Practicing Stravinsky Piece 1 in A

Clarinets have become somewhat of an obsession of mine during the pandemic. Last week I found a nice intermediate model of an A clarinet. According to wikipedia:

In modern times, the most common clarinet is the B♭ clarinet. However, the clarinet in A, pitched a semitone lower, is regularly used in orchestral, chamber and solo music. An orchestral clarinetist must own both a clarinet in A and B♭ since the repertoire is divided fairly evenly between the two.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarinet

I’ve noodled around a bit on the A, breaking it in slowly. The tone is really nice. In this photo, the A clarinet is on the left and the B♭ is on the right. You’ll see the A is a little bit bigger–longer body, wider bell. Because the brand is different, the pinky keys are situated a little differently, but the response is just as quick as the B♭.

Practicing Piece 1 of Stravinsky’s Three Pieces has been way fun. Since I’ve been practicing on the B♭ up to now, I’ve gotten used to hearing this work pitched in a particular way. As I’ve been practicing on the A, hearing the music a half-tone lower was a bit weird at first, but i’m getting used to it. I’ll post two different practice sessions here: First the B♭, and then the A. And as I mentioned on Instagram regarding these sessions: Similar tempos. Some different approaches/attacks of notes. Different areas needing smoother transitions between notes. And more dynamics. Still quite a bit of work to do.

Practice is good.

Stravinsky Piece 1 Progress

After a few weeks, I have finally gotten to where I can play the piece all the way through without any huge flubs. This is a big deal, because my fingers now understand what they’re supposed to do, and I can work on musicality. Still need to clean up some fingerings; tone needs more focus in some areas; still need more breath support for lower notes; phrasings and dynamics need polishing. But yeah, here we are. I recorded this two nights ago:

Progress is progress. I’ll take what I can get. Yay!

Exploring and Practicing Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo, Piece 1

Maybe a month into the pandemic (April-ish, 2020), I decided to pick up my clarinet again. The student level model I’ve had since 7th grade. After about 2 months of playing, I bit the bullet and bought an intermediate level clarinet from my local music store.

So I’ve been spending a lot of my inside time recording clarinet ensemble pieces with myself. I like the challenge of keeping time with the metronome and staying in tune with myself. Which is so weird, because different registers on the clarinet can be a little off-tune with the other registers.

But a few weeks ago I broke out some sheet music that I wasn’t very interested in a long time ago. Looked super hard. Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo. Like, it didn’t sound pretty. Melodies I didn’t really get. And the notes were high, and I was unfamiliar with those fingerings, and my all-around chops were not up to snuff.

To offset some of the intimidation, I’ve been listening to Annelien van Wauwe’s recording here:

Many other recordings from different artists exist, but I’ve taken to this one for now. I’ve been listening to it every day, psychologically working up to meet a standard I’ve established for myself.

Two weeks ago, I tried tackling the first half of Piece 1:

Got to clean up any transitions that involve that left C#Db pinky. Also need to create phrases to make the piece make sense.

Then this past week I looked at the second half of Piece 1:

A lot of the same criticisms. Overall this needs to be smoother. It would be nice to decide on a tempo, since Stravinsky’s instructions are to “strictly adhere to” metronome markings (quarter note=52), breath marks, and accents.

This is coming along. I’d like to spend another month on this to get it under my fingers. It’s fun.