Saturday, December 21, 2013

Website Watch (December 2013 column)
Greeting viewers with the beautiful and languid sounds of Harold Wright performing Richard Strauss’s Duet-Concertino for clarinet and bassoon, the homepage of has much to offer clarinet enthusiasts. Webmaster Russell Harlow has done an excellent job in providing a unique platform that allows viewers to listen to and compare various national styles of clarinet playing. The abundance of rare photos and excerpts of audio files of distinguished clarinetists from around the globe make this website an invaluable resource.

Tracing the lineage of clarinet teaching originating with European-American players such as Daniel Bonade, Gustave Langenus, and Simeon Bellison, Harlow conveniently categorized musicians by their nationality, including a set of links for easy comparison of the national styles of sound associated with Austria, France, England, and America.

Over fifteen countries are represented on the website, each with numerous listings of clarinetists including biographies, photos, and audio samples. Many of the sound files are of symphonic solos or exposed sections of chamber music, and many of the recordings span across several decades, giving listeners the opportunity to hear the evolution of the clarinetist’s sound and style. A handful of entries also include famous pupils of teachers.  

One notable entry is on Gustav Langenus. His biography highlights his innovative approach to teaching as he may have been one of the first clarinet teachers to help students via long-distance learning. Langenus would record himself playing his own etudes and studies on 78 rpm records and mail them to students lacking access to a local clarinet teacher. The student would then listen to the recordings, fill out the accompanying questionnaire to document their progress, and return it to Langenus, who would then respond accordingly. On these archived recordings, you can hear Langenus’s voice as he calls out the etude number and plays the musical line.*  [Edit: the voice is not actually Langenus; see note below]

The “Embouchure and Technique” section features a comical group photograph of the principal woodwind players of the Philadelphia Orchestra whimsically playing their respective instruments, followed by a second snapshot of a similar pose, this time with serious expressions. Daniel Bonade’s expression in the humorous photograph is priceless! In this section Harlow has compiled articles by Ralph McLane and James Collis on playing with a double-lip embouchure. He also includes Tom Ridenour’s three-part video explanation of double-lip embouchure and an audio file of oboist Marcel Tabuteau explaining the art of supporting the air. Anatomical diagrams of the chest, abdominal, and facial muscles further explain the concepts taught by Tabuteau. One interesting component of this section is the application of double-lip techniques by multiple clarinetists in different manners, highlighting the benefits and usefulness of playing double-lip.

An accompanying blog, also run by Harlow, mirrors content found on the main site and can be accessed from the home page. Although the blog contains many broken links or repetitive material borrowed from the main site, there is a handful of photos worth pursuing and also an interesting article on Louis DeSantis. Various clarinet-related merchandise, clothing, and printed music are available for purchase from the Clarinet Store section.

Only few hiccups were encountered when accessing the Clarinet Central website. As noted on the homepage, viewers using PCs or Google Chrome as their Internet browser may experience troubles accessing the toolbar for the audio files. Harlow recommends using Internet Explorer for access to all of the audio files. Hopefully Harlow is working towards fixing these technical issues as this site is a definite must-see for all clarinetists. is a streaming audio and video website for fans and performers of classical music.  All content is user-generated -- anyone can upload tracks, and the online community can leave comments and vote on the quality of each selection. A search for “clarinet” brings up more than 150 recordings by performers as accomplished as Alexander Fiterstein and John Bruce Yeh, along with many lesser-known players.

While visitors to the site can listen to the first three minutes of any selection, the free registration allows users to hear the full versions, create their own playlists, vote on recordings, and maintain an individual artist profile. Artists can upload MP3 files and link YouTube videos to the site, with all their recordings linked back to a profile page with biographical information. Users can also enter their concert information into an online calendar, though feature is somewhat lacking in that you can browse by instrument or performer but not location.

One useful aspect of the site is the ability to create playlists which can be shared and embedded on other websites. Teachers can create playlists for students to listen to, and performers are able to create a playlist of their own performances that can be embedded on their personal website. Better yet, these embedded playlists update automatically when the playlist is updated at

Because users upload the content, recordings range widely in quality of audio, performance quality, and even volume level. Like YouTube and other websites where content is user-generated, the quality and usefulness of the website is directly related to the activity of the users. If many high-quality recordings continue to be uploaded, and clarinetists rate recordings thoughtfully, it could prove to be a much more refined resource for listening to clarinet music than YouTube, where low-quality recordings often have high view counts. But as is, many tracks on are currently unrated, and there is a lack of variety and quantity (there is only one recording of the Mozart concerto, for example).

