I figured I’d get some other things done in the past few weeks as my obsession with music has helped me kick my depression to the curb and I’m getting my motivation back. The struggle continues, but I’m finally at the place where I want to be working on actually playing music again, and have some actually workable study and practice plans in place.
The trouble is, the clarinet will have to wait. Anything that requires major air flow and mouth position just needs to be worked on.
Yes, it’s quite the old problem I’ve had the past few years. My two priority instruments now are piano and guitar to get back on the wagon and learn. In about a month, I’ll add in some violin (haven’t played that in near 30 years). Clarinet I kind of lost the drive for because I lost the ability, and need to find a way to gain it back. I just can’t justify spending so much time adding clarinet to my schedule when I can’t last very long at all playing the darn thing.
I like it, but I like other instruments more. It just kills me that my musculature is so different around my mouth from when I started playing and it just hurts too damned much to do more than a few minutes at a time without it sucking. The number my lips got, the worse the playing.
I figured out what the biggest problem was earlier this week and how it was affecting things. Things other than the fact that I was in marching band that last year and could barely play on the field, and my bus ride was so damned long I basically did homework, chores, and went to bed every day, so no more practice opportunities after school. I’d totally forgotten that 9th grade was when I got my braces removed, and suddenly I really began to make mistakes in air flow and creating a good seal.
I was just getting braces when I first tried out the clarinet in 6th grade. I remember having my lips stretched and the like to make sure the braces would fit and not cut me too much in those first few months. I eventually learned the instrument and developed the embouchure accordingly–with braces.
The trouble was, once I’d gotten the braces removed, I suddenly wasn’t compensating for all that metal in my mouth. I had stretched out lips and weak muscles and just couldn’t create a great seal around the mouthpiece. I began to squeak more and my airflow was troublesome. And I didn’t realize that that was probably part of the problem. My lips began to go numb so much easier and since it was football season, I just mimicked playing on the field instead of actually doing it. Nobody could hear me where I was at, anyway (I was an alternate, filling a position that awkwardly ended up between saxophones and brass during the field marching).
And with 150 or so other folks in the band, the directors didn’t have time to chat with anyone, let alone help me out with my playing (and this was before widespread internet, YouTube, online tutorials, etc.). So my chair placement started dropping fast. It actually hurt to play sometimes, and since I was so busy at home, I couldn’t make myself do it. The directors’ attitudes toward us didn’t help.
Seriously, it’s pretty bad when the football players on the practice field next to us are shaking their heads in pity while we get screamed at by the directors.
It made me upset as hell, but by then, my heart wasn’t into it anymore (I was mainly quitting marching season and gonna come back for concert season because I had no ride to practice anymore, but the directors were pissed and basically told me don’t come back). Band was God, and if you had other priorities, well, you sucked.
Lost a lot of “friends’ because of that move, and 10th grade was the worst because of it. I learned the hard way that band friends are only your friends when you’re in band. Once you’re out, it’s “screw you.”
Maybe the memory of those hard times have made it hard for me to pick it up again, at least in part. Definitely hard to stick to, but it’s mostly the embouchure issue that’s made it so hard. It is what reminds me of the worst bits of high school. Getting over the musculature problems and developing good habits again can help put the “ghosts of fucktards past” behind me.
So, it’s gonna be a challenge, but if I can spend a few months during warmups learning how to improve the shape of my mouth for clarinet again (and it would no doubt help if I went for vocal training eventually), then awesome. Already found this nice little PDF online that was connected to jrredman.com that could help, and looking for more resources.
I wonder if one of the vocal training techniques books has some stuff that can help, too… glad I got one coming in the mail. Time to watch some vids, I suppose, and bookmark them again. I started to before, but got frustrated or bored. Gonna go slow and steady this time, because I know it’ll be a while before I even start re-playing anyway. I can wait.
Gotta build up calluses for my other instruments, too… but those require playing (hee hee).