Timer Tricks

I’m auditioning for a multiples program in February and have been attempting to find enough hours in the day to prepare a bajillion (yep) things on all my instruments.

I’ve begun lessons with Jan Crisanti, former principal of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, who suggested a tip for me that she uses herself when feeling unmotivated–or in my case, overwhelmed.

Use a timer.

I was skeptical–I mean, why would timing myself help? But the truth is, when I timed myself I had to pre-plan each session and make sure I’d been getting all the things in I needed to practice. So let’s say, for example, that I have long tones, harmonics, double tonguing exercise, three HS region pieces, the Quantz, and two etudes. And that’s just one instrument. I have an audition coming up on clarinet to prepare for and a recital in September. It’s a lot of stuff. And sometimes I would find myself wondering at the end of an hour how I’ve only worked on 12 measures of 32nd note runs–hey, they’re faster now, but I literally hit nothing else. Not very efficient.

So now I plan everything in a spiral notebook. I write out exactly what needs to be worked on and give each piece or fundamental its own line. Mathematically, it turns out that most of the time I can only do about 7-8 minutes on each item. My sessions are more focused, more intense, and at the end of the timer, I’m DONE. Next item. 7-8 minutes of thing two, done. Et cetera. At the end of 60 minutes I hit way more goals and even if I don’t perfect something, I keep more things under my fingers daily instead of hyper-focusing on one section of one or two pieces and neglecting everything else.

The cool thing (or scary, depending) is that you can see exactly what you’ve been working on the most. If you leave out a certain thing for multiple days, those big blank spaces make it pretty obvious! I realized after looking at my journal that I hadn’t played movement two of one of my pieces in two weeks. Woops!

While I haven’t used the timer 100% of the time (it is summer, and I do have all day to practice now), I know that when school begins again I’ll be happy to have another tool to help me keep up with the load of practicing.

Woodwind doubling–How to Select Your Non-Primary Instruments: Clarinet

Clarinets

Obtaining good doubling instruments feels like a constant work in progress. However, the goal is to eventually settle on your “forever” instruments with equipment that works well. I’ll go through my experience (good, bad, and ugly) and hopefully steer some of you out of pitfalls that I fell into. Please keep in mind that this is my opinion (do with it what you will!)

Bb Clarinet

My first clarinet was a Normandy 4. When I decided to major in music I thought to myself, “Gee, I need to get a new clarinet before school starts.” Sigh. I bought an overpriced R13 and a bad one at that. Who knew there were like 5,000 things you were supposed to look for when trying one out? I saw shiny newness, tooted on it a few times, and bought it.

Now I know better. I know the mouthpiece, barrel, and overall setup affect every horn. It’s complicated, but the way I test clarinets now is to take my setup (mouthpiece, ligature, reed), whatever it may be at the time, and start with long tones and a tuner. If I am satisfied with its tuning, I give it a good going-over. How is the grain–smooth or knotty? Are there chips in the wood? How are the tenons? Do the serial numbers match?How is the mechanism? Does it need repair? If it needs repair, is it something I can afford or want to mess with?

Some things I do not personally worry about on a clarinet is lacquer coming off the keys. However, I do not care for pitting and personally wouldn’t buy a clarinet with severe pitting unless it made me sound like Harold Wright.

I’ve been asked whether I think someone should get a Buffet E11 or R13 (or higher model) if they are just doubling. I can honestly say that there is a noticeable difference between the E11 and an R13. I find them hard enough to control as my primary, and I couldn’t imagine the difficulty if you’re working with it as your secondary.  I would recommend buying a used R13 over an E11. As far as other brands, like Yamaha, Ridenour, Selmer, Patricola, etc., I do not have enough experience with them to confidently tell someone yae or nay, but if you are looking to go that route, look to their upper-level models. A word on Backun: they sound beautiful, but they do not project. If you are playing in a musical you will not be heard. If you are playing the Mozart quintet with strings, you’ll be fine. I don’t own one but I have heard many recitals with Backun artists and players and it’s tough to hear them.

