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E-Flat clarinet lesson

Learn about the E-flat clarinet from an expert musician with the U.S. Marine Band. Includes exercises for intonation, intervals, burst-tonguing and more.

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Video transcript

- Most clarinet players start out playing the B-Flat clarinet. Occasionally, some of 'em will start out on the bass clarinet, but no one, as far as I know, starts out on the E-Flat clarinet. And that's the instrument I play. E-Flat clarinet is considered an auxiliary instrument in the clarinet family. I wanna encourage any high school or college clarinet players to try auxiliary clarinets. It's really fun. Sometimes, you get to play solos when you wouldn't have gotten to play solos before, if you dare to try something like the E-Flat clarinet. I started playing E-Flat clarinet in high school, and... It was a lot of fun so... If you are a B-Flat clarinet player and are suddenly asked to play E-Flat clarinet, my suggestion to you would be to start with some fundamentals. So you want to, the mouthpiece is smaller on the E-Flat clarinet than on the B-Flat clarinet. The reed is smaller, it takes a tremendous amount of air support and a firm embouchure around the mouthpiece. ("Symphony in B-Flat for Concert Band" by Paul Hindemith) If you're borrowing an E-Flat from your high school or your university, you want someone to make sure that the instrument is in good working condition, first and foremost, because you don't wanna be battling a leaky E-Flat and trying to play this very difficult auxiliary instrument. The most challenging things about playing E-Flat clarinet for the first time or one of the first times is definitely intonation. It's a very squirrel-ly, intonation wise, the B-Flat clarinet has been played a lot longer. There's been a lot more research and development on the B-Flat clarinet than there has been on the E-Flat clarinet, and just so you know, the instrument in itself does not easily play in tune. It's a lot of work for the person playing it to play the E-Flat clarinet in tune. It's a more shrill sound, a brighter sound, so you're gonna want to try to warm that up as much as possible. In particular, if you're playing in a wind ensemble or a symphonic band. In a orchestra, it can tend to stick out more, and the parts are written for that. So you can kinda go for it more in an orchestra, and you don't have to worry as much about blending. But in a symphonic band or a wind ensemble, you're gonna wanna do that. So when you're practicing, you do the same warm-ups that you would normally do on your B-Flat clarinet. Something I start out with was something I have been doing since middle school and high school. I started playing clarinet in sixth grade, and it's a spider exercise. We would do it as a full band back in high school, and you start in an open G and... (bright clarinet scales ring) So you just increase the interval by a half step each time. It's best if you have a tuner on while you do this. This is an exercise where you're not really worrying about the tempo or anything. You're focusing on your tone quality and always coming back to the same open G that you left. So you wanna always tune that note. You can also, something that I do a lot every day on my E-Flat clarinet is I use my tuner and play a drone. So you play a steady pitch on your tuner, and then you try to match it. And you can play different intervals and try to match that drone using the different intervals. So another exercise that I do is a twelfth exercise. This is very effective on B-Flat clarinet also. (clarinet drones) So the clarinet is built in twelfths. When you play a low E, and you pop down the register key, you go up to a B. So you can have on the tuner the low E on a drone, and when you put the register key down, you want to make sure that that B is in tune with a low E drone. But another good thing about the twelfth exercise is you wanna play the low note nice and loud, keep your embouchure nice and firm, and when you go up to the higher note, drop down to a softer dynamic and keep your embouchure exactly the same. It's harder than it sounds. It's a really good exercise, and on E-Flat clarinet, in particular, doing exercises like this will pay great dividends. ("First Suite in E-Flat for Military Band" by Gustav Holst) Some people are blessed with a naturally fast ability to articulate, and some people have to work really hard at it. I'm sort of probably somewhere in the middle so... A really good exercise to do is burst tonguing. So what happens, your tongue needs to be trained. It can be trained. If you're a really slow articulator, don't worry. You can practice it and get faster at it, but it takes a lot of dedicated, regular practice. And a really good way to do it is burst tonguing. So what you do is you really need a metronome for this, and you set the metronome slower than you can tongue. So at a very comfortable tonguing tempo for you, and you would do something like this. (clarinet rings) And you would use a scale. The C-Major scale, for example, and start, let's say, quarter note equals a 80. However slow you need to, and you would just inch that up, 85, 90. And what you wanna do is you wanna push yourself a little bit. So let's say 120 is the fastest you would go. Well, click it up to 125 or 130 and try to do it that fast. You don't wanna do this for too long every day, maybe 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 'cause your tongue is gonna get really tired. Put it away, practice something else, and if you do it religiously every day when you practice, your ability to articulate will definitely get faster. And then another important aspect of improving the speed of your articulation is the coordination between your fingers and your tongue. So it's one thing to just be able to play fast on a single note, but it's another thing all together to be able to play once you're moving up and down a scale or a really difficult, technical passage. So you need to practice that too. So another exercise that I do is... (clarinet scales ring) And you would inch that up over the metronome markings as well. And again, it's very important to give your tongue a break in between. So don't be really strict about the rests in between, take as long as you need to. ("Symphony in B-Flat for Concert Band" by Paul Hindemith)