This ebook, An Alexander Technique Approach to Clarinet Technique, is published on this website in a PDF format. It is very detailed and practical, and it will give you the physical tools you need to take the limits off of your ability to create the accurate clarinet technique you want without sacrificing your body.
This ebook is also for sale on all AMAZON websites in a KINDLE format.
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. (MOVEMENT THERAPY)
When I observe clarinetists going all out 100% in a performance, they are almost always paying a physical price – harming their bodies. The more performances a clarinet player does, where he or she goes all out, the more cumulative the wear and tear.
Does it have to be this way? Is it possible for an extraordinary clarinetist to go all out all of the time every time he or she performs and not cause damage to the body? Yes, but a couple of things have to happen. First, the clarinet player needs to use a technique where the body is always on balance, so that the clarinetist doesn’t have to use excess muscle to perform the most difficult literature written for the clarinet.
The other major factor is that the clarinet player may use too much muscle constantly throughout the performance. This usually manifests as two negative things happening at the same time. The clarinetist tenses his or her neck before he or she presses the keys or covers the holes, and he or she uses too much muscle to get the job done.
What do I mean they use too much muscle to get the job done? In anticipation of pressing the keys or covering the holes and blowing, the clarinetist creates too much musculature tension in the arms, back, neck, shoulders, etc., to make sure he or she can play and interpret the music exactly as they want. This has two negative effects on what he or she doing.
The first is that excess muscular tension interferes with the speed of the fingers and the breath. It slows the clarinet player’s fingers down, so they aren’t moving reflexively.
Second, if the clarinetist plays with held musculature in anticipation of what they’re about to do, then they have forced joints together throughout the whole body unnecessarily, and hours of practice or performance with joints in compression wears out the joints. In other words, it isn’t about the hours of practice and performance with a lot of repetitive movements, it is about the excessive tension throughout the whole body being confused for playing expressively.
You can play the clarinet without damaging your body, when you perform with a technique that creates balance throughout the whole body, and by not tensing up, and then pressing the keys or covering the holes and blowing with total all out ease.
It is a powerful realization for me to see how clarinet players who go all out in performances, assume they have to pay a physical price to experience the joy of an all out commitment to playing their best for the audience. This is the norm. It is a norm based on the assumption that you can’t do your best in a concert unless you are willing to do damage to your body over time.
If this is true, then performing without holding back is not a win win situation, it is a win lose situation, where the clarinet player believes the momentary glory is worth a lifetime of pain, or at worst a crippled body.
Playing a concert without holding back can be a win win situation, if the clarinetist learns to move reflexively on balance using released muscles, and doing the dynamic least to create support for the diaphragm.
Going all out is the way it should be, because it is doing what you love without holding back, which is an act of self-love, commitment, and self-loyalty.