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What are some excercises you have used to help improve your (or your students') tone qualities?

I know long tones...any suggestions on "variations of...???"

I'm thinking 12th exercises as well, but looking for a clear plan with specific goals.

Any other ideas are appreciated.
 

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I was trying to help my 11 year old daughter get a better tone, and wrote out the things below.

Although the facts may not be entirely right, it was the imagery I was trying to get at for her (sometimes more helpful for a child). Some of her habits were poor support of her tone with diaphragm, being too tight on the reed, even not taking care setting the reed on the mouthpiece.

1. Fill the bell with the sound
2. Imagine a candle 2 metres away on the floor. Move the flame when playing, even with the quietest of notes.
3. Hear the note before you play it
4. Your body is part of the instrument. The tone starts in yours lungs and shaped by your throat. You resonate with the instrument
5. Position the reed on the mouthpiece very carefully – when it closes there is a fraction of mouthpiece visible on the tip and no gap at the rails
6. Imagine that the tip makes the sound, but rails make the tone with the chamber of the mouthpiece
7. Seal the sides of the mouth with more of a frown than a smile
8. Take as much mouthpiece into your mouth (supported by the bottom lip over the bottom teeth) that will allow the reed tip and sides to vibrate
9. Remind yourself of the right pressure for tone. Playing long notes, drop your jaw slowly until the reed makes no sound, then raise jaw pressure slowly until it is so tight the reed closes. Slowly go back up or down with jaw, less each time, around the best tone and hone in on it and sustain
10. Practice tonguing exercises in scales as well os long notes

I suppose to help with tone, you have to work out what is wrong and design some exercises to solve those problems. If the reed isn't on the mouthpiece properly, no amount of long notes will help!.....
 

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G-dawg said:
I know long tones...any suggestions on "variations of...???"
I used 1 octave scales around the circle of fifths set to a metronome as a means to coordinate tone with breath support and the different scales and sounds which come from the various orifices of the instrument. I give the student time to prepare before we begin, then play at MF and see how far the student gets with a decent tone. I'd make a note in their file every week and compare to see how their results change over time. In the early stages I play along to show how far they could go. I would usually play one scale beyond the students limit, so they have a goal, but no further.

This also helps them learn the importance of exhaling before playing.
 

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This is absurdly simple but lately has helped my tone to improve on all of my instruments:

Shake the floor under your feet when you play. The less you can feel the floor shaking, the more you need to try to shake it and make your toes resonate. With clarinet this is a particularly humorous endeavour, but highly effective!

Clarinet specific tone exercises... I think of achieving that "red" quality to my sound, a deeper color or texture that allows even the softest notes to soar above the orchestra. It seems most effective to begin working on this concept around A or B above the staff and gradually work it in both directions. Another great note for full resonance is first space F. Think of your left hand opening to release the tone into the universe!

For some reason, funny pictures and concepts work better than specific instructions. I guess because our brains are pretty good at associating images with sounds?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Carl H. said:
I used 1 octave scales around the circle of fifths set to a metronome as a means to coordinate tone with breath support and the different scales and sounds which come from the various orifices of the instrument.

This also helps them learn the importance of exhaling before playing.
Carl - What rhythm do you have the students play? Whole notes, I'm assuming??

Also - can you elaborate on what you mean about "coordinate tone with breath support"?? I think I understand, but would appreciate hearing where you are coming from.

Thanks for your post.
 

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Razzy said:
This is absurdly simple but lately has helped my tone to improve on all of my instruments:

Shake the floor under your feet when you play. The less you can feel the floor shaking, the more you need to try to shake it and make your toes resonate. With clarinet this is a particularly humorous endeavour, but highly effective!

Clarinet specific tone exercises... I think of achieving that "red" quality to my sound, a deeper color or texture that allows even the softest notes to soar above the orchestra. It seems most effective to begin working on this concept around A or B above the staff and gradually work it in both directions. Another great note for full resonance is first space F. Think of your left hand opening to release the tone into the universe!

For some reason, funny pictures and concepts work better than specific instructions. I guess because our brains are pretty good at associating images with sounds?
Yes, the visual imagery can really work wonders!

Thanks, Razzy!

I think I need to add some information I nelgected to include.

These exercises would be for students who have played a year or 2. It would be in a masterclass setting of about 15-20 students once a week. I'd like to have 2 or 3 "tone development" exercises the students can do in the class and at home.
 

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G-dawg said:
Carl - What rhythm do you have the students play? Whole notes, I'm assuming??
Usually quarter notes, quarter = ~80. I'm trying to even the sound across the whole range. Moving in a measured way, but not too slowly helps the player hear where the tone doesn't match with the rest of the instrument.
G-dawg said:
Also - can you elaborate on what you mean about "coordinate tone with breath support"?? I think I understand, but would appreciate hearing where you are coming from.

