Paula Corley Visiting Vandoren in Paris

Date Posted: September 02, 2016

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Paula Corley Visiting Vandoren in Paris

Hi, I’m Paula Corley. You can probably tell I’m not from Paris. This is my first trip here, and I’m very excited to visit Vandoren. I’ve been a longtime fan of Vandoren—I started on the purple box, a long time ago, and I started on a 2RV. My director that started me on clarinet talked about the importance of having really good equipment right from the start, so, I was very lucky.

Currently, I live in Texas, and I live near Austin. I am a teacher at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, and I also continue to teach high school and junior high students as well. My best piece of advice for a developing player, is to get a good mouthpiece and good reeds to start. The truth is, the instrument doesn’t make as much difference, as the mouthpiece and the reed. All of the Vandoren products are good. My favorites, personally, for a student just starting, would be the 5RV Lyre. And the reason I recommend that is because it’s in the middle. And if you look at the chart (the ones that we get in the United States), it’s medium-- it’s a good place to start. Probably won’t be your last one, but it’s a good place to start. I also really love the blue box Traditional reeds. They work really well for me in Texas. You can start with a 3 and eventually go to a 3.5. If you live in other parts of the country, you’ll have to consider the humidity, the elevation. I’ve lived in different parts of the country and played rue Lepic. I have played V12 (I like them as well), but currently the blue box work really well for me. Let’s talk about ligatures.

When the M|O came out, I was extremely excited. It’s the best ligature that I’ve ever found. I’ve tried many others with my students, and myself, and hands down it’s my favorite design. I think it allows the reed to vibrate freely, but you still have a good sense of control. I really love the fact that Vandoren offers several different price points. I play the gold—I like the warm sound the gold gives. I also have the silver one—it gives you a lot of zing. And my students usually start on pewter and they love them as well and they work really well.

"I've been playing Vandoren since I was 11." - Paula Corley, Vandoren Artist

My preferred mouthpieces for bass, would be B44. The reason I choose that one is because again, it’s in the middle. I don’t play bass a lot, but when I do, I use a B44. I like the Optimum ligature for that, and again the Traditional reeds. Eb clarinet, a B44 as well—works really well for me. And they’re probably a lot of people out there saying, “I’m glad she’s doesn’t play Eb very much,” but that is an also very good middle of the road mouthpiece. As I’ve said, I’ve had a long standing association with the company, even before I became one of the artists. I’ve been playing Vandoren products since I was 11, and I’m a lot older than that, as you can tell right at this moment.

I’m always full of advice, so, let’s discuss developing players for a minute. I think the biggest thing you need to work on is: developing a plan for practice. So many students pick pieces at random, or they pick etudes, and materials that are not appropriate for the level at which they are playing. So, think carefully about the materials that you choose to practice. Practice the right things. That would include some type of long tone or register shift. I’m really big on being able to navigate, from the chalumeau, to the clarion register. So anything that would facilitate that. You can’t get away from scales. You need to spend a good portion of your practice on scales: both slurred and articulated. Then as far as your solos and your repertoire are concerned, choose wisely. If you’ve only played a year, don’t try to play the Copland. Choose wisely and practice wisely and you will make much faster progress and be a lot better at playing the instrument.

About the Author

Paula Corley is the Education Advisor for Buffet Crampon North America. She has 33+ years of teaching experience from middle school to university level. Most recently Paula served as the clarinet instructor at Texas Lutheran University where she hosted ‘clariNETWORKS’ – a very popular annual event for clarinetists of all ages and band directors. She is also a chamber music judge for Music for All's National Chamber Music Festival and served as the Pedagogy Chair for the International Clarinet Association from 2018-2020. Most know her as the ‘mayor’ of Clarinet City, a teaching website for all ages and stages of clarinet playing.

Originally from Mississippi, Paula grew up without access to clarinet lessons which sparked a lifelong interest in research for developing players. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University (BME) where she was named Alumnus of the Year in 2012-13 and Southern Methodist University (MM) where she worked with the legendary Howard Dunn. Paula taught in Plano, Texas ISD for many years before moving to Asheville, NC where she served as principal clarinet in the Asheville Lyric Opera and on the faculty at Mars Hill University (NC).

Author of So You Want to Play the Clarinet and The Break (Southern/Hal Leonard), Paula has performed and presented at music conferences throughout the US since 1998. She is a performing artist and clinician for Vandoren and for Buffet Crampon and her articles have appeared in THE CLARINET, Vandoren WAVE, The Texas Bandmasters Review, and The Instrumentalist. A new series of her arrangements for clarinet can be found at Hal Leonard. She also has two recorded works for clarinet: Unfamiliar Territory by Michael Markowski and Road Trip for clarinet quintet by Clifton Jones. Visit

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