Note: if you are a very casual doubler, like playing clarinet once a year at the church Christmas pageant, you can get away with a lower level horn and a good mouthpiece. My Vito bass clarinet served me just fine for my once-a-year graduation ceremony gig at a small college that needed a bass clarinet. I’m writing this blog for someone who will play (or teach) enough to warrant spending money for a higher-level instrument.

The “blown out” controversy: people are either completely opposed to the idea or absolutely certain. I personally think that instruments can get “out of whack,” but if it can be fixed, it’s not blown out. I play on horns from the 60s and 70s, one of which someone told me was “blown out.” However, after it came back from Mark Jacobi and this same person played it, they thought I had gotten a different horn. “Wow, this plays really well!”  Heh. Same one. Just tuned up. So I don’t know about this, but I do know that if it works for you and makes you sound good, it’s probably fine.

Should you take a trusted friend/colleague/professor’s advice? Absolutely. Having someone other than the store clerk telling you that you sound “great!” on every instrument is helpful. If you cannot take anyone with you, ask if you can take it (and preferably one or two more) for a few days and play for your teacher/friend/whoever. If one gets the green light, get it.

A word about online auction sites. Although I have gotten a good deal exactly one time, the other four times I have tried to buy an instrument from that major auction site have been less than stellar experiences. You just don’t know how it’s going to play and you have all the shipping and hassle of returning if it doesn’t work for you. I highly recommend going and trying several in person. My source has dozens of consignment clarinets in the back office of her house. I spent two hours trying five horns before I picked the one that was just right for me. My clarinet teacher went with me and gave it a thorough once-over before I bought it. I was confident about the purchase then and continue to be pleased with it today. There is a lot to be said about trying before buying!

Eb Clarinet

My first Eb clarinet was a plastic Laval. If you breathed on it wrong, you bent keys. I thought it’d be better than nothing, but it really wasn’t worth the $90 I paid. If you want to get your Eb chops up, buy an oldy-but-goodie wooden Noblet or wooden Bundy as your first one. If you dig it and want to continue on, then invest and go through the same procedure listed for Bb clarinets. Just keep in mind that unless you play this in a community band, it’ll mostly sit in the closet.

Alto Clarinet

Although I have a fondness in my heart for this poor instrument, don’t bother. If you’re in a clarinet choir that absolutely needs one, I’d probably go the same route as the Eb clarinet selection above. If you want a nice intermediate one, I recommend Selmer. We bought one for my school district and used it for clarinet choir recitals and the better freshmen to try to make State.

Bass Clarinet

If you have good gigs lined up and money burning a hole in your pocket, go for the wooden beauty with a low C. If you are like the rest of us who want to have one “just in case” but don’t play it often, go with a resin/plastic bass clarinet that goes to low Eb and get a really good mouthpiece. Keep a screwdriver and some rubber bands handy as they will only break on performance day. 😉

Best of luck to you! I’ll go into flute, oboe, saxophone, and bassoon purchases soon.

 

 

 

Practicing your 2-4 woodwind doubles when you have no time

As a band director, practicing all five woodwind instruments every day was no sweat. Morning warm up and heavy-duty clarinet practice before beginners. Flute, oboe, bassoon, saxophone, clarinet fundamentals five days a week with my classes. Then after-school private lessons with JH and HS all-region kiddos on various instruments; I’d play/learn right along with them and kept in shape.

Now, as a master’s student in clarinet performance, I have found myself in the first year overwhelmed with too much to do in too little time. I don’t have TIME to work out. I don’t have TIME to practice my clarinet as much as I want to. Sometimes when I do have time, my mental focus is gone. How am I going to do this? How do I keep up my doubles when I can barely do enough on the clarinet?

