Sunday, October 25, 2009

Back to the tootling board.

Subsequent to last week's experimentation, I have returned to My #3 Vandoren reeds. My clarinet teacher was able to discern some things that I had not noticed when I switched to a stiffer reed, including increased upper lip tension that was wreaking havoc with the sound.

So the #3½'s are on the shelf for another time.

But subsequent to this Amazing Escape from clarinet Purgatory, I did get to feel My own technique with greater acuity, and have retained the ability to flow more easily between the chalumeau and clarinet registers.

I'd say that's worth the price of a box of reeds.

Friday, October 23, 2009

All your garlic are belong to Us.

Or, "Is this an allium sativum I see before Me?"

I seem to have acquired a new, and hopefully short-lived, hobby: Since I got home this evening, I have masticated and consumed several cloves of raw garlic.

On purpose.

You see, about an hour before I left work this afternoon, I developed an acute case of the sneezles. It was all I could do not to bowl over various co-workers as I rushed to wash My hands.

Things got even wilder as I waited for the bus home. I sneezed so hard and so often that I started wondering if the bus driver would actually let Me on board. Things calmed down for a while, only to start up again just after Red and I got to the grocery store.

About that time, Red reminded Me of a piece of sage advice we had obtained from My brother on his most recent visit: When you start to feel a cold coming on, chew and swallow a few cloves of garlic.

So here I am with My mouth and stomach sizzling away, and it almost certainly wasn't the lone jalapeño pepper that we put in the Friday night nachos. That garlic was a lot hotter.

But it's still better than another case of the Mesopotamian Death Flu.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Making things easier by making them harder...

...Specifically, clarinet reeds.

Acting on a Reality-Based Hunch subsequent to last night's clarinet practice, I went out and bought Myself a box of #3½ Vandoren reeds. I was previously playing on Vandoren #3's, but they just didn't feel right any more.

This is a unilateral move on My part, having not had the opportunity to consult with My instructor beforehand. It does seem to be the right move, as the stiffer reeds are forcing Me to keep a more solid airflow. The bottom B in the clarinet¹ register sounds remarkably better, and I can actually get over the break² smoothly.

This promises to be fun, and musically profitable as well.

1. The clarinet register is the higher-pitched register of the clarinet, a twelfth above the lower notes. (Low E becomes B an octave and a half above; F becomes C, and so on.)

2. The 'break' is the transition point between the chalumeau (lower) register and the clarinet register. After gradually removing one finger after another, and using less and less of the clarinet barrel, suddenly one puts down
all the fingers and uses the entire barrel to get the second-octave B natural. In My experience, this was previously extraordinarily hard to do without (a) changing the breath flow; (b) tightening up the throat; (c) flailing around and missing the "B" key; or (d) just plain panicking. ("Oh nooo! It's the breeeeeeak!" *squee* *thud* *tinkletinkletinkle*)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You don't have to do it all. Really.

I just had an epiphany akin to hitting Myself with My own Clue-By-Four™ -- Specifically, the musical version of that particular device.

Sometimes when I ponder the subject of practicing a musical instrument, it's just too much: The day's too short, and the to-do list has too many to-do's on it.

So tonight I tried something different: Rather than running through the list entitled "Absolutely Everything I'm Supposed to Know for My Clarinet Exam", just so I can check off everything on the list, I decided to just play, and listen, and tinker.

I deliberately picked a reed that's just a smidgen too hard, and used it as a springboard for working on My staccato. It actually got to the point where I could deliberately cause My horn to squawk, by hitting the reed too hard on purpose. I also had a mini-epiphany regarding the timing of the staccato tonguing. (Think "anticipatory grace note" and you'll be in the ballpark.)

Better yet, at the end of a mere half-hour, I had gone through a couple of scales with a slur-two, tongue-two articulation pattern, worked some more on the Langenus Page 22 staccato exercise, and played all the way through one of the exam studies.

The moral of this episode: There's always time to fix something, and that means one less thing to fix later.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Clean *your* tank with Pleco!

I have a new housemate, and she's cute.

Tidy, too. My aquarium has 20% less algae than it did last night. Oh, and she's a fish. A plecostomus, to be precise.

I wonder if she does windows...

(Photo by Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man); licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. Original at

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Slogging through the wilds of October...

There is something about chilly weather that brings out My grumbly side. Specifically, I don't do "windy and damp" very well.

It's been a bit too cold for My tastes lately, and also too dark. The sun is currently setting around 7:30, which means less time to finish outdoor projects like the new crawlspace skirting and the roof of the Cat Gazebo. I suppose I *could* go into the garage and rig up a trouble light to illuminate the side of the house; but there's no way in Niflheim that I'm going up on a razzafracking roof in the dark.

Unless I absolutely have to, of course. I've done stranger things: Painted the fascia trim on a friend's house while holding a flashlight in My teeth; climbed the northwest face of Mont Saint-Hilaire without proper safety gear, and made the mistake of looking back over My shoulder at the highway 1300 feet below; dressed up like a five-headed dragon...

...Mm. I think I will wait till the weekend to finish that roof. Can't be too careful, y'know.