Comments for Rapid Clarinet Articulation

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Feb 14, 2011
Fast articulation
by: William

Here's what I do for fast articulations. I believe what is in the original French Kose Complete Method Book (not revised by Simeon Bellison) is best. There is a section titled "How to Play Detacher," which basically amounts to saying "too" over and over, but (and this is important) separating each note. "Too and separations" is the motto, with the minimum pressure necessary on the edge of the reed to create enough clarity in the "t" sound. For fast articulations, the separation is not created by the tongue coming back to the reed as Daniel Bonade says in his compendium. Simply play the first note, stop blowing (but don't stop supporting or holding the clarinet against your upper teeth), then play the second, and so forth. This is awkward at first, and not the best method for moderate articulations, but works very well for fast articulations.

I like to put the edge of the reed (although it can be done with touching just below the edge) on a place just a bit (1/8th to 1/4of an inch) back from the tip of my tongue. This is also what is in the original Kose method book.

For moderate speed articulations, I say "Toot." I do stop the sound with the tongue, creating a tight valve as Bonade discribes in his Compendium, but basically only for articulations that are moderate in speed. For example, I would stop the 1/8th notes in the Mendelsohn Scherzo with my tongue, but would play the 1/16ths "too and separations."

I believe that much of a player's success with articulation depends on how he or she practices it. I like to practice small groups of notes (anywhere from 1 single note to 2 or 3, maybe 4)first slurred, then articulated. Practice slowly, unevenly, slowing down at the difficult spots, accenting each pulse a little bit, and applying strong pressure with the fingers and thumbs. Then speed the groups up.

The other thing about practicing articulations, is finger technique. When practicing the small groups, you must (with good hand position) build up your finger strength. This means holding tightly with your fingers and thumbs. Exercise and rest gives strength to muscles. Articulation rests on the foundation of good slurring, and what you do with your fingers and thumbs is very important.

Summary: For fast articulations: Too and separations with strong fingers practicing small groups of notes. For moderate speed articulations, say "toot" as in the Bonade Compendium. Say "too" without separations for a certain kind of articulation in slow tempos.

As far as articulation per se goes, that's about it. I do think embouchure air stream and support enter in, as they are essential for beautiful sound as you articulate. I hope this helps some people, it worked for me.

Aug 23, 2010
Good analysis Chris
by: Glendon Markle

Not much I can add to Chris's analysis.

I have tried double tongueing, triple tongueing and flutter tongueing on the little avail. I think Chris has it right - having the clarinet mouthpiece and reed in your mouth negates all those wonderful brass (and flute) techniques. Any use of these techniques on the clarinet are disappointing from my perspective.

I would like to contribute one exercise which has helped me immensely with single tongueing speed. Take any warm-up 4 quarter notes on that tone.... followed by 8 eighth notes....followed by 4 counts of triplets.....followed by 16 sixteenth notes. Then move on to the next tone in whatever scale you choose. I have had very positive results with this practice.

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