So. As I slog through woodwind pedagogy, a five-week summer class consisting of writing annotations of over 240 books, (hello library jail) I’ve had time to reflect and realize I have my own solutions.

  1. If I have time to be on social media (or writing a blog) I have time to practice. It may only be a quick warm-up on the flute, but I have time.
  2. Eating at home/packing a lunch shaves off driving time. Use it to play your major scales every day on 2-3 instruments (assuming you have access to them).
  3. Speaking of eating–eating better and exercising every other day increases my focus. My mantra is now “if I feel tired, I need to get up and move.” So if you feel tired, that’s all the more reason to work out/do jumping jacks in place/walk around the office. I just did 20 jumping jacks because I’ve been sitting here too long!
  4. Keep a practice journal on your phone or on paper. Even if it is just tally marks for instruments played each day, you’ll quickly realize which instrument(s) you favor and which ones need more love (bassoon, sigh). It also keeps you honest about how often you actually practice.
  5. Have instrument stands and invest in instrument cozies. I’ve got some from Altieri and I love them! Now, I know you’re never supposed to leave an instrument out, but let’s be real here. If it’s out, I’m more likely to practice. If it’s in its case (*cough* bassoon) I’m less likely to be enthused about putting it together. Now, I do put my saxophone and flute up each day, but clarinets usually stay ready-to-go (I’m a clarinet major and literally play them all the time) and bassoon is on a stand with cozies on it and a Legere reed at the ready. If you have kids, rig a system to where you can easily access everything while the little ones can’t.
  6. Start small. I tend to get overwhelmed easily, so I always tell myself, “I’m just going to do major scales today.” And I do. Then I’m in the zone and find more to work on.
  7. If you have only a block of time once per day to practice, and you fatigue on the first instrument or two, add flute. I always found the flute to be the perfect “in-between” instrument, especially after oboe. Bassoon is also pretty relaxed unless you’re up in the stratosphere. So break up your sessions with small rests and whatever instrument you double on with the least taxing embouchure.
  8. Don’t sit down right after you come home from work. Chances are, you won’t get up again with any will to do anything productive.
  9. Try to find a local band, orchestra, or small ensemble (or create a group) to play in once a week to keep a double or two in shape. My octet is the highlight of my week. If a group just isn’t in the cards, find a retired orchestra teacher or professional musician to take lessons from once a week. You’ll be amazed how much time you miraculously find when you are motivated by not wanting to play badly in front of someone you respect!
  10. Take things one day at a time, one instrument at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day; it was worked on daily with steady progress. You can do this!

 

My bassoon is looking at me spitefully, so I believe I am going to play some scales. Happy doubling!

The Importance of Recordings, and other things you have heard 1000+ times.

I have been told over and over and OVER again that I should record everything I play and listen to it in order to improve. I know I should.  I really do.

Then the thoughts go through my head: I don’t have time to listen back. I sound horrible on this-and-such phone/recorder. And then the ego kicks in–I can listen and play at the same time. I hear what I am doing wrong. People have been doing this for years without recording.

I played my jury yesterday. I know exactly how I “thought” it sounded in my head–the beautiful lyrical sections, the snappy staccato sections, clearly stated themes and phrasing and dynamics. I missed that note and that high note didn’t come out.

And then I listened to my jury recording. The dynamics were not coming through clearly, I didn’t wait long enough between phrases, my staccato section wasn’t as “staccato” as I felt it was, and well…it was a little flat, musically speaking. With my adrenaline going and the page in front of me, I felt like I was making music, but it did not translate to the recorder 15 feet away. Where my audience was.

What if I had recorded myself dozens of times and realized that before my jury? Why did I not take advantage of this wonderful tool I have available? This “time” I didn’t have–I certainly had enough time to listen to my jury in the car over and over and beat myself up about it. What if I had done that beforehand and had been able to over-exaggerate certain elements to make them come across more clearly?

