Any instrumentalist can learn much from vocal pedagogy and this blog will be of interest to any advanced wind instrument performer or teacher. As vocal pedagogy relies much on comparison and metaphor, hopefully much can be gained by the voice performer and teacher from understanding issues related to their craft from a wind players perspective. This blog may also be of interest to the non-performing classical music enthusiast and will provide an interesting insight into the process of learning an instrument at an advanced level. There will be many video postings and analysis of great performances by ‘musician’s musicians.’ These are the performances that advanced performers look towards for inspiration and insight. Without a doubt, these can be appreciated by anybody!
As my own background and profession is in clarinet and bass clarinet, this blog shall mostly examine issues from a clarinet players perspective. Aside from clarinet-specific issues (particularly registration and embouchure), I am sure that these ideas can easily be translated to the technique of any wind instrument.
This blog is, however, specifically targeted towards wind players who are already performing at an advanced level. It is particularly of benefit to players who perhaps feel that their playing has ‘plateaued’ and are seeking new ideas and techniques to take it to a new level. Many of the postings shall rely on the performer having already gained a highly developed advanced understanding of general musicianship and are practicing an advanced understanding of all the technical aspects of wind playing: sound production, breath, posture, voicing, articulation, control of legato, finger technique. It is hoped that the issues discussed in this blog shall add greater understanding as to why specific processes and techniques work. It is also hoped that there will be great revelations along the way!
In many ways, this blog is geared towards my students that I teach in Australia and the USA at tertiary and college level. It shall often reference successes or ‘dead-ends’ that I am experiencing with teaching specific techniques as well as with my own learning and growth as a clarinettist. I sincerely believe that the voice is the ultimate instrument – everything we do as instrumentalists should emulate what the human voice naturally does, or, at least, should take the voice as a principal point of departure. I know that many of my students complain that I sing too much in their lessons (which is probably another reason why I took up voice lessons). However, my own experience has shown me that the best way to teach techniques such as legato phrasing and the voicing of wide intervals is by allowing the student to hear and experience it being sung first. This removes the element of the instrument, which as instrumentalists, is ironically the element we are trying to remove in performance. As my current teacher David Shifrin frequently remarks, “We are performing music, not the instrument or the reed.”
My students will attest that Youtube is perhaps my greatest teaching tool. As a clarinettist, I know that I have gained so much from watching the performances and demonstrations on Youtube. For instance, I learnt the technique of slap tonguing through viewing Michael Lowenstern’s incredibly valuable Youtube posting on the subject (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt8GPZXBfi8). In my own teaching, the laptop is frequently whipped out so that the student is able to examine a technique being employed in performance by one of the world’s leading practitioners. Throughout this blog, I will post specific Youtube performances which I personally refer to daily in my teaching and in my own learning.
So, whether you’re here as an advanced wind player or just as someone who wants to know what is happening in the performer’s practice room and mind, welcome! I sincerely hope we all become more informed and developed performers and appreciators of the art-form.