measures
in the legato style just
completely slurred.
And then once I get going and
I feel that the air is going,
then I like to add articulation to that.
So that then to be able to remind me
that I shouldn't get tight or bite, etc.
So the exercise goes as follows.
[MUSIC].
etc., etc.
So then I like to go a couple measures
slurred and then I add articulation.
[MUSIC].
etc.
So the important thing is to
keep the same relaxation,
same non-clamping of the embouchure and
the fluidity of the air,
and then we get the tongue to
do minor interruption to that.
Now for speed, this one that I explained
is mainly to keep us with fluidity and
to get the tongue moving, but
the tongue being a muscle just like
any other in our body, we have to
train it just like everything else.
So that means that the important thing
about this one is just to get the movement
going and for it to gain a fluidity to
that movement, sort of like walking.
Before we run, we have to learn how
to crawl, we learn how to walk, and
once we feel more comfortable with our
walk, we sprint the walk, and then we run.
And the same thing with the tonguing.
The most important thing is the form.
So if we know how to be walking, putting
one foot after the next, and keeping
the balance, then as we get more used to
that, then we'll be able to speed it up.
The same thing for the tonguing.
Now for developing faster
tonguing what I would say is that
this same exercise you
can use at all times.
And instead of being the whole exercise,
the whole page,
it takes about two minutes.
Since you are trying to develop faster
tonguing, what you do is you do a few
measures slurred,
a few measures staccato, and you stop.
And you do it like that, little by little,
until then you can do more of
the measures, such as this.
[MUSIC].
etc.
Now then there are exercises
where you go one note at a time.
Do, re, mi, fa, like.
[MUSIC].
And then doing four 16th notes and
one quarter note.
[MUSIC].
And making it faster.
[MUSIC].
For little by little.
The important thing for articulation
is that the biggest shortcut is this.
No shortcut.
Really, most people that complain,
my tonguing is slow, my tonguing is slow.
Most of the time are like me complaining,
how come I'm not working at Chippendales?
I like to dance.
But we have to really keep working at it.
And keeping in shape.
And the only thing that will really help
our tonguing is to actually practice it,
and the important thing for
this is patience.
Patience because when we're doing it,
believe me,
everything that is important about
clarinet is about balance, and
no matter how many exercises we do and
each aspect that we do,
you will always find people who
can tongue faster than you.
Or who can hold their breath
a minute longer than you.
Or that have even perhaps
a more beautiful sound or
can phrase better than you or whatever.
But the important thing is
how is it all put together
because perhaps the person who can
really hold on their breath for
a very long time, perhaps their sound is
not as beautiful as you would want it.
Or the people who have
a very beautiful sound,
perhaps they are not phrasing as well.
Or the ones who have the beautiful
phrasing at the tone,
they can't articulate it.
Eh?
So you see,
the important thing is how do we
try to put everything together
in order to create a whole package
that is at the service of music.
Okay, I would like to slow
down a little bit and
try to show it a little slower so
that we can try to put it all together.
So I'll start a little bit on the upper
register, but it's the same exercise.
[MUSIC].
Okay, so it's all slurred, then we do
it several times so that then we get
used to the air going and then we like
lightly, just as if it were a secret.
Try not to be too into the reed.
Imagine that you are going to
be thinking the voicing, thee.
T-H-E-E, in the English language, thee.
When we think thee, it takes away
some of the hard attack of ta or
ti or something that is more percussive.
When we wrote thee, you see that
there has to be a very light touch,
thee thee thee, not ta ta ta.
And it takes the percussiveness out of,
and
then it actually helps you to have
more tone in the articulation.
[MUSIC].
So usually trying to keep as
little interruption as possible.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Now with the other exercise,
let's just try it again.
It's one, [SOUND].
Like in three, one [SOUND].
Okay?
But at the beginning we
have to be thinking,
we have to always be thinking
we're playing a dotted half, so
[SOUND], so then we continue with
the tongue position in the right spot and
the air going through it.
So, we think
[MUSIC],
so, what I did
was first in
the spot that
doesn't close
completely.
So, D D D D D D
[MUSIC],
so, like in that Beethoven's 6th,
slow movement that we talked about.
And then,
we use the one that stops the sound.
So, I have to be thinking crisper
to the spot where it stops
immediately to have a more
brilliant articulation.
[MUSIC]
So, basically,
I'm finding the spot
where it closes.
Now, I'm exaggerating it a little bit so
then it's clear,
but you can hear a little bit
of the air noise at the end.
[MUSIC]
Is because I'm trying to show that the air
is suppose to be continuous.
Of course we have to find that in
between where the air is continuous but
it's not like its the head is going to
explode but also we cannot just go ta and
stop and restart if we go
[MUSIC].
Then there's always a little bit of like,
imagine that we're gonna stop and
turn off the car every single time that
we get to a stop or to a red light.
It's just like, there's no fluidity,
it will waste more gas, and
then there's no real
smoothness to the drive.
The same thing with the sound.
If we go, da [SOUND], there's never
enough room for the energy, so
we have to be thinking what I
call the n sound in the music.
So it's [SOUND].
Like a triangle.
[SOUND] It's not [SOUND].
Ding!
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
As we were talking about different
exercises for the articulation,
I would like to add that there are so
many different kinds of things to do.
The important thing
is to go ahead and do them.
There's several books with
different scale patterns,
different articulation patterns, and
most of them work if you do them.
