[Dixielandjazz] Some thoughts about the self taught clarinet players

Russ Guarino russg at redshift.com
Sat Sep 13 02:01:15 PDT 2003

> To clarinet players,
> The trained player learns the "tricks" involving the mechanics of the
> horn, while the self taught player may or may not master all the
> details. I've had some experience with both type of musicians and some
> of the difference between the two are this:
> Throat position:  self taught clarinetists usually don't know how to
> get
> that rich clarinet tone, except by listening and imitating the sound.
> Those with the sensitivity to hear the difference and work to get the
> sound can do it.  Others just play whatever they come up with.  The
> trained clarinetist is told to try to sing "OH" in the throat.  This
> makes a big difference in the sound of the clarinet.  I had an
> experience a few days ago that illustrates the difference.. I was
> playing with a small group at a senior dance.  One of the men came up
> during the break and told me how much he liked my "sound".  He had a
> Dixie band in the midwest for many years before retiring and had an
> excellent clarinet player, but he "never had the tone you have". I did
> not reply, but he was speaking of a self taught clarinet player.
> Articulation:  trained clarinetists are worked hard to get good tongue
> position and articulate with precision to accommodate passages marked
> with staccato, legato, etc. Listen to Bob Draga, Wow.  Self taught
> folks
> usually don't know anything about it except for what they imitate.
> Tone and intonation: trained folks work on this relentlessly.  The
> trained will be required to play long tones.  Self taught????
> A trained clarinettist, playing a C scale from low E to high E and
> back
> will be required to play each note evenly and in tune, starting with a
> slow tempo and gradually working up to a fast speed.  The self taught
> usually don't work on such things.
> There are many more details, but the result is that a musician with
> talent who is taught by the better teachers will learn to play jazz or
> written material, or both, and  generally become more proficient than
> relying on his/her own instincts with regard to the mechanics of the
> instrument.
> Naturally each case is individual.  Some well taught folks are not
> very
> good and some untaught players are very good.  But, I will admit, I
> can
> tell the difference when I listen to the sound of clarinet artists
> playing with their bands on a CD.
> Listen to Bob Draga, Jim Rothermel & Ron Hockett.
> These guys are giants.  That's what trained clarinettist sound like
> playing jazz.  It's not only their improv skills that set them apart,
> its their mechanics and tone.  You can tell the difference.

Incidentally, to be a good reader, the player has to do a lot of
reading.  The young student usually plays in the middle school,  high
school and college band, orchestra, stage band, marching band and his
own garage band and over time learns to read pretty well.  Good reading
comes from doing a lot of it over time.

> Russ  Guarino

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