Monday, October 26, 2009

I have been a little slow with blogging lately…The last time I wrote it was the beginning of the school year. We were all, students and teachers alike, excited by the seemingly limitless promise that a new year holds. Time flies by and here we are, now about half-way through the semester for most of us, deep into the routine. Classes, practice, rehearsals, concerts, papers, projects, midterms…the list goes on.  Perhaps the excitement has dwindled, the lure of the ‘new’ dimmed a bit. It happens. Even with the best of intentions, even with the best priorities, outside responsibilities can threaten to derail progress. Unlimited practice time is filled up with other responsibilities.


 How to come through this period and keep the energy and excitement alive? Its not easy but it is simple. The answer is - ROUTINE. Hopefully you have established a practice routine that is thorough, efficient and encompasses all your needs as a clarinet player. Now is the time that routine will pay big dividends. When every minute counts, you want complete efficiency in your practice. Not only do you need  to learn all the rep you are required to play,  you need to continue to make steady, discernable progress as a clarinetist.


These are two separate items; learning rep and making progress with your clarinet skills. It is important to keep these clearly separated in your mind, especially during unusually busy periods. Of course learning rep can and does lead to improved clarinet skills. However it is not the most efficient means toward that end. Specific goals and specific skills practice is infinitely more effective in this regard. What this means is that every day you must have a clearly defined goal in mind; something about your playing that you are trying to improve. It may be one goal that you focus on daily for a period of time. It may involve two or three goals you are working on concurrently. Either is fine provided you are clear and specific in your goals. Along with this you have specific exercises designed to reach your goal.


So lets go back to your ROUTINE. Every time you practice - let me say that again - EVERY time you practice you need to follow your routine. Your day starts with your warm-up routine. It is followed by skills practice. This is followed by rep and etude practice. This routine gets threatened during busy weeks. It is incredibly easy to forego the warm-up. Equally easy to skip skills practice and jump straight into rep. This is counterproductive. You must stick to your routine. If so, you will continually be improving your clarinet skills, ultimately making the rep/etude portion of your practice that much more efficient and productive. You MUST preserve the skills portion of your practice. These skills are most often directly related to the rep or etudes you are currently playing. Consequently your progress in that area is so much more profound if you are dealing with the underlying issues involved, rather than specific passages.


For those of you without or in between teachers, I am happy to help you set up your personal practice routine. Please feel free to ask questions about goals and which exercises are the best suited to help you meet those goals.  You can either comment directly to this blog or email me privately at


Good luck with the rest of your semester and remember to check back in a few weeks for a new blog!


Dr D





  1. great advice dr.d! we all get bogged down in these things, but routine and organization can work wonders!

  2. I appreciate your advice about a practice routine. I haven't played regularly since college, about four years ago. I would love to start playing again, but I don't know how best to recover my lost skills. My embouchure is shot all to pieces, my tongueing is terrible, and let's not even start on my tone!

    I'm really busy and I can't afford to take lessons right now, so ideally I need a practice routine that I can do for 30 minutes to an hour a day to start off. I have no idea where to begin because so many things need work. Any ideas?

  3. Megan M - Absolutely! Its just hard to put into practice sometimes! :)

    Megan G - No problem! I will put something together for you and post it in the next day or two.