Thanks for your post.
If you waste air early on with the exercise, your tone will change as you play through. If you tighten up and squeeze towards the final few notes you most likely aren't really producing a good sound then either. Just because you have some air left, doesn't mean your tone is necessarily going to be desirable. If your support is consistent, hopefully your tone will be even from the first notes to the last ones.
 

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Carl H. said:
If you waste air early on with the exercise, your tone will change as you play through. If you tighten up and squeeze towards the final few notes you most likely aren't really producing a good sound then either. Just because you have some air left, doesn't mean your tone is necessarily going to be desirable. If your support is consistent, hopefully your tone will be even from the first notes to the last ones.
Cool - that's what I thought.
 

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I've been finding while practicing lately that it seems like the embouchure's role is not to shape the sound, like I've always thought of it, but rather to provide an airtight seal between the body and the clarinet (this applies to sax as well). It's almost like connecting two hoses. Any embouchure affects the sound, but the idea is to let the reed vibrate freely. Once you have an embouchure that doesn't impede the reed any more than is necessary (it's inevitable that it will, just a little bit), it becomes pretty clear that the sound is really shaped by the airstream. At this point, any deficiencies in your airstream become pretty clear.

Keep the tongue high and the air steady.
 

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Plenty of air pressure from the lungs.

Many of the images seem to say this in various ways.
 

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Great comments!

Aside from technical excercises, lots of practice, and having a good clarinet teacher, I think it's important to develop a conception of the clarinet sound you want and then work toward it. There's a wide range of clarinet sounds that one can have. Of course, our core sound comes from within us as players.

I always appreciate Dirty's thoughts. Along these lines.... I've been having some interesting conversations with a local classical bass clarinet buddy about bass clarinet embouchures. He uses a rather untraditional embouchure and he puffs his checks (only on bass clarinet). He studied with the bass clarinetist in the Baltimore Symphony. His teacher suggested that he try a more conventional embouchure but it didn't work as well. So, his teacher told him to keep doing what he's doing...that he sounds perfectly fine. Partly due to working on the bass clarinet, I've been reviewing my clarinet embouchure to find ways that I can improve my playing. As I mentioned on several other threads, I switched to a double-lip embouchure and am very impressed with it. Along with using a double-lip on bass clarinet I found that I get an even bigger and richer sound by puffing my checks as my friend suggested.

I'm curious about how a double-lip embouchure affects the air stream (as Dirty suggests). I'm aware of how the double-lip creates a larger chamber in the mouth. I'm also curious about what puffing my checks on bass clarinet does to the air stream. There is a noticable difference in my sound between puffing and not puffing. I cannot help but think the shape of the mouth chamber and oral cavity makes a difference in our sound. But, I'm trying to connect the dots between that and the air stream. Any thoughts about that Dirty?

Roger
 

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Just to check - because if I don't, Gordon will......

Do others people notice the difference between cheeks puffed or not, as you are obviously changing the oral cavity resonating chamber characteristics, and you will hear that differently through bone conduction.

But that said, changing the oral cavity will have an effect on the sound if the concept that your body and the instrument work as a continuum in tone production.
 

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Chris,

I've been taking a rest between big bands. So, I haven't had a chance to test my bass clarinet puffed vs non-puffed on any of my musician friends. There is always the issue of what we hear versus what others hear. Never the less, I've typically found if something makes an improvement in my sound to my ears it's also noticed by my musician buddies when I ask them to do a reality check for me.

Roger
 

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See my comments about embouchure in the "better cl setup" thread. Yes you need a tonal concept, open throat and air etc but there is a nuts and bolts aspect to it regarding the idea of a small amount of firm lip on the reed which is often neglected. Chris J mentions some of this in point 8.

The breath attack/tongue Vic Morosco exercise mentioned by Phil helps on clarinet too. I was taught heh heh/teh teh rather than huh and tuh. Try starting on open G on clarinet.
 

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Roger Aldridge said:
I'm curious about how a double-lip embouchure affects the air stream (as Dirty suggests). I'm aware of how the double-lip creates a larger chamber in the mouth. I'm also curious about what puffing my checks on bass clarinet does to the air stream. There is a noticable difference in my sound between puffing and not puffing. I cannot help but think the shape of the mouth chamber and oral cavity makes a difference in our sound. But, I'm trying to connect the dots between that and the air stream. Any thoughts about that Dirty?

