Archive for the ‘Clarinet’ Category

A Little Encouragement Goes A Long Way!

May 16, 2012

By Greg Warren, Saxophone, Flute, and Clarinet Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Image

As we all know, it takes a lot of consistent effort to get to where playing an instrument is stress free. For beginners especially, they realize that music is challenging and takes practice. One of the ways I engage my students is by giving them a choice—or a guided choice—of a song they might want to play, regardless of the instrument. For example, I have Flute players performing Katy Perry and Lady Gaga and Saxophone players performing The Tokens “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Let’s face it—every musician deep down wants to be a Rockstar! The reason these songs are successful for beginners is because they already know them, and have a connection to them through some avenue of pop culture.

This does not mean that the rudiments are not important. They are the basis for a solid foundation and success. The pop style music is just a great way to get young musicians to play their instruments. It is amazing how much more a young musician will practice a song if they have a connection. With any luck, in the future, they will gain respect for the rudiments and an understanding of why they are important.

On another note, summer is upon us, and young musicians are being asked if they are going to continue playing in Middle School. Many of them will say yes, and many will drop out. There is one thing I’ve learned—if parents encourage young musicians to play over the summer, they will be more prepared for the rigors of a new musical ensemble. A little bit of encouragement goes a long way!

Oops! It’s Broken

January 11, 2012

by Greg Warren, Woodwind Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Greg Warren, Woodwind Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Greg Warren

As a player of woodwind instruments I have learned many lessons about how easily they can bend and break.  The saxophone, flute, and clarinet are fragile instruments.  When you have played as long as I have you learn that the tiniest of bumps to the delicate buttons, levers and, rods can severely impact the instruments playability or sound.  It is never fun to struggle on an instrument especially during a performance. Your mind needs to be free of concern for the instrument so you can play without any inhibitions.  With the first round of school concerts and recitals having just passed or coming up you want your instrument to be in peak working condition.

The reason I am addressing this particular problem is because I have been seeing lots of bumps and bends happening to quite a few instruments in the last month or so.  I believe this is a result of students becoming more comfortable with their instruments.  This causes you to lose focus and concentration concerning the expensive instrument in your hands.  One time it happened to me right before a gig I was playing in Vail.  I was back stage talking to some friends when my sax fell off of my lap hitting the floor pretty hard.  The damage was severe, it could not be fixed.  We were going on stage in 15 minutes and at this point in my career I did not have a back up horn.  I ended up having to play the flute on a bunch of songs I didn’t know on the flute.  I love the flute but that was hard.  It was not the best gig I have ever played but at least I had a flute.

Here are some tips for all the woodwind families to help avoid damaging your instrument.  These care tips are common to all of the woodwind instruments.

  • Make sure that all corks are thoroughly greased.  The cork can easily dry up in this dry Colorado climate of ours.  It is not a major repair but can be avoided easily.
  • When concerning metal to metal connections on the flutes and saxophones, they only need to be wiped with a dry rag to prevent sticking.  Never put any kind of grease on these joints; they become very slippery.
  • When assembling woodwind instruments take care to be firm but gentle.  Holding these instruments while assembling can cause a lot of damage; if you are not holding the instrument in the correct places you risk bending the long rods that make the keys move up and down.
  • Always clean your instrument after playing.  Saliva and condensation will collect on the walls of all woodwind instruments while being played.  If it is not dried out regularly things can start to grow, I know from experience.  Sometimes a smell will develop and a professional has to help get rid of the gunk on the inside of the instrument.  This is more common on the saxophone with all its curves.
  • Most importantly, just be aware of your surroundings.  Over time the instrument will become part of you and bumping into things or accidentally dropping it will stop, or become less frequent anyways.

As I said before, it will happen to every single one of us sometime in our musical career.  All we can do is be vigilant about how we treat our instruments and hope for the best.  Most musicians I know have a back up instrument or a really good friend to borrow a replacement from when things go bad.  When you become a professional, having a back up is a must.  Now go practice, but be careful not to drop or bump into anything with your instrument.

Become Versatile, Stay in Demand

April 28, 2011

By Cobus du Toit, Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Cobus du Toit, Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Cobus du Toit

Jack of all trades, Master of none. This proverb is taught to us from a very young age. We are brought up to believe that it is better focusing all of your attention on one skill rather than spreading your attention on various things. Every occupation has a specialty field. If you are a lawyer you can specialize in divorce, property or criminal law. Doctors have the opportunity to specialize in different types of surgery. Naturally, it would make sense for a musician to specialize in one particular instrument and become a master of their trade. Unless, you are one of the lucky few in the entertainment industry; I have found this to be the complete opposite.