I made an A. I’m not going to be too overly derogatory about my performance. But it could have been excellent instead of pretty good. That was my make-up jury from last semester; oral surgery delayed it until now.

So my jury that’s nine days from now? I’m going to record that over and over. I want to make sure I feel like I’m over-exaggerating everything so it comes across to the jury panel. I want an A for this semester, but I want to leave it all out on the stage, too, not just “play pretty well.” Recording will help me make sure it’s all coming across.

Yay for technology allowing us to overcome our egos and unreliable audial feedback!

 

The Unspoken Rules of Rehearsal Etiquette, Adult-ier Adult Version

As I have transitioned into an “adult-ier adult,” (you feel young and inexperienced sometimes but society looks at you as an adult…think 20s to early 30s) I have experienced being in many bands, combos, chamber ensembles, and large groups. Each situation is different and the personalities vary, but there are unspoken rules to getting through the gigs without becoming “THAT GUY.”

Small Ensembles/chamber groups/combos

  1. If you are the youngest in the group, and you don’t know anyone very well, clam it. Seriously. Don’t ask to do the trio again “to fix tuning issues.” Don’t point out mistakes, yours or (especially) others. Let the group leader take care of everything during rehearsal. Before and after the rehearsal, of course be social, but no one wants to hear the new guy’s opinion unless s/he’s the principal of a symphony or a headliner.
  2. If you make a mistake, recover as best you can and keep going. Don’t ask the group to stop for you to fix your mistake–you fix it at home.
  3. If there are pitch issues and the group is discussing pitches, try to generalize and say things like, “I think we’re running a little high.” Not “you are flat, you are sharp, you are sharp…” and so on. (You’d think that would be obvious, but it’s happened).
  4. If the group leader calls you out for something, just fix it. Don’t argue, because chances are you’re playing it wrong. If the group leader was wrong, it’ll come about and you will have shown that you were a team player.
  5. Be sensitive to the styles being played around you, and match. If the style seems to change wildly, do your best to match and ask about it after rehearsal.
  6. Your phone. I really shouldn’t have to say it, but you really CAN get through an hour without checking it.
  7. Be humble.

With those rules being said, eventually if you keep playing with the group you guys will get to know each other, mellow out, and probably become way too candid and hear raunchy jokes, humorous self-deprecation, ridiculous stories, etc. Those groups are the best. Until you’re there, though, see the above!

Large ensembles/community bands/university bands, etc

  1. Learn your music before you get there. There are too many recordings on YouTube showing you what it sounds like for you to fall into holes, play out of style, etc. The people around you will know and remember when someone asks them for a recommendation. If you can’t play your music, you’re not going to get recommendations.
  2. When another section is getting harped on, don’t look at them. Seriously, no rubber-necking. They’re embarrassed enough.
  3. As said above, don’t tell other people they’ve made a mistake unless you are principal and they happen to make the same mistake 3+ times in a row. Then maybe mention it in a super nice way. If you’re young, see number 1.
  4. Pay attention when the director is speaking. Having now been a band director, I can attest that my hearing and other senses became incredible: I knew exactly who was chit-chatting and always thought, “Rude!” Don’t be that guy. Did I mention recommendations?
  5. No badmouthing anyone–it WILL get back to them eventually.

Things to keep in mind when playing gigs as an adult:

Your preparedness and attitude–that’s your business card. Your punctuality, etiquette, “got-it-togetherness”–it matters. The professional music world is small. Everyone knows everyone via some version of the “six degrees of separation” thing. People will not recommend you for new gigs if you are flaky, tardy, or disorganized. Remember that it’s not just about playing the music, you have to have interpersonal skills to keep marketing yourself. And when all that is taken care of…you also have to play that music well!

