Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Beginning Again: Bach to the Clarinet

After a week of not practicing at all due to a bad virus, I'm back in the saddle again. Although I've got to perform a solo movement next Friday with the wind ensemble, I've decided to ease into my practicing as my ears, throat, and chest heal. Tonight I started into my usual routine with some scale studies for about twenty minutes. It actually felt healthy and joyous to play this stuff again, which surprised me. I sounded so bad doing duets with my students today and yesterday, I wasn't sure I would be able to play tonight. Actually, I have no idea how I sounded, since my ears are still pretty blocked.

Then, I went to the music that interests me the most: that of J.S. Bach. Don't ask me why someone who loves Bach's music ended up playing an instrument that he ignored. I suspect Bach made a smart choice not composing for the infant clarinet: it probably wasn't very pleasant to listen to, and it certainly wasn't versatile.

I love to read through the solo violin pieces and the cello suites. I usually reserve the cello suites for bass clarinet. In both cases, I read from the urtext parts and don't bother transposing. Of course, with the bass clarinet stuff, you must read bass clef, but that's part of the fun. I avoid the movements with many double stops, but I'm left with plenty of challenging and beautiful music to explore. Playing these pieces helps me to balance myself. The music keeps me challenged as I play through the phrases, and it begs to be played with the utmost delicacy and beauty. I always leave a practice session of Bach's music with a smile on my face, no matter where I am in the learning process.

When I come back to the clarinet after a break, I try to structure my practice routine so that it helps build up confidence and also helps to spark the passion that brought me to music in the first place. Not only does this mean staying away from heavy reeds and the altissimo music, but it also means giving myself a fresh new start.

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