And, by the way, practicing a musical instrument is a lifelong endeavor

“The clarinet is a beautiful instrument, but an unforgiving taskmaster.” Cb


I’m having the opportunity to actually “practice” my instruments again.

Most professional musicians understand my use of the term “practice” in context.

Practicing does not sound like a concert. It usually sounds very far from that.

And, it has been my experience that your entire family (or people you room with) make a point to leave the crib when you really “practice”.

“This is how big the clarinet looks sometimes.” Cb

Making Time

The clarinet is very unforgiving, if you don’t “practice” it regularly.

In preparing for the community chamber orchestra and wind ensemble concert performances where I participated as principal clarinetist this past December, I was able to develop and institute a practice routine 10 weeks prior to the first performance.

I use a variation on this Student Practice Schedule Matrix I developed in the early 1980s and also still use with my students today.

PDF DOWNLOAD: Conn-Selmer Artist Clinic and Workshop Catalog


Dividing practice time into the three areas, as I teach it to others as well, helps to balance the work being done during each session.

As an example, I am working on this Opperman mechanism study on clarinet…

PDF DOWNLOAD: Conn-Selmer Artist Clinic and Workshop Catalog
  • Slow tempo – 60 to 80 beats per minute.
  • Increase tempo once movements are fluid, relaxed and comfortable ergonomically.
  • Eventual goal is to be able to play this exercise ridiculously fast, but clean, with a purpose of being able to play this type movement in a piece of solo or ensemble music effortlessly.

Another example – Transposing the head to Charlie Parker’s composition “Donna Lee” is an example of what I am currently practicing during my work on alto…

PDF DOWNLOAD: Conn-Selmer Artist Clinic and Workshop Catalog

The reason I use a concert key Real Book and transpose is to keep that particular skill sharp, since I am not playing many fake book gigs now.

Transposing the music while reading it is a different process than simply reading off of a page. I recall when I just returned home and the first time I brought a Real Book to a jam session in Kansas City, some of the cats sort of put me down until they realized I was actually transposing the heads to the tunes I didn’t know – in time.

I always bring a concert key fake book because I can give it to the rhythm players, if they don’t know a tune I want to play.

I perform mostly original music these days and still know a few dozen heads to some of my favorites from that era in jazz, but there are hundreds of worthy compositions to study or learn. And, I also know the standard song forms and can improvise on them. Transposing from concert key comes in handy.

And, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Like so many others, I literally memorized this head forty years ago – and, of course, always played it very fast.

As stated earlier, I am devoting most of my time to my own original music now and doubt that I will actually ever want to play “Donna Lee” in public, but I still enjoy re-learning to transpose it and play it well again.

Happy practicing …