When you are a saxophone major in college, you are required to take clarinet and flute lessons. Why if you are a violinist do they not require you take viola lessons? Or a cellist double bass lessons? I have heard numerous times that a string quartet is in desperate need of a violist for a background music function or that a musical at the local community center needs a player who can play saxophone, clarinet and flute. Why not expand on your current skill set and become the musician that is in popular demand?  Piano players are also in high demand in most areas. There is always a pianist somewhere who got sick on a Sunday morning before a church service. Needless to say, good sight reading plays a big part in this so it is important to keep up on this skill too.

I did both my undergraduate and Master’s Degree in flute performance, but I have always kept up my piano skills. I also saw that my friends who were Saxophone majors got much more freelance work than I did, so I took up the Saxophone and Clarinet. If you think about it, why would someone pay three people if one person can do the job?

We all dream about playing a concerto with the New York Philharmonic someday but, until that happens, we as musicians need to make money somehow. My advice to you is to start as many instruments as early as possible. Do a little bit of research in your area and find out which instruments are in high demand.

At the end of the day, we choose music as a career because we love music first, and then the instrument.

Musical Happenings

April 20, 2011

By Denise McCoy, Piano, Voice and Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Denise McCoy, Piano, Voice and Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Denise McCoy

Summer is just around the corner, let the fun begin! Every summer, musicians from all types of genres play for their audience. Boulder has some great venues that are worth checking out with your kids!

Starting May 7th, Chautauqua’s online box office is open, and tickets can be ordered either by calling their number (featured on their website below). On May 9th, the actual box office opens and tickets can be purchased on site. http://www.chautauqua.com/pdf/cca_calendar2011_apr-may.pdf On this website, you can view their entire summer concert season! The tickets are pretty inexpensive, but it’s generally suggested to order tickets in advance in case the event sells out.

In Denver, there is the Denver Center for Performing Arts. At this art center, there is a wide variety of shows to see. Traveling Broadway shows come through this DCPA, and quite a few in the summer. This is a good opportunity to get to see come acting, singing, dancing and the instruments that play in the pit! Tickets can be ordered in advance and be picked up the same day as the performance. If you stick around the side stage door after performance, you might even be able to meet a cast member! http://www.denvercenter.org/home.aspx

Colorado Symphony Orchestra offers many concerts towards the beginning of the summer that is perfect for the family! Some concerts are geared towards kids and their families and some concerts have an “inside the score” where music students and audience members can learn a little about the piece of music that is being performed.  For those looking for something a bit more contemporary, Boyz II Men and Pink Martini are playing in June.

The summer is the perfect time to enrich your child’s music education. It’s a great way to get the family together and enjoy a concert!

The Little Things

April 22, 2010

By Mike Gersten, Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Gersten, Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Gersten

You may be familiar with the expression “it’s the little things that count”.  In track winners can be decided by a tenth of a second; in baseball an inch can decide whether a pitch is a ball or a strike; and being just a little out of tune can turn an amazing performance into a catastrophe.  When it comes to practicing and taking care of a woodwind instrument it is the little things that make all the difference.  This Sunday I’ll be doing a woodwinds workshop at the lesson studio and I’ll be talking about little things we all can do as woodwind players to help make us better players.  Here is a little preview:

We all know that we need to practice in order to get better, but no one has a lot of time.  By using certain practice techniques you can maximize the efficiency of your practice sessions.  Now, I won’t tell you that you’ll be able to learn a very difficult piece in five minutes.  This isn’t a late-night infomercial.  However, I will say that these techniques will help you learn to play the music well in the quickest way possible.

What good is knowing how to play your instrument if you’re instrument doesn’t work?  You’re instrument should run like a well-oiled machine.  After all, your instrument is a machine with you as the motor.  We will discuss how to take care of your reeds, keys, and pads so your instrument will sound its best and you can avoid hefty repair costs.

In addition to these topics we will talk about listening to music and anything you else you want!  Feel free to bring your instrument and any music you are currently working on or have questions about.  Please call The Lesson Studio to reserve your spot as space is limited.  Oh yeah, did I mention that it’s FREE!  See you there!

Can You See What You’re Playing? And I’m not talking about the notes on the page.

March 9, 2010

By Hollie Bennett, Intern at The Lesson Studio

You know you’re a true music nerd when you start finding all the similarities between everything you do or see and how it could relate to music. And you know you’re especially bad when you just see something and bam! Now that you watched that special on the Discovery channel about outer space, you know how you can explain vibrato to the twelve year old. But really, finding those parallels between, let’s just call it this for fun, the “real world” and the “music world” can help you understand exactly what you’re doing even more than before.

Imagery is such a staple part in music, at least for me. Hearing a piece of music that really attaches itself to me makes me feel in colors, imagine stories and truly understand the emotion that the composer or performer was trying to convey. Part of me thinks that as a musician that is your true purpose in life is to tell the story, show the audience what is happening, even if you don’t know, you need to show that you do. Sometimes doing crazy things like pulling out your box of 64 Crayola crayons that you haven’t used since the fourth grade and literally coloring your music the color that you thinks conveys each part of your piece can do wonders. Even making up words to go along with what you’re playing or seeing a story that can play out in your head can get the emotional and expressive side to connect with the technical of your playing.

