Let’s be honest here. The likelihood of us as students practicing the amount our clarinet instructors wanted us to during the summer is embarrassing low. I stepped away from the clarinet in June and July because I was starting to approach burn out and quite frankly, I hated myself and the clarinet after I finished up my master’s at UNCSA. Therefore I took some helpful advice from a friend and took a long break, which I used to replenish my creative juice and establish a clear line between me and my work. Your worth is not determined by your clarinet (instrument). Say that 12, 000 times now.
So how do we come back to our clarinet after such a long break? We warm-up. Slowly.
- Approach the instrument slowly.
Practice starting at 15- 20 minutes the first few days then increase the time spent by 10 minutes each day afterward until an hour is reached. Remember to take breaks. I would do ten minutes on and 20 minutes rest. Rinse and repeat several times.
- Long Tones are Friendly.
When I started back, I did 10-15 minutes of Long Tones every day, focusing on the quality of sound and my air support. (Which is still lacking.) Here I saw a chance to build myself from the ground up. I always start on the lowest note and gradually work up the chromatic scale at forty to sixty bpm.
- Scales are in!
On day 3, I started with my scales. Slowly at 50 bpm focusing on relaxed embouchure, fingers, and shoulders. Practicing this way allowed me to stretch out my breath and continue to build support. As the week progressed, I added in arpeggios, scales in thirds, dominate fifths, and so on until I felt like comfortable with my technique.
- Don’t forget to stretch.
If you haven’t used your playing muscles in a long time, chances are your arms, shoulders, and mind are going to tire out quickly. During breaks, it’s essential to stretch out the wrist, arms, shoulders, and even go from a short walk.
- Have Fun.
It’s easy to get bogged down when building back up. Find something enjoyable to work on. For me, it was etudes or pieces I never thought I was enough to work on. I would also play out of my middle school solo books from different Broadway productions and films. Find whatever it is that brings joy. Refuel the creative fire and just have fun.