Until next time,

Gentry

 

Woodwind Doubling, Beginnings

While every musician has a primary instrument, many go on to pick up several more for varying reasons. I’m sharing my doubling history just for fun. Also, for those interested in beginning to double, please, for the love of Pete, get a teacher. Really. It will save you great amounts of frustration and headaches as you realize you learned something all wrong. 🙂

Primary–Clarinet (Eb, bass, etc)

Funny story, my first choice was flute, but I didn’t make the cut. I had circled Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, because that was the order on the paper, and apparently clarinet was my calling. My parents bought a Normandy 4 for me and away I went. I practiced a lot, made the All-State band, majored in music, played every type of clarinet possible, and am still going!

Secondary–Saxophone (alto, soprano, tenor)

During high school, I played in a smaller band program, 2A with approx. 60 students 8th-12th. My best friend played the saxophone and taught me how to play–I picked it up in about two months, bought my own little Yamaha YAS23 beginner type horn, and practiced until I made the jazz band. I continued on with the saxophone through college, playing in jazz bands, sax choirs, and combos. I played a Cannonball Mad Meg through college and several years after teaching, but I married into a Selmer Superaction 80, so I yoinked that. 🙂

mad-megMad Meg unlaquered with tiger eye stones. Hey, it was gorgeous.

Tertiary–Flute/piccolo

During my senior year of high school I was a band aide several periods a day, including beginner flute class. I borrowed a school flute and sat in with the students, learning along with them. I never really got good at it, but could play at a 7th grade level by the end of the year.

Fast forward to college, where I played in a pit orchestra. I realized my flute skills were lacking and began taking lessons, using my cousin’s old Yamaha 285 that she gave me. I still have it to this day. Anyway, at this point I was too poor to afford the internet or cable, so I practiced from the time I was done with classes until it was time for bed. The flute embouchure is not really taxing, so I could go for a while on clarinet, switch to flute when I got tired, then switch to saxophone, then back to flute, and so on and so forth. My neighbors must have loved me… Anyway, by the end of the semester I was playing in flute choir and surprisingly not the worst one there. So there’s that. Teaching beginner classes and learning junior high and high school region music help keep my chops up. I also would play my little pawn-shop Armstrong piccolo with the high school marching band during stand tunes–band directors can have fun too!

4th (is quartiary a word?)–Oboe

When I took a woodwind methods course and played the oboe for the first time, I was in love. If my grade school would have had double reeds, I totally would have been an oboist. Anyway, I dropped jazz and started taking oboe lessons with a graduate student. My high school friend Daniel was a saint and gave me his mother’s oboe that she played in high school, so I had my own nice, wooden, full-conservatory oboe to practice. I have found that most of my gigs are on oboe, so that one is the one that I give the most attention to besides clarinet. Reed making is not my forte, so luckily Bocal Majority exists.

5th–Bassoon

I took bassoon lessons in college, bought an antique-but-still-playable bassoon from my professor, and off I went. Bassoon is fun to play, but is probably the one I struggle with the most as my hands are tiny, smaller than the size of most sixth graders. (Really–when my kids complain that they can’t reach the pinky keys, I make them press their palm to mine and measure fingers, and theirs are almost always longer. So I tell them “if I can do it, you can do it.” Never hear another word). Also, the fingering system is not as similar as the Boehm system common among the other woodwinds, so funky finger combinations are part of the growing pains. One thing that made my life easier was the Legere bassoon reed, but sadly they changed the style and the reeds are no longer awesome. Hopefully they will revamp soon. (…or just go back to the good gold-bottomed ones!)

My last year of teaching beginner bassoons was wonderful; I was playing every day and accompanying flute and clarinet classes on their Christmas/contest music so they could hear the bass parts. I’m about at the 8th grade level; scales are solid, I can play all region music, but high school stuff is a bit above my reach technically. One day when I am not practicing the clarinet during every free second of my life (minus writing this), I will devote more time to it. Like I said, double reeds seem to be needed the most for gigs where I live, so it behooves me to keep my chops up!

Why do I bother with it?

