For two decades we have followed the path of teaching/learning a musical instrument, in this case the clarinet, and with experience we have observed, thanks to the method of trial and error, which habits of study, planning of the same, and strategies that best serve us to improve from day to day. To be sure, the idea is most clear: “it is not enough to study more, rather to do it in the most efficient way possible”. This is even more pertinent if we are aware that we are living in a society where students aspire to diversify their efforts over a great number of physical and intellectual activities, all of them doubtlessly important.
It is for this reason that we have, over time, designed a General System of Musical Study in an established order. Before focusing on this, we consider being aware of the different parameters that we find in musical performance to be important. These are three:
The techniques can be body posture, breathing, abdominal support, the mouthpiece, dynamics, speed … The expressive aspects are musical analysis, melodic direction, musical character, attention to listening, body dynamics …
The primary parameters are those necessary for the production of sound, melody and its expressive character. The secondary ones are those that, according to the level of competence, can reach a higher or lower level of skill or perfection in the performance. The third are those in which their proficiency can be beneficial but not essential.
This classification of the parameters of instrument performance identifies those that can become automatic, or learned by practicing to the point where they can be performed using only a minimum part of our attention. Those that cannot become automatic are those which can only be performed with precision and expertise by giving them all our attention during the performance
And now, with this knowledge we can establish a procedure to enable us to study and master a musical piece:
The first phase would be to read and understand the piece: in this we establish the initial and final speeds that we will use; we ensure full understanding of the rhythms and heights; we will personalise our score (alterations, positions, dynamics, possible breathing …) and we will carry out a complete musical analysis: aesthetic, formal, harmonic and melodic.
In the phase of technical performance we can start, according to our standard, even from the bottom, which would be:
Marking the positions
Articulating a column of air without sound marking the positions
Playing the fragment in question
In order to evolve our technical mastery of the score we will have to bear in mind the parameters mentioned above and, in order to improve them, we will use a series of learning strategies, avoiding unconscious repetition, such as slowing down the speed, changing the articulations or rhythm of a fragment, dividing into short melodic cells, amongst others.
It is in the phase of dramatic performance that we are really going to get to enjoy performing with our instrument. It is therefore essential that we do not limit ourselves to just a certain technical proficiency. In this we will work on:
The melodic phrasing
The evolution of the dynamics
The flexibility of the tempo
Establishing the characters and emotions of the musical themes
Memorising the score, having a clear mental map of it
Dynamic body performance making full use of the capacity to express and transmit visually
Finally, carrying out a comparative listening of performances by recognised and prestigious artists
This would be a brief outline of the phases that we consider should be present in a good study of a piece of music with its diverse aspects. The fact that we study in an ordered way with a system that is applicable to any work that we come across will surely help us to achieve, with much greater possibilities, the success that we desire.
We hope that this will be useful to you, that you will personalise it according to your needs and that you will achieve the aims that you have.