by Stacey Newton
I sent you an email last September about my breathing and the fact when I breath in my shoulders were lifting so I wasn't able to breathe out properly. I have been doing your exercises and it has really helped. I was just wondering if there is anything else I can do to improve my breathing, as I am now breathing in a bit too much and when I breathe in for the next phrase Im taking in too much air, so I need to breathe out but not breathe in, in the middle of a phrase.
Sorry if it's confusing and you don't understand what I mean.
Also, do you know any exercises I could do to improve my dynamics and expression? It would be appreciated.
Welcome back to Clarinet-Now.com and congratulations on your success of “too much air” and your keen observance of practice and performance. This self-awareness and questioning will help you grow by leaps and bounds in conjunction with consistent practice.
Now, let’s make Air Support better. With practice, you will become a better judge of when you take your “second” breathe.
Let’s say at the beginning of a piece, you have an 8-bar phrase, but at the end of the 4th bar, you have a quarter rest. If you took plenty of air at the beginning, you do NOT have to take air at the fourth bar. You can play onward to the end of the 8th bar and then take the next breath.
One moral of this story is that you do not have to take air at every rest. Simply keep going until the next phrase. You do not even have to take air at every breath mark.
See, it is up to you to figure this out. Now, I have written more extensively on this, but I titled it Nervous Air (please follow that link to read it). It is often when I am nervous that I take a shallow breath at the beginning, then need to take multiple breathes to catch up and end up having to exhale from “too much air.” I believe this page will help you understand your issue.
How to improve Dynamics and Expression??? Certainly, dissertations exist on this subject (boring suggestion to look up, right?). However, that is a wide subject. I can give you a few hints.
Dynamic exercises When you practice long tones and/or breathing exercises, vary the dynamic range.
1. Always start out playing Forte or Fortissimo for the full amount of time.
2. Then, try Forte and decrescendo down to Pianissimo or to nothing.
3. Now, reverse, soft to loud.
4. Then, try very loud, down to no sound and then back up to very loud.
These exercises will give you a good amount of ammunition for a wide dynamic range. Having the good compliment of air always helps this.
Another Dynamic/expression tip: Associate a dynamic with a feeling or emotion
Ask yourself these questions, listen to the music you are practicing, does it make you happy, does it sound sad, does it sound angry? Can you make a happy song sound angry? Can you make a sad song seem upbeat? Try to connect emotions with the music.
Also for expression, it depends on the music. It is tough for me to give you advice over the internet without knowing the piece you are practicing. Even if I were to know the piece, detailing each minute amount of expression to you would become boring and pointless mainly because I’m not you. If I were teaching you a lesson in person, I could give you advice on the style and the period, but in the end, you express the music on your terms.
So, most importantly, I recommend you find a Private Clarinet Teacher. As I mentioned at the top, you are very observant about your playing and that is a great quality in making quick improvement. Self-awareness, consistent practice and a good teacher will send you to another level of clarinet playing (and, of course, a visit to Clarinet-Now.com every once in a while).