Originally, young 18-year-old me wanted to be someone who played on Broadway or in musicals for a living. However, that’s not quite practical if you’d rather live in Texas instead of New York. However, I keep it up because it makes me a WAY better lesson teacher/band director/musician. In band I know how the flutes are going to tune on those high F#’s. I know the oboes are busting butt to get those low-note technical passages out, so I’m not going to say anything if it’s not perfect the first few times. I know the bassoons can easily fix their pitch on that note, so do it already. 😉 I feel for the alto saxophonist playing a sustained low D at pppp. You become more empathetic because you know your way around the instruments. I may never play on Broadway, but I fancy my woodwind kids sure do benefit from my practice!

Till next time,

Gentry

Hans Moennig barrel specs

I had the opportunity to measure several bores of vintage barrels a few weeks ago, including ones that were reamed by Mr. Moennig himself. It occurred to me that somewhere on the Internet someone might be curious to find out the differences between the ones he made and the contemporary ones now found online.

Disclaimer: I know that every person plays differently and that every instrument has its idiosyncrasies, so not every barrel will be exactly “such-and-such” measurement because a good craftsman would have helped shape it to fit its owner. Also, bore sizes have changed since the 60s. However, there are some pretty solid ranges. All examples are Buffet barrels unless noted.

Bb

Barrel 1: 60s Moennig Bb, top = 589, bottom = 578

Barrel 2: 60s Moennig Bb, top = 588, bottom = 579.5

Barrel 3: Modern Moennig-stamped from Buffet Bb, top = 591, bottom = 582

For fun: Barrel 4 reamed for Donald Montanaro, Bb, top = 585.5, bottom – 575 (pretty small!)

Comparison: a stock Bb barrel from the 60s measured top = 589, bottom = 582 (I have four more that are very similar…thanks eBay…)

A

Barrel 5: 60s Moennig A, top = 584.5, bottom = 577

Barrel 6: 80s/90s Moennig A , top = 584, bottom = 578

Barrel 7: Taplin Moennig-cut A from 2016, top = 584.5, bottom = 582 (I currently use this)

Barrel 8: 2016 Moennig A, top = 586.5, bottom = 582 (much larger than previous models)

Stock…I don’t have one. I’d be curious to know the measurements of a 60s stock Buffet A barrel.

As you can see, the trend over the years has been “bigger is better” as far as bores go. As we get more volume, we then look for Mp/barrel setups to focus everything up, and around and around we go.

Fun note: barrel number five is my former teacher’s barrel that is absolutely phenomenal. Since he’ll never part with it, I am ordering an A barrel with those exact measurements and the same length for my 1963 A. I’m in love with Taplin and Weir’s European cut, (as well as their excellent customer service), so we will see how close I can get to the focused, dolce sound I’m looking for while updating the style to something unique.

Till next time,

Gentry

Tooth Chronicles: Success!

It’s been almost six weeks since my surgery. I did not play for four weeks, and when my periodontist gave me the go-ahead I began with ten minutes the first couple of days, then ten minutes every hour or so for a few hours a day.

School started this week at UNT, and I played for three hours straight during band with NO pain! It’s been an amazing week and I am so happy I went ahead and got it done. It was not fun by any means, but the results are worth it! Now I just have to work on getting my endurance back. 🙂

The Tooth Chronicles: Countdown

Update

I haven’t played my clarinet in seven days, and only played sparingly before that. UNT faculty and I have decided that it is best to move my surgery up and have my juries in January after I’ve healed. I’m so ready to get back in the swing of things–I’ve had DREAMS about practicing my clarinet!

For those interested, before I stopped playing I used Ezo and copious amounts of extra-strength Oragel. It’s amazing. However, its incredible numbing power wears off after about 20-25 minutes and is a bit messy. And if it gets anywhere else (like your tongue, it numbs that part of your mouth too…but it’s better than pain!)

