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Crossing the Break, Part II

Updated: Aug 25, 2019

I know most classes have probably "crossed the break" by now. I also know many students are still struggling with it, so here's a little help. If you haven't read Crossing the Break, Part 1, it would be helpful to do so. I discussed the importance of thumb positions, right hand development, and that leaky B key. I'm also adding some page references for those currently using For Clarinets Only to show where this instruction can be found in the book.

The next step in the process I use (remember -it's a process, not an event) is to move from focusing on development of right hand position back to the left hand, particularly moving to and from throat tone A correctly.

Do your clarinets' fingers look like this? This is an E, but if they look like this on E, they'll also look like this on A.

Ok - this might be a bit of an exaggeration (but maybe not!) The goal is to get ALL fingers covering the tone holes correctly if they are not already doing so. First, make sure you can see everyone's top hand. This means moving stands out of the way and putting away the books. You don't really need them for this next part anyway.

<-- Here's what you're wanting. Remember that thumb positions (discussed in Part 1) play an important part in getting fingers to cover correctly.

There are 3 important considerations for use of the A key.

(For Clarinets Only, Teachers book page T19-20)

1. ROLL the index finger to and from the A key. Never lift it. Push the key with the side of the knuckle closest to the finger tip.

2. The left thumb should not rest on the clarinet body when playing A or G.

3. Students should be taught to use Right Hand Down on A whenever possible. Just like on G, using RHD will help improve intonation and technical skills.

Here are some written examples from student book p. 19. I begin this drill with just the left hand and then progress to using the right hand. Start without the book and just call out the names of the notes. This will reinforce note names AND give you a chance to move the stands to watch fingers for those pesky bad habits. This should be expanded all the way to Low E. Remember - the key word here is ROLL IT! After sufficient drill - days, not minutes - add the books to review note reading.

So here we are at the end of Part 2, and we're still not over the break! (Did I mention it's a process?!)

Coming soon - Part 3.

You can get more information about For Clarinets Only and see Sample Pages at

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