A little warm-up to start off your practice session

The other day I wrote about doing long tones on the Nuvo DooD. In addition to long tones, it is also good to warm up with some scale practice. On the clarinet, I would work out of a scale book, Baermann Division 3, to be specific. This has various scales and arpeggios written out for the entire range of the clarinet, meant to be played with various articulations. Of course, the range of the Nuvo DooD spans a 9th, so there’s not much you can do with scales. But I made an attempt. Here is a Baermann-inspired exercise in the key of C Major.

Baermann-Inspired C Major Warm Up

When it says varied articulations, that means to play it once through slurred, then maybe once through with legato tonguing, then perhaps slur-two-notes-tongue-two-notes, and so on. The video below is the exercise all slurred:

Basically, I try to think of exercises like this as long-tones but with the fingers moving. Also, I suggest starting off with the long-tones, then moving on to the scale exercises.

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A tiny bit of Bartok

This is the 3rd song of the 1st volume of Béla Bartók’s For Children. There’s lots to say about Bartók, but one thing to know is that he spent time collecting Hungarian, Slovak, Romanian, and Bulgarian folk music. The two volumes of For Children contain 80 folk songs. This is the first one I ever played on the piano, and I think it is particularly lovely. Here is the sheet music, in case you can’t read the music on the terrible video:

For Children, Vol. 1, No. 3

Long Tone Fun

You may have noticed something amiss with the recording I did of the Bach Quodlibet yesterday. There was a little bit of “chirping”, which is the name I know for the little squeak that happens right before a note sounds. Also, my last note was not very well supported- it had a quaver to it.

The chirping is caused by not having the embouchure set before attacking the note. The quavering is due to a weak embouchure that is not holding firm while holding out a note.

Both of these problems can be fixed through the practice of long tones. Those are exactly what they sound like- holding a note for a long period of time. Ideally, you would do this with a metronome, so you can be sure that each note is being held for the same length of time. That way you don’t skimp on the trickier note or favor the easier notes.

You can probably imagine that this helps build embouchure strength, to eliminate any quavering sound you might have. But it helps with the chirping too, because building that firm muscle memory is what will allow you to efficiently ‘set’ your embouchure, to the eliminate the chirp at the attack of the note. It can be hard to keep good embouchure while tonguing, and while it seem counter-intuitive, long tones actually help improve tonguing, thanks to that muscle memory.

Here is some sheet music, for those who don’t know where to start with long tones:

Simple Long tone Warm Up

I recommend starting and ending each practice session with long tones, especially if you are new to playing or have taken a long break from playing. Play at a moderate dynamic, and concentrate on making the best sound possible.

I’m going to try to concentrate on slow, lyrical pieces for the meanwhile. Here is what I am working on now:

The Goldberg Variations – Quodlibet

When I was in college the first go around, I took a class on analyzing the Bach Goldberg Variations. This is a piece that starts out with an Aria, then continues to 30 variations on the Aria. My absolute favorite variation is the very last one, Variation 30, the Quodlibet.

A quodlibet, aside from being a very neat word, is a compilation of several melodies in a lighthearted, humorous manner. This last variation is not to be taken seriously. To further prove that point, here are the lyrics to one of the melodies that this variation is comprised of:

Cabbage and turnips have driven me away, had my mother cooked meat, I’d have opted to stay

Because this quodlibet is made up of folk melodies, it has a reasonable range, which I was able to adapt to the DooD. Take a look at the video below to see how it sounds:

I only hope you can forgive me for the chirps. And the uneven tempo.

I have the sheet music at the link below. I had to make a few alterations to the structure of what I consider the melody, but I think the integrity of the piece is preserved. It’s in the key of F major primarily, with the contrasting section in the relative minor of D, so the only chromatic notes you will have to play are Bb and low C#.  Low C# is fuzzy on the DooD; put a lot of air through the instrument to get the note to stand out as much as possible- it is the leading tone, which is a very important, emphasized note in that part of the song.

Goldberg Variations- Variation 30, Quodlibet

New Reeds and New Case

I ordered some new reeds yesterday, as the 1.5 one I’ve been using is a bit raucous and shrill. That is what happens when your reed is too soft; you have a hard to control sound. So I bought the next size up, the Nuvo reed 3-pack in a size 2, which is the hardest size Nuvo makes.

new 2 reeds

Now, as you know, the Nuvo reeds have a ridge in the back to fit into the slot on the Nuvo mouthpiece, which I am not using. So I had to mutilate the reeds a little bit by cutting off the notch with an Exacto blade.

trimming the reed

Now, in college I used to make my own cane reeds from scratch. The most important part of making or altering a reed is that the back of the reed (the long flat side with the 2) needs to be absolutely. perfectly. flat. This is so it seals with the flat part of the mouthpiece. It it’s not flat, you will have squeaks and all kinds of terrible sounds.