Despite these issues -- and the fact that the interface could use updating -- it’s a great place to discover new repertoire and performers.  With more participation from performers and listeners, it has the potential to become a valuable resource for clarinetists.

*Note from David Ross:
I did want to make a little correction to what you wrote about Langenus. His “Clarinet Correspondence School” is certainly a fascinating document of a world long gone. I have a complete set of these discs and they make interesting listening. But the voice announcing the etudes is certainly not Langenus. The practice in early (pre-WW1) discs and cylinders was to have a loud-voiced speaker (not the player) announce the pieces to be played, and this is what Langenus did.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Robert Marcellus Master Class Audio Archives

Northwestern University has released archived audio files of Robert Marcellus master classes and made them available to the public on their library website. Here you'll find 64 recordings dating back from 1977 through 1990 of Marcellus coaching students on solo and chamber music, as well as master classes and conversations with Clark Brody, William Brennen, Ron Oldrich, and Christopher Severin. Thanks to Phil Paglialonga and Timothy Phillips for bringing this to our attention!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Clarinet Dissertations Online (Sept. 2013 Column)

Many dissertations which sat for years in obscurity on the granting institution’s library shelf are now being digitized and made publicly available.  A process which used to involve filling out an interlibrary loan request and waiting several weeks is now as easy as downloading a PDF.  In this column, we explore online resources for finding full-text digital versions of clarinet theses and dissertations.

Graduate students and faculty researchers will find these resources useful to survey scholarly literature about clarinet-related topics, but they are not just for academics.  At a time when much dubious information is available on the Internet, theses and dissertations provide a trustworthy source for information that has been thoroughly reviewed and approved by a student’s major professor, university committee and deans or other school officials. These documents are a logical place to turn when looking for more information than Wikipedia or articles in past issues of The Clarinet can provide.

One of the largest open-access databases for scholarly research is the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD). This international organization’s website yields a listing of over 2,500 full-text electronic theses and dissertations involving the clarinet. Although it is bit tricky to navigate at first, begin your search for clarinet-related documents by clicking the “Find ETDs” on the home page. From there you will utilize the “Scirus ETD Search” located a few paragraphs down. Here, a helpful side-menu offers keyword suggestions to refine searches or you can limit your search with additional keywords of your choosing. Each document’s entry is linked to the respective university’s database, from which you can access the full text directly. The "Find ETDs" page also has a list of links to other databases that may be helpful in an extended search.

Many university libraries are beginning to post full-text dissertations that are publicly accessible through their websites. These individual university databases often overlap with NTLTD, but may have more up-to-date collections.

A few examples are the University of Rochester, with digital dissertations from Eastman students beginning from 2008; and Florida State University, which grants access to electronic theses and dissertations dating back to 2003. The OhioLINK ETD Center currently lists over sixty-five dissertations involving the clarinet from Ohio State University, University of Cincinnati, and Bowling Green State University.  The UNT Digital Libraries contain full-text dissertations of clarinetists who received their DMA from the University of North Texas from 2000 to the present. UNT was one of the earliest institutions to begin requiring electronic submission of theses and dissertations (along with West Virginia University and Vanderbilt University), so its collection is extensive.

EThOS (Electronic Theses Online Service) is a database of numerous participating UK institutions with several dissertations on the clarinet available to download. To access the digitized documents, you must complete the free registration process. Although many of the documents are open to the public, the required programs necessary to view these documents include Adobe Acrobat Reader and software to unzip the compressed files. In addition to the free downloading options, you can also order paper copies (bound or unbound) and CD/DVDs of dissertations for a fee.

Electronic dissertation records have the added benefit of including supplemental audio and visual materials. Michele Ann Bowen Hustedt’s 2010 University of Iowa dissertation “The Life and Career of Himie Voxman” includes a film of her interview with Voxman, while Ray Wheeler’s 1967 study of clarinet tongue position through X-ray analysis is now available through the University of Rochester’s website, including the original videos collected as part of the research. Many clarinetists are also now posting their own dissertations for public viewing on their personal websites, including Rachel Yoder’s 2010 dissertation on interactive computer music for clarinet together with a supplemental spreadsheet of interactive works.

There are countless theses and dissertations accessible on the Internet and we have touched upon only a few. If you have a link or web address to your full-text dissertation and would like us to add it our blog posting of this column, please email your information to  Thanks to Tracey Paddock for suggesting this topic!

