The painting has been a bit sporadic lately, the cycling non-existent (unless you count the exercise bike) but I have been quite productive in terms of musical endeavours. I am assured that there is no connection between this and the fact that one near neighbour has just moved and another will be going shortly!
The clarinet poses an interesting challenge. It is a transposing instrument. Mine is a Bb clarinet, so if I play the note C on the clarinet, it sounds the same as the note Bb on the piano. So from time to time I get totally bewildered and wonder why they don’t just call it Bb on the clarinet as well instead of calling it C? Is it me, or am I missing something?
The result of this is that if I want to play a duet involving a non-transposing instrument like a piano or violin, and if the piano or violin music is in, for example, the key of G major, then the clarinet part has to be in A major.
Having gained my musical training on the violin during a large part of my youth I can read treble clef music for the violin but struggle to connect the same music to the clarinet fingering – but that will come with practice. Trouble is, this process is not helped by the fact that I am able (too often in the present context) to play the tune in question “by ear” and tend to ignore the printed music – or I get so involved in actually playing the tune that I forget to look at the music and therefore lose my place in the score. Is this a musical “senior moment” I wonder?
If there is a really disheartening aspect of the clarinet it is reeds. Even experienced clarinetists have problems with reeds – or they would if they hadn’t found their own ways of dealing with them. The problem is that although manufacturers grade their reeds according to their hardness, the raw material is inherently inconsistent – and so are the reeds. The consequence is that a comparative beginner (in particular) may find that out of a box of ten reeds only two or three will be playable straight out of the box. Just last week I had no playable reeds left, just a motley collection of rejects. Fortunately, I had acquired a copy of “Reeds Reeds Reeds!” by Alan Cresswell. Alan is a New Orleans style jazz clarinet player, who plays with Max Collie, The Muskrat Ramblers and The Golden Eagle Band at clubs and festivals in UK and Germany. He says that he wrote the book to share his experiences hoping they will help others. It is a slim A5 book of a couple of dozen pages, which includes detailed (and well-illustrated) practical information about reeds, mouthpieces and ligatures and how to improve problematic reeds, whether too hard or too soft. I strongly recommend this book. Why? Last week I had a collection of reject reeds – a collection that cost me more than the book itself. This week they are all working well and producing quite a nice tone. The book is available from Dawkes, who supply other music shops and Foyles bookshop in London and you may well find stockists by looking for Reeds Reeds Reeds on Google.
I knew very little about the clarinet when I started to play it but that soon changed thanks to David Pino’s book, “The Clarinet and Clarinet Playing”. It is packed with practical advice and information and is very readable. I found it at Amazon.