One of my favorite topics to bring up to students is the Olympics. I’ve probably been driving my students crazy trying to convince them to watch everything from figure skating to the super-g to curling. The parallels between musicians and athletes are really interesting to me. How much work each party puts into perfecting their own craft is mind blowing: hours in practice versus hours on the ice or snow. You can find so many similarities. Figure skating spins and trills is one of my own teacher’s favorite analogies. You can also think of the idea of balancing between technique and musicality as the way a speed skater like Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski balance around their turns with speed skating. So go out and try to find those parallels and start imagining them will you play. It might just help even more than you’d think!

Winter/Spring Semester Registration Begins

November 12, 2009

On Monday, November 16, 2009, The Lesson Studio (TLS) will begin its Winter/Spring Semester registration!

The dates for our Winter/Spring Semester 2010 are: January 9 – May 21, 2010

TLS has instructors for guitar, piano, voice, drums, bass, violin, viola, saxophone, clarinet, trombone, trumpet, tuba, euphonium, ukelele, oboe, cello, flute, mandolin and banjo! We also offer music therapy, a free workshop series, and summer music camp. We have an in-store drop-off/pickup for instrument repair. Included with your semester tuition are weekly instruction with the teacher of your choice; supplies including weekly goal sheets, staff paper, CDs, and music charts; assistance from three administrative staff people; free Wi-Fi in the reception area; 10% off coupon for a local music store; and best of all, an end-of-semester recital! Our Fall recital is held at the Old Main Chapel at CU and our Spring recital is held ON STAGE at the Boulder Creek Festival!

If you are a current student, be sure to let our staff know if you prefer the same day/time or a new time slot for your music lesson. If you are new to The Lesson Studio, please call 303-543-3777 for your FREE CONSULTATION today!

As always, please visit http://www.thelessonstudio.com for more information.The Lesson Studio logo

Woodwind Equipment Care

November 5, 2009

An athlete needs his or her body to function at the highest level in order to be successful. To make this happen they take great care to eat well, get plenty of sleep, etc. An athlete knows that if they don’t take care of their body then they won’t be able to perform at their true potential. As musicians this is something we should take to heart. If we do not take care of our instrument, whether it be a saxophone, clarinet, flute or oboe, it can cause all sorts of problems that will keep us from playing at our true potential. What is even worse is that sometimes we don’t realize these problems are due to the instrument and think we are just incapable of playing well.

Here are a few tips on how to maintain and care for your woodwind instrument:

1) Never eat food or drink pop before you play. (Pretty easy.) This can cause food or sugar to get stuck to the pads and make them sticky. Getting pads replaced can be quite expensive. If you have to play after you eat (as I have to do many times) make sure you wash out your mouth at minimum, although brushing your teeth is most ideal.

2) Always swab out your instrument. This is another really simple thing to do. When you are done playing your instrument run a swab through it. This keeps the condensation and spit that gets in your instrument while playing from eating away at the pads while it rests in your case. For wooden instruments (clarinets, oboes) it also helps protect the wood from cracking (a very pricey repair). The best swab to get is a silk one. While slightly more expensive than its cloth counterpart, it does a much better job and is much more durable (I’ve had mine for about ten years now). Every now and then you just need to rinse it off in the sink and hang it up to dry.

3) Keep your reeds in a bag. Have you ever wondered why the tip of your reed is all wavy when taken out? It happens because the reed dries out too quickly. This can happen very easily in the dry air of Boulder. By keeping your reeds in a plastic sandwich bag you can slow down how quickly they dry out. This will help reeds last longer and be more consistent. Some people will put a small piece of a damp sponge in the bag with the reeds to increase the humidity, but you have to be careful. Too much humidity, or if you leave them in the bag too long with out taking them out (shame on you for not practicing!LOL!), can cause the reeds to mold.

4) Rotate through your reeds. It means spending more now, but if you have five to ten reeds instead of one or two, and you keep switching off which one you play on, they will last a lot longer.

There are many other things you can do to help your instrument play to the best of its ability. These are just the simplest ones. For slightly more complicated care (oiling keys, etc) I suggest you have an expert, like one of the instructors at The Lesson Studio, show you how to do it properly in person. It is ideal if you are taking lessons, because the instructor can give you a hands-on lesson on proper instrument care. They would also be likely to catch any problems with your instrument. Good luck with your musical endeavors.

To contact Mike G. about woodwind maintenance or to inquire about a private lesson with Mike, please call 303-543-3777, or send an e-mail to: tls@qwestoffice.net.saxophone