Congratulations to the clarinetists who just completed their first week of the Kies Clarinet Academy. Read all about this week’s events.
This week in Group Class we discussed techniques for recording ourselves playing. In a time when all music production, performance, and collaboration is just about 100% digital and remote, knowing how to create high quality recordings is crucial to participating in this new world of music making.
We discussed how to download, install, and record single-line music using the open-source recording and sound editing software, Audacity. Using built in effects, students learned how to slow down their recordings without altering the pitch to 1) analyze their performances with a highly critical ear, and 2) slow down professional recordings so that we can play along with them at practice tempos.
Playing music with other people or instruments besides yourself is an integral part of the Clarinet Academy. At a young age, I tired easily of practicing my single-line etudes, Kroepsch exercises, and scales. The joy of playing clarinet truly came to me when I attended summer band camps, played in my school’s orchestra, or in small chamber ensembles with my friends. Today, I understand that playing in ensembles can teach you about intonation, balancing voices, and rhythm, in ways that playing alone simply cannot. It also opens up a world of repertoire to you that is unavailable to single-line instruments like the clarinet.
This week, I assigned students the task of picking a piece of music they recently listened to, within or outside the classical music genre, to arrange for clarinet quartet. Using the free Acapella Mobile App, students were invited to record their arrange and present their recordings in class the following Monday.
Every Monday, students enrolled in the Premium Course receive a pre-recorded video lesson. This week’s subject was on tone production; specifically, what it means to create art with your air, and how and why to include breathing exercises in your daily practice sessions.
This week’s blog post complements this week’s video lesson on air. In this blog post, I included a page of specific long tone exercises to use at the beginning of your daily practice session, music to play along with, and suggested method books.
My college professor, James Campbell, used to ask his students "How does the clarinet work?" New students unfamiliar with this question would pause for a moment, formulating in their minds the best way to explain the complicated mechanics of their instrument. Those of us who had regular lessons with Mr. Campbell knew, however, that he was looking for the most obvious answer: "Air." His point was simple, but its implications monumental. Without air, nothing else on the clarinet works!
Wednesday through Friday, students enrolled in our Premium Course receive a series of music to both listen to, and then play along with. On Wednesday, students received a recording of one of Xavier Quiñones’ duets from a set of six; students receive three versions of this recording. The first version you listened to above, and then two subsequent recordings, each missing one of the duet parts, so that students can play along with the recordings as if playing chamber music in person with a real duet partner, but from the comfort of their socially-distanced environments.
This year, I have arranged 8 of Bach’s four-part Chorales for clarinet quartet, for the students enrolled in the Academy to play along with. Bach’s beautifully crafted harmonies offer a lot to clarinets who are just learning to tune whole chords as a member of an ensemble. This week’s chorale, heard in the recording above, was an arrangement of Als vierzig Tag’ nach Ostern war’n. As with the duets, students received a full recording to listen to and enjoy, and then several subsequent recordings, each missing exactly one part, so the student has the opportunity to perform and study every note of the work, and practice tuning the note of every chord member, from root, to third, to fifth, to seventh.
And finally, at the end of the week, students receive the gem of the week, a specially-selected work arranged for clarinet quartet. This week’s selection was taken from Camille Saint-Saëns’ choral setting of Ave Verum Corpus. I particularly enjoy performing four-part choral music in a clarinet quartet. The human voice and the clarinet share quite a lot in common, and four-part choral works make wonderful arrangements for this particular instrumentation. As with the chorales and duets, students receive a full recording, and several subsequent recordings, each missing a single part, so that the student can play every part of the quartet.
Well that wraps up week one of the Kies Clarinet Academy–subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with our projects and assignments, and consider enrolling for the next seven weeks!