Allison Yacoub, who teaches clarinet at Morgan State University, has sent a link to her University of Maryland dissertation "Compositions for Clarinet Influenced by Non-Western European Musical Traditions".

Tracey Paddock sent a link to her Florida State University dissertation, "A Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Clarinetists."

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Mpingo Tree

Many of us realize that the world's supply of grenadilla wood is diminishing everyday; however, we might never stop to ponder the ecological and social concerns associated with the harvesting of the African blackwood tree, also known as the mpingo tree. One interesting article tackling this subject, "The Dark Side of Music: Clarinets, Woodwinds and the Mpingo Tree," posted by the Buffalo Story Project, delves into the business side of illegal gathering of the wood and how it affects not only the commercial components of the business, but also the natives who tend to the land.

As mentioned in the article and in a previous Clarinet Cache post, one organization dedicated to saving the mpingo tree is Clarinets For Conservation. Supporters for this cause reach the children of Tanzania by teaching them about the importance of conservation and gives them the opportunity to learn how to play the clarinet. Visit their website to learn more on how you can help save the mpingo tree and become a sponsor for their organization.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Website Watch (June 2013 Column)

Paula Corley’s Clarinet City
Educator and performer Paula Corley has a personal website designed to help students and teachers alike. Easy to navigate and filled with bright and colorful photographs, this site is a wonderful resource with numerous educational materials available in various formats. Not only is Corley an author of two great method books geared towards the beginner player, but she is also an artist clinician and clarinet professor at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas.

All of the articles found on the site are beneficial to teachers, students, and performers. In her article “Why Johnny Can’t Play: Expanding the Master/Apprentice Model” from her presentation at the 2010 ClarinetFest, Corley outlines how to devise lesson plans and assess a student’s level of learning and progress. Here she gives valuable advice on how to improve the dynamic involved in the teacher/student relationship. Both her middle school and high school master class articles include technical exercises that focus on long tones and articulations exercises appropriate for each age group.

Offering advice to her readers, the site also has an “Ask Paula” section where Corley gives in-depth answers to readers’ questions on topics such as tone quality, intonation, articulation, and technique. In her responses to readers’ inquiries, you can get a feel for her teaching style and her knowledgeable approach to tackling tough issues.  We look forward to reading more of her advice posts in the future!

Teaching blogs
Many clarinet teachers now have basic websites with biographical info, photos, audio or video recordings, and a few links to resources for their students. Others go a bit further using their websites as blogs to communicate information, resources, or thoughts to their students.  

Alice Gallagher, a Juilliard graduate who teaches in the San Diego area, has a blog that pulls together items like videos of performances (both historical and modern players), excerpts from her own practice journal, and her own writings on clarinet playing and clarinet history.  Chastine Hofmeister, who studied at the University of North Texas and now teaches and performs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, uses her blog to post inspirational messages, thoughts on books about practice and performance, clarinet events such as the Texas Clarinet Colloquium, and glimpses into the life of a freelance clarinetist.  

Both of these are great examples of the use of a personal website to enhance the work teachers do in the studio. Private teaching can be a lonely affair; long hours spent in small rooms teaching one-on-one can make one long for other forms of communication and higher-level discourse.  A clarinet blog can be a great way for the private teacher to reach out not only to his or her students, but to the larger clarinet community.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pedagogy 2.0: An Exploration of 21st-Century Innovations in Clarinet Teaching (March 2013 Column)

Through our research over the past four years for this column and blog, we have been on the forefront of developments in online clarinet resources, and we have encountered countless examples of innovative uses for the Internet and mobile technology to teach clarinet. This column is based on our presentation at ClarinetFest 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska and in it we explore a variety of resources and techniques for integrating technology into clarinet instruction.  Most of these require only internet access and can be immediately implemented by teachers looking to augment their traditional teaching style.  

Sheet Music Sharing Sites
The Internet is a continually expanding repository of valuable resources for clarinetists. It is now easier and cheaper for both teachers and students to explore scores through public-domain sheet music sharing sites, with access to print music from any computer. In our Sept. 2009 column, we went in depth on the one of the largest sheet music resources, International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP).  Since our first report on the site, IMSLP has reorganized their instrumentation listing of works, making it easier to navigate. The site lists around 150 solo clarinet works with piano and 52 unaccompanied pieces. The increase in chamber music entries is difficult to calculate due to the nearly 500 listings of ensembles involving the clarinet.  
While many websites offer a general collection of sheet music, The Clarinet Institute of Los Angeles is specifically tailored for the clarinetist.  Managed by David Shorr, this website has numerous videos, MIDI files, and recordings. The site currently offers a DVD containing over 840 PDF files of clarinet music for only $13.50-- an unbeatable price for that amount of music! It has recently widened its instrumental spectrum to include similar discs with sheet music for wind quintet, all band instruments, recorder, and stringed instruments.

