The warm-up is one of the most important parts of the practice routine. Today, there are many different warm-up regiments depending on your musical level. No matter the level, it is important to include breathing, sound production, finger motion, articulation, and consistency throughout the registers. This week’s guide focuses on providing clarinet warm-up advice to your ability of playing.
- Long tones. It is good to begin with long tones. This should be done with a metronome with the focus of producing a full and dark sound throughout the registers of the clarinet. A good long tones exercise is playing a chromatic scale with the quarter note set at 60 bpm for four counts for each note. You can begin with the lowest note, which is ‘e3’, to the highest note that you know. Make sure when you are doing this exercise that you breath every four notes, which would be 16 counts in total. Long tones require a lot of endurance, and it does take time to build up to this point. For beginner students, it would be good to perhaps focus on specific registers to help them not only achieve that endurance, but also a good solid sound on the clarinet.
- Mechanism exercises. After completing the long tones exercise, it would be good to do some mechanism exercises to build the technique to play scales. A great book for beginners to use would be the Hyancinthe Klose Complete Method for the Clarinet. When approaching these exercises for the first time, speed is not the goal. The most important thing is that students are able to focus on building the strength and dexterity in their fingers so that they are controlled and used efficiently. For more advanced players, Paul Jeanjean’s Vade Mecum and Eugene Bozza’s Quatorze Etudes de Mecanisme pour la Clarinette are excellent resources that build on the mechanism exercises introduced in the Klose, but also, if done correctly, help achieve musical virtuosity.
- Scales. Another important part to daily practice is scales. The Klose Complete Method for the Clarinet contains all the scales and is great for all levels. Other great resources include the J. Albert 24 Varied Scales and Exercises for the Clarinet and the Carl Baermann Complete Method for the Clarinet No. 1 and 2. For advanced players, the Baermann Complete Method for the Clarinet No. 3 is an excellent resource, as it explores all ranges of the instrument. For beginners learning their scales for the first time, it is important to not focus on speed when approaching them. Make sure to have a metronome set at a comfortable tempo that makes it so that the student does not have to continually stop while trying to play the scale. Gradually with daily practice, they will be able to perform the scales more comfortably. For more advanced players, it is important to practice scales using different articulation patterns and variations to include thirds, double thirds, interrupted, and arpeggios which can all be found in the Baermann Complete Method. As you are learning your scales, the ultimate goal is to be able to play them all by memory at a fast tempo.
- Articulation. This is another important part to developing your playing. While articulation can also be worked on while playing scales, it is useful to work on it independently especially when working on single and double tonguing. A good resource would be the third book from the Langenus Studies on page 22 to work on playing short, light, and quick staccato. If you are interested to learn about how to double tongue, there is a great video by Sergio Pires, Principal Clarinet of the Musikkollegium Winterthur that explains this concept clearly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmuW6s9B-tk
Hopefully some of these tips will be useful in your individual practice. It is important to adapt your warm-up according to your level of playing as each person is different with their own individual goal with the instrument. If you do not have a music teacher, consult one of the local professionals in your area and they will be able to help you develop a practice routine to your needs.