Practicing Techniques

Here are the promised techniques I’ve accumulated since becoming practically useless. 🙂

  1. Slow-mo mental practice. You sit in a chair with your palms on your thighs and slowly finger through the music–in your brain, NOT with your fingers. You don’t move them. Sounds stupidly easy, right? But the point is to FOCUS super hard on the notes and mentally seeing yourself phrasing, fingering, moving through with dynamics, etc. And believe it or not, this works better withOUT the clarinet. When I tried it with the clarinet, I got caught up in the fingerings, not the music.
  2. Regular fingering. I can’t let my fingers get slow, so I practice my scales and patterns, or anything else that is super repetitive. My 7ths are going to slay.
  3. Listening to recordings. I’m not going to lie, I have often found this tedious–I want to use my time to practice, not listen to someone else! But I have found that listening to Harold Wright play Rossini’s Introduction, Theme, and Variations about 30 times has helped me gain some insight into phrasing, breathing, and those cadenzas–wow. I feel like I know the piece more, even though I haven’t played it in a while.
  4. Exercising. This one I need to do more of–I need to keep my air going. Watching an entire season of The Crown in one sitting is probably not helping my lung capacity. So a few trips to the Rec are in my future this week! Hello treadmill, my old friend…

These are my non-playing tips. I don’t know what I am going to do to not lose my chops and tonguing. I play double-lip, so I am freaking out about what a long-term rest is going to do to my embouchure. But I’ve promised everyone that I won’t try to start playing too soon.

My surgery is set for December 7th, 9am. I will write my usual Sunday post about how amazing I feel.

The Tooth Chronicles

The Struggle

“How long can I practice today?”

“What piece or etude is going to get nixed today because I can’t practice anymore?”

“I hope they don’t think I’m a bad musician…”

Why all these anxiety-ridden thoughts? No, I’m not some neurotic millennial. I have gum recession, caused by hereditary influences and over-practicing. You can see my super-attractive photo of my tooth at the bottom of this article, or be forewarned now. 🙂 Although I’m scheduled for a skin graft in December, there’s still over a month left in the semester, plus recovery time!

Over-Practicing

My go-to has always been hours of slow, steady practice, inching up the tempo until it’s perfect and fluid. Blocks and blocks of time, playing something until it lives in my fingers, memorized in my muscles. I could spend two to four hours on a few lines of music and not lose focus or truly tire. (My high school band friends probably remember this. Sorry…) This has always given me confidence in auditions and while playing in front of people. The knowledge that even if my brain freezes or anxiety hits, I’ve GOT this.

Nowadays I can practice for about 25 minutes before I begin to feel pain from the pressure against my thinned gums and exposed nerves. Band rehearsal is super difficult; although I use Ezo and soft reeds, the pain can become quite uncomfortable and I have to take frequent breaks. By the time band is over, there’s no more practicing that day. And non-band days require practicing for a short time, then reading a book/hating life for half and hour, repeated until I run out of time. Can you imagine how frustrating it is to go to school and spend a lot of money to play your clarinet, then NOT be able to play very much?

Silver Lining

Through research and chatting with other musicians, I have found out that more people are dealing with this than I was aware. I found much hope and relief that other clarinetists have gone through the same thing and had successful skin grafts. I decided to come out in the open about this because A) it might help someone find relief in the future, and B) because I realized it’s not something I have to be embarrassed about. Frustrated, yes, but not embarrassed. The days of playing through pain and hiding injuries because you’re afraid Maestro will kick you out have given way to empathetic and understanding peers who have been super supportive. I love you guys! You’ve kept me going on the days where my frustration tries to take over.

I will share my new practice routines and some tips that I’ve learned from peers and professors about non-instrumental practice. Even if not going through gum loss or other injury, I hope some of these strategies I share can help people practice in more healthy ways.

If you have any mental strategies or ideas of practicing without the clarinet touching the mouth, please send them my way!

Photo (this is your warning!)

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Dun dun duuuuun!