Oliver’s (mostly) Clarinet Music Page is also a great source for sheet music. Here, Oliver Seely has formatted chamber music parts into MIDI and MUS files, allowing you to print the music and download parts into music software programs such as Finale or Smart Music for accompanimental playback. The downside to using these types of files is the lack of articulation and dynamic markings. If you don’t have Finale, try visiting Mark Charette’s “mirror” of Seely’s page. Charette, who is also the webmaster of, has translated the Finale notation files into PDF format, allowing more viewers access to the music.

As a teacher, it can be frustrating when students continually turn to random YouTube videos for reference recordings of works. Several services can help you to provide better audio resources to your students, making it easy for teacher and student alike to research new repertoire and compare interpretations.  
Many colleges and universities pay to subscribe to the Naxos Music Library, which can be a valuable tool in the classroom or applied lesson setting.  With a wide variety of recordings from the Naxos label and many other labels, it is easy to create playlists of repertoire for study.  Students can even listen to playlists from their mobile device with the Naxos Music Library mobile application.
Sound Cloud is a web platform for streaming and sharing audio.  One possible use for this website would be to post recordings of student performances and use the “timed comments” feature to provide commentary at specific moments during the recording.  
Spotify is a streaming subscription service that can be downloaded for free, with upgrades available for mobile access and premium content.  It is easy to create and share playlists; find a sampling of the clarinet recordings available by checking out our ClarinetFest 2012 playlist. Spotify is recommended here with reservations, as the low artist royalties they pay have been a contention with many whose record labels allowed the service to have access to their music.  

Instant Encore is a source for streaming video and audio uploaded by artists themselves.  It is primarily a promotional tool for artists, but the quality and depth of information provided about the works and artists make this a place to be sure to search when looking for reference recordings. See our Sept. 2011 column on streaming video for more information about InstantEncore.

We wrote in our previous column about the Rico Reeds website, but we’d like to add a few more details from our presentation. Rico has a wonderfully produced website with numerous videos of their sponsored artists presenting mini-master classes and interviews both on the homepage and in “The Lesson Room” section.

Several videos of the late David Etheridge show him teaching and demonstrating a sampling of fundamental concepts from his book “A Practical Approach to the Clarinet.” These videos are excellent tools for learning about hand position and other basic concepts.  Michele Gingras is another featured Rico artist with 23 videos available on their site. Gingras offers performance strategies and tips for more advanced players in her video series that accompanies her book 52 Clarinet Secrets.  Here you will see her demonstrate exercises on how to increase tongue speed, how to form an embouchure, and other tips found in her book. Lawrie Bloom’s instructional videos on bass clarinet are geared to the beginner player and cover fundamental topics such as instrument assembly, breaking in reeds, and articulation.  
YouTube is a mega-platform that has countless videos of note for clarinetists. While we’ve mentioned them before in our columns, we’d like to put the spotlight on two clarinetists who have produced high-quality instructional videos that stand out. Tom Ridenour has over 96 videos on his YouTube channel and on them he shares his philosophies on playing double-lip, reed finishing, and other various topics. Peruvian clarinetist Marco Mazzini’s channel has several instructional videos in both English and Spanish, as well as footage of live performances of modern and standard pieces for both soprano and bass clarinets.

We blogged about Kyle Coughlin’s Clarinet Space in a post from 2009, and it still stands out as a multimedia resource for clarinet teachers.  The Flash-based “Pitch Name Game” is a fun way for younger students to learn to recognize pitches on a staff, and the interactive fingering charts with sound help students to hear if they are playing the notes correctly.  Music Teacher’s Helper has become a popular tool for private instructors; for a low monthly fee it handles scheduling, does automatic invoicing, accepts credit card payments, and allows students and parents to log in to their accounts from home. Online metronomes have been in existence for many years, but several now have additional rhythmic training options. Students without an electronic metronome or mobile app can always use or other online metronomes to keep time when practicing at home.