So to make it flatter, I used some sand paper to sand it down, and I did this by placing the sandpaper on a flat surface, then rubbing that flat part of the reed on it, making sure to keep the sandpaper about a half inch away from the tip (you don’t want to sand the tip).

Anyways, I don’t recommend this method, as I managed to ruin two of the three reeds. One of them is lovely though. A single Legere reed is about $22, so getting one usable reed for $10 is still not bad. Although the next reed I buy will definitely be a Legere, I’m guessing in a size 2.5.

I also sewed a new case for my DooD. I think it’s quite nice. It has a fuzzy lining which I find luxurious.

I don’t have any recordings today, because I spent all my time fighting with reeds. But here is a preview of some things I am working on:

An Etude for the DooD

I’ve been playing out of the 1st Steps for DooD and TooT book (which is free when you register with the site, by the way), partially to help remember the basics of playing, but also because all the songs fit the range of the DooD, which is rather limited. It only goes from middle C up to 4th line D. This is plenty of range for folk songs and the like, but it gets tricky when you want some meatier music. I’ve played through the whole book, and this is definitely my favorite little etude.

I will admit I tend to enjoy etudes. I see them as a sort of musical puzzle to figure out. This is a particularly simple etude, but it does include a few things:

  • ‘”Fast” runs (the partial C major scale that first appears right at the beginning)
  • Varied articulations (slurs, staccato, ‘regular’)
  • Contrasting A and B sections (the first 8 and the last four measures are the jaunty A section, 9-12 are the pretty contrasting sections)
  • Specific challenges to refine a certain technique, in this case the leaps from low C to high C, which can be tricky to get smooth.

I would be delighted to have a whole full of pieces like this, but I’m fairly certain that I would have to write them myself, because, once again, the range is limited. Is there even any point to having etudes for the DooD? If you are playing etudes, wouldn’t you be switched over to the clarinet by then? I’m going to adopt the philosophy that simple things bring joy and inner peace, and so therefore etudes for the DooD would be beneficial, if only for therapeutic purposes.

When the Saints Come Marching In

I finally feel a little less rusty and more up to the task of playing slightly more complicated tunes. Here’s another video to show another song, When the Saints Come Marching In.

I am still having intonation problems, but I have found third space C to be much more in-tune when the index and middle finger of the right hand are down. This is similar to the throat tones on the conventional Bb clarinet, which sound better with resonance fingerings, AKA putting fingers of the right hand down. This is one of those things that requires experimentation, because it is different for each player, so try different combinations of right hand fingers until something sounds right.

The Nuvo DooD arrives

My Nuvo DooD arrived today. I bought it on Amazon and picked it up at one of their lockers. We have an Amazon location near our apartment, so I can take advantage of one-day pick-up.

This is how it was packaged up. There is a slick cardboard box, and a somewhat cheesy little vinyl carrying case.

nuvo case

The clarinet is cute! It is very light, but in a good way, not a flimsy way. The mouthpiece and most of the body is plastic. The bell and the “keys” are silicone, which is a material I’m quite fond of. The case is okay. It doesn’t have enough padding for my taste (although maybe it doesn’t really need it) so I will probably be sewing another one at some point. It does have a cute little pocket to hold the reeds, though once again, I don’t entirely trust the reeds not to break in there.

nuvo dood plus case inside

Here is a closeup of the keys. They are actually just flaps of silicone. They seal the hole when pressed down. Very clever.

nuvo keys

The thumb rest on the back is adjustable, but now that I’ve got it in the right spot, I can’t move it at all. I’m not going to try to move it because if it breaks, this little DooD is not very useful, and it’s in the right spot anyways.

thumbrest

Here is the mouthpiece it came with. I’m not a big fan of how the ligature works. I don’t feel like it holds the reed on firmly enough. See the notch center bottom? The reeds have a ridge on them to line them properly. More on that briefly.

original mouthpiece

The mouthpiece it comes with is interchangeable with an Eb clarinet mouthpiece. Here it is next to my Walter Grabner Eb clarinet mouthpiece.

eb mouthpiece

And finally the reeds it came with. See how it has a ridge? It’s really quite clever to position the reed easily. However, I am using my own mouthpiece, and obviously it has no notch. So on the 1.5 reed, I used an Exacto blade to scrape it off. The reed is actually not bad. My embouchure is very weak after 7 years of not playing, so the 1.5 reed works well for me. I also tried a size 3 Vandoren Bb reed, with about a quarter inch of the butt cut off with scissors. That also worked, but that size reed is too hard for me right now. You can buy replacement Nuvo reeds in packs of 3 for $10, and they also come in size 2, so after I get a little more practice, I will probably buy those to use until I outgrow them.

reeds

That’ll be all for today. I will go into the playability later in the next post.