Well, I am definitely guilty of losing sight of the fun... Worse still during the last 11 years I've taken considerable time off for each of my children. At one point I even put the clarinet down quite deliberately with the intention of never playing again. I was worn out with some elements of the industry. In the end I missed playing too much though, and chose to get back on the horse. I didn't have a goal in mind, I just wanted to play. After a while I started to work again, but I promised myself I would try very hard to keep the spirit of the woman who had just wanted to play her clarinet.
My reason for doing #100daysofpractice is very simple. I want to. It is a good motivator for me. It's not because I want everyone to think I'm wonderful (let's face it, sharing practice videos is everyone's worst nightmare and it could well have the opposite effect!), but it is because I want to push myself and share the journey. Playing an instrument is wonderful, and the journey you make within yourself when you commit to self-improvement is amazing. Music is more than how you play, it's about what you share with other people WHEN you play. It's about how other people can relate to you through watching and listening. It is about being human - my goal in sharing is to be human.
Now, OF COURSE I play the clarinet so practice is already a part of my life, but I'm almost always practising FOR something... When I started this process on 01-01-2020 though, that was NOT the reason. I was actually on my holidays :)
So as week one draws to a close, here are a few initial thoughts:
The world of social media is scary. Heck the world of classical music is scary! It makes you feel inadequate and the loud personalities dominate, particularly (it seems) when it comes to the clarinet. Many people worry about being 'found out' though, even people who come across as confident. Self-doubt is actually far more common than you may realise*. We are not all such strong personalities, BUT there is a place for everyone. There is a place for me and there is a place for you, and so I invite you to join me on this journey... It is a journey of self-improvement, and it requires humility - but I do not think you will regret it. I'm only a week in and whilst I know I will have some tough days ahead, I am committed. I can't wait to see what the next 93 days have in store.
You can find me on Instagram at @_anneclarinet. My profile is set to private (because it's a personal profile) but you can request to follow me and I'd love to follow your #100daysofpractice in return.
*If you struggle with nerves, try this blog.
'Down wiv da kidz'
I realise that I'm probably a little late to the party with this one, but thought it was worth a share anyway...
First of all, a confession: I bore really easily, and over the last year I have actually found videoing my playing to be a really helpful practice tool. Not only can I listen back easily (and therefore pick holes in every single thing I do!), but I can also watch my hands and face as I play. We all 'teach' ourselves all the time, but this process allows me to observe my playing from a totally different perspective. Practising using video technology has helped me to spot issues I think I might otherwise have missed. I can also set myself goals, and at the end of the process I feel I've achieved something. This week I took the whole thing a stage further and downloaded the 'acapella' app - and basically it's tons of fun :)
Previously, recording multi-track video was a total nightmare (and involved using MovieMaker multiple times, and making my own click track.... ), I did a 4-part recording this way at Christmas-time last year and nearly drove myself mad! This app makes it all so much easier. It's dead easy to use, and you can set your own click track to suit & listen back as you add more layers. The free version will only give you a couple of minutes recording time (and be warned you need lots of spare memory if you're going to record for longer or with more layers!), but I paid for the full version, and am actually really impressed. Whoever designed this knew what musicians would need and how to make it intuitive to use. One nit I would pick though, is that there doesn't *seem* to be a way to balance up the parts/ screens before doing the final render. Some sort of separate mix-desk for the audio would be helpful. Perhaps there is one and I've just not found it yet!
Recording in this way is great for improving things like rhythm, intonation, and listening skills. You can even collaborate with other users of the app. This makes it a really fun and creative practice tool.
This weekend my better half whipped up an arrangement for me and the result is below (clarinet geeks, I'll post a link to where you can buy it shortly!). No this recording isn't perfect, but hey, it was lots of fun to make and I've been stunned by the number of shares & positive feedback! Watch 'til the end ;)
The pictures above show two 'Reverse-Facing' Bonade ligatures. The one on the left was bought in the 1990s and the one on the right a few years ago as a replacement. I don't see too many people using Bonades these days, but some time ago they were pretty popular. I feel they help to give a nice dark, creamy sound and facilitate articulation. I'd often use my Bonade with a good reed which I felt was slightly too 'excitable', just to bring it into line!
My last post was about variations in Vandoren reeds made years apart. Some differences between reeds can, of course, be explained by the fact that they're made out of organic material and this means there are natural variations. However, the differences in the ligatures above, cannot.
You can easily see by eye that these two ligatures are NOT identical. I measured the distance between the railings with my (fairly) trusty vernier calipers.
The older of the two ligatures (which is more tarnished), measures approx 2mm between the rails at the top, and 3mm at the bottom. The more modern of the two measures slightly over 4mm at the top of the rails and just over 3mm at the bottom!
This means the rails which make that all-important contact with the reed (the whole purpose of a ligature!) on the more modern 'Bonade' are TWICE the distance apart at the top compared with the older ligatures. The rails actually start to come together (converge) towards the bottom of the reed! The older ligature does the opposite, the rails diverge slightly towards the bottom and they start much closer together at the top.
Neither ligature has been altered in any way by me. Like I said, the Bonade has a lot of great qualities which I appreciate. I bought the first ligature directly from a good shop, and the second online (through Amazon), from what I thought was a reputable seller. Of course it's possible I bought a fake.
I also see that many of the reputable UK dealers are listing Bonades as 'out of stock' at the moment, perhaps the maker has stopped making them? It's also interesting to note that these ligatures still seem to be widely available from less reputable sources elsewhere in the world, and seemingly at a cut price... (I paid the full whack, mind!).
I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has noticed any changes in these ligatures though?
P.S. - my reason for replacing the original ligature was that the screw thread went on it after a fair number of years. I have to say the same thing happened with the replacement after less than a year of very occasional use (nb. I don't think it was due to over-tightening!).
I'd love to get my hands on an original one of these with some life left in it if anyone has one!
Vintage Clarinet Reeds #1
So I was just gifted some amazing 'vintage' Vandoren clarinet reeds by another one of my wonderful mentors and friends, Arthur Acheson... The earliest reeds (unplayed) date back 50 years to 1966. The others are (I'm estimating) early 1980's and early 2000's.
My flabber is well and truly ghasted and I'm going to post some more blogs on these as and when I can - but in the meantime, here's me embarrassing myself trying to open one of the boxes!