Social Networking
Social networking is not only useful for establishing professional connections, but can also serve as a platform for open educational or pedagogical discussions. On Facebook many group pages are dedicated to the clarinet.  You may remember our interview with James Zimmerman back in Sept. 2008 about his Facebook group “Clarinet Jobs,” which serves as a sounding board for orchestral and band vacancies, audition tips, and discussion of audition repertoire.  Many university teachers are now utilizing Facebook to share information with students through studio pages, stay connected with individual students, and even recruit new students.
The Clarinet BBoard on has been mentioned in several of our blog posts and our March 2009 column, but it is worth mentioning again as it continues to be one of the largest and most popular forums for sharing clarinet information. Twitter is another previously mentioned web application that we want to highlight because of its capacity to reach large audiences and its nature of immediacy. In 140 characters or less, a person can use their cell phone to tweet about upcoming events, performances, or to ask other people questions in real time. Two clarinetists who have secured a large following on Twitter include Anthony McGill and Michael Lowenstern. Of course, we also tweet about ClarinetFest and new blog posts on Twitter as @ClarinetCache.
The last web site listed,, is geared toward younger musicians and contains not only social network forums, but also free sheet music and numerous music theory lessons.  The site offers free music and lessons on almost every instrument; however, the musical content consists mainly of simple folk tunes and popular music.  Members can register and upload any kind of music to share with others, or make request for scores.  

Live Online Instruction
As bandwidth increases and video quality improves, many instructors have begun offering lessons online via Skype or Google+.  Online instruction has many benefits, allowing teachers and students to make connections across the world with no time or gas used to travel.  It has drawbacks, such as audio and video lag and sound quality concerns, but teachers like Laurel Hall and Thomas J. West are making it work (and making money doing it).  Their personal websites, in addition to general websites like and can give teachers an idea of the process for teaching online and equipment needed.  Some new startups like and are aiming to improve on the Skype model by offering their own specialized platforms through which student and teacher can meet, combining scheduling, payment, and live videoconferencing in one place.

** An additional online instruction site discovered after our presentation at ClarinetFest 2012, ClariSkye Studio, is another great source for online instruction via Skype. The site, recently created by clarinetist Michele Gingras and violinist Harvey Thurmer, offers students 30-minute lessons with both Gingras and Thurmer, as well as other participating music faculty from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio).

Mobile Applications
These days, smartphones and other mobile devices have an increasing impact on our day-to-day lives, and teaching is no exception.  Mobile applications can turn a phone into a metronome, tuner, handheld recording device, decibel meter, spectrometer, and audio/video player.  Using these functions during lessons can provide instant feedback (often in visual form) for students, and can save time by allowing a teacher to instantly make recordings and send them to students via email.  
There can be drawbacks to using mobile apps in teaching: the input and output sound quality can be poor unless using an external microphone and speakers, for example.  Also, not everyone can afford the devices and expensive data plans.  However, once the device is purchased, tuner and metronome applications are incredibly inexpensive compared to their hardware counterparts.
Our favorite application for integration with clarinet pedagogy is TonalEnergy Tuner. Released in early 2012 by Sonosaurus, its most basic function is as an easy-to-use-tuner with a great interface.  It allows you to select from a variety of tuning systems (equal, just, Pythagorean, etc.) and timbres (just about any instrument) for the tone generator.  Much more than just a tuner, though, TonalEnergy can show the change in dynamics over time with its “waveform” function.  This is highly effective for working with students on dynamic shaping or even articulation.  It also can function as a spectrogram, showing the levels of overtones in the sound -- an opportunity for a great lesson about the reason for resonance fingerings.
We blogged in 2011 about the best metronome apps, so check here for more details about Tempo and other great metronomes to use on your phone.  Our favorite tuners include iStrobosoft (a strobe tuner by Peterson) and ClearTune (a needle tuner by Bitcount).  We will be sure to keep you informed when we hear about other great apps in the future!
In addition to the resources listed above, we have also compiled a list of recommended readings that discuss both specific resources and larger trends for technology in education.  Visit our August 2012 post to find the list of supplementary articles and our powerpoint presentation from ClarinetFest.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The December issue of The Clarinet included a fascinating article titled "Reeds: Good or Bad? It's in the Cane - An Inside View of Arundo donax L." by Michael Montague and Tina Ward.  In reading this article about the physical properties of good cane, we became curious about a website mentioned as being a great resource for information on making clarinet reeds by hand,    Created by Joseph LeBlanc, this site is a "workshop" site (a partner website to that of his commercial business selling reedmaking tools, with information about reedmaking, including this great video overview: is packed full of clear and detailed information about blank making, profiling, and finishing reeds, and all the equipment and supplies needed in the process. Photos and diagrams help to illustrate the process.  If you have any interest in making clarinet reeds by hand, or just want to get a glimpse into the process, this website is a great place to start!