Roger
I don't really know for sure, since I haven't had the time to experiment much with a double lip embouchure. I would say that if it creates a larger chamber in the mouth, it would remove some focus from the airstream (not necessarily a bad thing), but that could easily be compensated for by arching the tongue a little more. I know that when I need to sound very, very soft (in tone, not dynamics) I puff my cheeks a little bit, since the sound I usually use has more hardness in the tone. Not a lot, but I try (emphasis on try!) to introduce just enough that the tone is clear, well-defined and projecting. Puffing the cheeks removes focus from the airstream, which can sometimes be exactly what you need.

On bass clarinet, I sometimes puff my cheeks in the upper register to get a softer, sweeter sound, but that doesn't really work if you need to project a lot. In the lower and middle registers :)space5: down), I try to keep everything as focused as possible. Once I get into the upper clarion, though, the Selmer I play gets very hard-toned, so I try to temper that a little by puffing my cheeks. In the altissimo, my embouchure is exactly like a clarinet embouchure, just bigger.
 

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Back to my daughter and her tone.....

I let her have a go with my Morgan RM15 last night - and she won't give it back. And I don't think I want it back because the improvement in her tone astonished me!

So I've just bought another one for me....
 

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Puffing cheeks is actually detrimental to producing a decent clarinet tone. You cant pull back at the corners of your mouth and puff your cheeks. On the bass clarinet, trying a more open throat position and you willgain a softer more rounded sound in the upper register. The other downside of puffing cheeks out is a lack of control over the intonation of the clarinet.

Also things you can get away with in a Jazz ensemble you cant get away with in Legit ensemble playing. A big strong sound starts low down in the Diaphragm.
 

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Bootman,

The suggestion for puffing my checks on bass clarinet came from a classical bass clarinetist. One thing he's discovering is while the majority of classical bass clarinetists use a traditional embouchure (more or less) there are some leading edge players who are exploring non-traditional embouchures. My experience with bass clarinet check-puffing appears different from yours -- bigger and richer sound in the entire range of the instrument and fine intonation. My checks are not puffed a lot. It's possible that they are puffed just enough to give me positive results and if they were puffed larger it could be a problem.

Roger
 

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Bootman said:
Puffing cheeks is actually detrimental to producing a decent clarinet tone. You cant pull back at the corners of your mouth and puff your cheeks.....
Actually, I don't pull back the corners of my mouth, except to thin my lower lip before I place the reed on it. After doing that, I close the corners of my lips, like a rubber band. I don't think my sound is that horrible!
 

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Chris J said:
Just to check - because if I don't, Gordon will......

Do others people notice the difference between cheeks puffed or not, as you are obviously changing the oral cavity resonating chamber characteristics, and you will hear that differently through bone conduction..
I wasn't going to comment on that, but seeing you connect me with the issue, I do have a few thoughts:

1. IMO a resonating chamber is an extremely poor resonating chamber if the walls are made of a really soft, unsupported material, such as blown-out cheeks. If I shout into the entrance of a cave, I may get some lingering resonating sound, but that definitely would not happen if the walls of the cave were made of the likes of blown out cheeks.

2. If cheeks are pulled against upper teeth, then the mouth, as a container of air pressure has reasonably firm boundaries. This allows controlled air pressure from the lungs during tonguing. If the cheeks are half puffed out, then there is a ballooning effect during tonguing, which ruins any attempt at precise pressure control, IMO. The only way to puff cheeks and NOT have this slushy control of air pressure, is to puff them out to their maximum - Louis Armstrong style? - so they cannot expand further as the pressure changes. In my opinion, considering "1", all this achieves (compared with firmly pulled-in cheeks) is increasingly distended cheeks, even when they are in a normal state, not playing an instrument. If you want to gradually develop puffy, droopy, hanging cheeks, then go for it.

3. Cheeks pulled even very gently against the upper molars (I assume for most people) closes off the ducts from the parotid saliva glands. This may allow an excess build up of saliva in the glands, which can be uncomfortable, but that resolve as soon as the cheeks are relaxed during a rest. A bonus perhaps, is that if these ducts are blocked during playing, then there is less saliva in the mouth to contend with.

On the other hand, if the cheeks are allowed to puff so that these ducts are not blocked, and there is plenty air pressure in the mouth, then this air is capable of being blown back through the ducts to inflate the parotids, which is a very uncomfortable feeling. Most of us have probably experienced this when blowing up balloons, before we (probably subconsciously) learn to pull the cheeks in against the teeth to block the ducts. If discomfort in the parotids is because of inflation with air, then the air can normally me massaged out again by stroking the sides of the face, from ear/cheek bone region, towards the corners of the mouth, and one can detect (with the tongue) bubbles of air coming out of the ducts, which are (for me at least) alongside the bottom outside edge of the upper teeth 6 from the front.

I guess that is not quite the response you were expecting? :)
 
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