[LAUGH] Okay?
But one of the things that
I would like to stress
is a little exercise that is
basically a returning scale.
And I like it because it deals with
going through the register and
it's about a long point of where
you have to be articulating for
a long time to keep the tongue moving,
and while we are preparing before doing
the tonguing, it reminds us of
using the air and phrasing.
Always phrasing and
trying to shape the air.
So the exercise goes as follows.
I'm going to do it In G major.
[MUSIC]
I'm
sure many
of you have
heard this
exercise.
Piano is used a lot for your scales and
this journey book for piano, but
I will say that this one is very good
because we keep always blowing and
there is a great range where we
can continue the articulation.
So the trick for this one,
I will say is, for
any of the exercises,
is please always use the metronome.
There's two reasons for
using the metronome.
It helps us to keep a steady rhythm and
it gives us an idea of where
our limits are, but also,
the most important thing that it
helps us to gauge our progress.
We have to do this exercise.
I would recommend it at a tempo
that is really comfortable.
What I mean by comfortable tempo is a
tempo where you know that you can play it
with ease and you don't really have to
struggle to get any of the articulation.
And so for now, we're going to try
circa 80 to the quarter note and
we're going to be playing
in sixteen notes.
Okay?
So we will do
it as follows.
[MUSIC]
Now I moved around a little bit and
I tried to show the dynamics for
the phrasing, because I would like for
us to remember that when we're
doing technical things like this,
they're only technical to us,
but not to the music.
Meaning that these techniques
that we're learning are little
tools that we need in order
to become more expressive.
Now, the best step for
this is that, please, when you're
using a metronome, I would recommend
that you use a digital metronome, so
that then you go one notch at a time.
Now, like I said before, for
any point of technique, the first test and
the best shortcut for any of these
techniques that we're talking about,
the best shortcut is no shortcut, okay?
Which means that we just give
ourselves the time, okay?
Because let's say that we're doing it
at 80, okay, and at 80 we can do it
comfortably, and then we're gonna
practice it for just 10 minutes so
we don't wear out our tongue, and
then we have other things to do.
We have a limited amount of time to
practice, and we're going to do it, so
then we go from 80 to 81 and to 82.
And you will see,
when you check with the metronome,
that the differences seem very minute.
Okay?
And almost imperceptible.
So you will feel like you really
didn't do anything, but the trick is
that once we have gotten comfortable,
once we're getting to our limit,
let's say that our limit is 140 or
something like that.
So we are going at around 138, and
we just do that extra little nudge,
to 139, it'll be okay, 140, 141.
It will seem much more doable, and
much more approachable, because
the amount of difference is small enough
that then we're not leaving gaps.
Now, the other thing about
the practicing is that it will
also instill confidence, okay.
Confidence is one of the things that we
do that are important for us to practice.
Practice is to help is develop and
to help us to feel more at
ease with the instrument.
So if you’re doing it at 80 and you do it
comfortably, and then you do it at 81 and
82 and 83, and there's hardly any
difference, then that's good, because then
that means that you actually did three of
those notches, and they are excellent.
And you know what?
If we're just doing three notches,
let's imagine that we just do
three notches per day, and
we want to go from 80, to even just 150,
and then we are doing it in three,
well, then we can just do the math.
We can see that it might take us,
it seems like, wow,
if I am just doing three notches at
a time, it will take me five months,
my God, you know, just doing it everyday.
Five months is really not that
long when you're doing absolutely
just perfect progress.
It seems like a long time right now,
but we are very impatient,
so we tend to practice wrongly and
struggle for much longer.
Okay, but it's because we tend to do our
practices sometimes sorta
like buying the lottery.
We do a little bit of it and
we buy the ticket and
we're hoping, I will just become
a millionaire in a second and
that's it instead of let me just save this
extra five bucks, let me just save it and
put it aside, and with the patience
that is required to do that is not sexy,
it's not as fun,
it might not be a gigantic fund, but
it might not be a hundred million
dollars like the Mega Millions, but
what we get is a solid amount of savings,
and the same thing with the clarinet.
You know, we may go from 80,
we may think I want to get to 150, and
in five months I've only gotten to 125 or
130.
The important thing is that
progress has been made,
and that you are actually
solidifying your technique.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
So,
just to show you how little increments
will help, we would like to try it.
And we're gonna try the little exercise
with the legato first, and then staccato.
We start
at 80.
And then we're going to be doing
16th notes in 80, in G major.
[SOUND]
[MUSIC]
Now let's try
it at 81.
[SOUND]
[MUSIC]
Now at
82.
[SOUND]
[MUSIC]
So as you can
see and hear,
there is a very,
very, very small
difference.
And really,
when we are listening back and forth,
it seems like there is not a difference.
But the same thing can happen to us
when we're playing and practicing and
we're getting to our limits.
So just to demonstrate a little bit,
let's try a slightly faster tempo,
let's say like at 130.
Okay.
[SOUND] [MUSIC] Now 131.
[SOUND]
[MUSIC]
132.
[SOUND]
[MUSIC]
See also what
we're getting
up there,
it's really not
that much faster.
It is getting faster, but
in our approach then we maintain
a level of difference that is so
minute that we are encouraged
to keep pushing the envelope and
that is the most important thing for
us to be able to do, have courage and
feel the confidence to continue working
every day toward our betterment.
[MUSIC]