Turbocharge Your Practice: A High Performance Practice Routine for the Aspiring Clarinetist

by Paula Corley

Date Posted: March 27, 2017

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Start your warm-up with a full sound always.

Practice 3 different volumes:

Soft, medium, loud (S-M-L)

C Scale With Open G

Increase the airspeed (very slightly) on open G just before you shift. A slight airspeed increase on notes prior to a register shift (change) will help create a uniform sound throughout the full range of the clarinet.

You may tongue the open G to start. However, work until you can slur everything. Slurring all will teach you to release the register key quickly.

Upper Register Development

As you ascend above high C, the response of the clarinet may feel different. Use the same voicing – “EE” – to make sure all of the notes are focused. Once you are secure, you can experiment voicing the notes with vowel sounds – “A, E, I, O, U” to find your best tuning. For some players, using a different vowel sounds on decrescendos may also improve tuning and security.

Tonguing Burst Practice – A “Must Do” Every Day!

Work to make each group:

1) clear

2) even

3) matched in quality

Upper Register Bursts – Master the previous Upper Register Exercises before trying these.

Don’t worry about playing short! Play clear, even, and controlled bursts. Keep your tongue as close to the reed as possible if you have squeaking or response problems. Moving the tongue too much can cause problems.

“Must Do” Scale Practice

Until you can perform scales confidently, music will continue to be difficult and time-consuming to learn. Scales are your foundation. There is no way around them, so get busy!

Paula Circle

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 clarinetcity.com.

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