The most basic and perhaps most important part of practicing is warming up. What you accomplish during your warm-up is essential to your success on the clarinet. Use your time wisely to achieve the maximum results in the minimum amount of time. Structure your daily warm-up carefully and follow these three steps to a great warm-up:
1) Long tones
Start out your practice with five to ten minutes of long tones. Start in the chalumeau register and gradually work your way up to the clarion and altissimo registers. Pay careful attention to your tone quality, especially when playing at softer dynamic levels. Take full breaths and always use maximum breath support.
Scales are the single most important musical element for a clarinetist (or any instrumentalist) to practice. One should strive for a thorough knowledge, understanding, and flawless execution of all the scales. This means major scales, minor scales, chromatic scales, whole tone scales, thirds, dominant sevenths, diminished sevenths, and all related arpeggios. The Baermann Third Division is an excellent book to use for scale practice. I also like the Stievenard Practical Study of the Scales for Clarinet and the section on scales in the Klosé Celebrated Method for the Clarinet. Utilize a variety of articulations, rhythmic patterns and random scale order to maximize your technical proficiency.
The third part of your warm-up should focus on articulation practice. The Kell 17 Staccato Studies is my favorite book to use for both teaching and practicing. I also use the Stark Practical Staccato School (in 3 volumes of increasing difficulty) and exercises 11 and 12 from the Langenus Complete Method for the Clarinet, Part III. Strive for symmetry of articulation, particularly on repeated notes. Don’t only focus on increasing the speed of your articulation, but on the quality of your sound while articulating and establishing proper articulation technique. There should be no excess jaw or mouth movement. The embouchure should remain stable, as if playing legato. Record yourself and compare your tone quality when playing both legato and staccato at all dynamic levels throughout the complete range of the instrument. Make sure the tone quality does not change when articulating.
PRO TIP: Always use a metronome for each of the three warm-up elements. If you follow these three steps when warming up, you should notice a big improvement in your playing. Good luck! The Vandoren Etude and Exercise Book for Clarinet is an excellent resource for working on all clarinet fundamentals and thoroughly addresses the three warm-up steps discussed in this article.
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