Prior to moving to Tennessee, but after joining the faculty at Lee University, I drove nine hours twice a week from Pittsburgh to Cleveland, Tennessee, for a grand total of 1200 miles. It was on these weekly road trips that I discovered clarinet blogger Sean Perrin’s weekly podcast, Clarineat.
I became addicted to his series, and began looking forward to the one hour on my trip when I could sit back, and learn about developments in the industry without having to leave my car.
Perrin recently interviewed Jenny Maclay about her Baermann Bootcamp program, a practice schedule that can be used to learn Carl Baermann’s entire book of scales in just one month.
I was inspired by the idea of creating a practice regimen that promises an end result with measurable success. I remembered a course that I had taken at Indiana University, a course I had affectionately referred to as Clarinet Bootcamp.
If any of you fellow clarinetists attended Indiana University, you are familiar with Howard Klug’s two-part book, The Clarinet Doctor. The first half includes written suggestions for new or young teachers, and the second half includes scale patterns of Klug’s own design that undergraduate students at IU learned and memorized while enrolled in a four-semester technique course.
The patterns appear in linear and arpeggiating forms. The idea is that if you can memorize scales in multiple forms, you will be better able to play technically challenging music at sight. While I couldn’t remember exactly how I learned these patterns and in what order, all I know is that I still remember them today. I use them to warm up my fingers, I practice a few of them every day to improve my tone, my legato, and my articulation, and I generally find that if I can play through at least two different patterns every day in every key, within a mere 15-20 minutes, I can maintain solid technique, even if I’m not playing in an ensemble every day.
I know that learning these patterns helped me grow as a clarinetist, and I want the same for my own students. So I have created my own syllabus, in many ways similar to that of my undergraduate experience, to use in my own technique class and with my own college-level students.
My plan was simple: teach my students a select number of patterns across a three-semester time-period. The fourth semester is dedicated to maintaining two years’ worth of material in order to perform them flawlessly in a jury at the end of the two year course.
I had the opportunity to test out the first two semesters on undergraduate students at CCM, and enjoyed both successes and difficulties along the way. My experiment proved fruitful, and I now have what I believe to be a fail-proof schedule for learning all of the patterns that I learned in my youth, and that gave me the ability to play the clarinet with improved technique and fluency.
If you are interested in trying out the plan with your own students, or perhaps you are an ambitious student and are curious enough to give it a whirl, please view the links below.