Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blog: The Buzzing Reed

David H. Thomas, principal clarinet of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, has a fantastic blog called The Buzzing Reed: Confessions of an Orchestral Clarinetist. Some posts focus on his approach to clarinet technique, including double-tonguing, right hand pain, and breathing. Thomas also addresses specific repertoire and has posted video of himself playing the Muczynski Time Pieces, and a Jeanjean etude. Other posts cover the difficulties of performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 8, and the difference between orchestral and solo playing.

One of the best things about The Buzzing Reed is that it gives an inside perspective on the life of a professional orchestral musician. Thomas shows us that even a professional clarinetist is still human, and even while he has been with the orchestra for twenty years, he can still have problems with reeds or become nervous for a concert.

Many of his posts deal with the problems of the Columbus Symphony as it (like many orchestras these days) has struggled to deal with financial problems, turnover of directors, and rocky relations between the board and the orchestra members. Thomas's posts are critical of the organization at times, but they also show his dedication to bringing a high-quality artistic product to his community. The Buzzing Reed gives real insight on what it means to be an orchestral musician in times when a community has to balance economics with art.

Any clarinetist would enjoy and learn from this blog, but for those aspiring to be professional orchestral clarinetists, it's a must-reed. Ahem. Must-read.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Stage: Rico reeds

When the D'Addario company (string manufacturer) acquired Rico in 2004, they set out to change and improve the quality of reeds through new machines and technology. At their main website The Stage, a word search for "clarinet" pulls up over 70 videos and PDF files which cover an assortment of topics ranging from advice on playing the clarinet to reed preservation. The Rico company has many artists who endorse their products and can be seen in these videos. Bass clarinetists, particularly teachers and those new to the instrument, will thoroughly enjoy videos of J. Lawrie Bloom rendering advice on how to play, assemble, and choose reeds for the instrument. Many episodes of "Clarinet Secrets" by Michèle Gingras can also be accessed. For those interested in seeing the new process of reed production within the company, Rico has videos which show the entire process beginning at the cane fields in France to the finished product sold at the music store. This site is full of short and interesting materials that clarinetists of all levels will enjoy.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Synthetic Speed Tonguing article by Clark W Fobes

San Francisco-based mouthpiece maker and performer Clark W Fobes has written a great article, "Synthetic Speed Tonguing," which is posted on his website.

Fobes, like many clarinetists, found that his top speed single-tonguing was not quite fast enough to get him through excerpts like the Mendelssohn "Scherzo," and began looking at double-tonguing as a solution. This article describes his method of using double-tonguing technique combined with single tonguing to increase speed and relaxation of the tongue. With step-by-step instructions for learning the technique, and many musical examples, this is worth reading for anyone who has struggled with their single tonguing speed, or has advanced students dealing with this issue.