My Playing Warm Up aka It’s Time for a Montage!

So first, I do the body warm up. Then, I play my long tones. Now I have to consider how to do the rest of my playing warm up. My main teacher has come up with 2 specific warm ups: one that he teaches his students initially and another which is his personal warm up which he teaches to his students once they’re ready. And here they are:

  1. Student Warmup
    1. Breathing/Reading Exercise – 5 minutes
      1. Grab some reading material for your music stand.
      2. Put your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your left love handle.
      3. Take a deep breath making sure that both hands expand out when you do and read aloud as you’re trying to keep your stomach and side expanded out as much as possible.
      4. By doing this properly, your voice should have a much more resonant quality to it than your normal speaking voice.
    2. Playing warm up – 45 minutes (Play one of the following)
      1. Play through the Klose scales, thirds, arpeggios and broken chords. Pages 123 – 129 in the Klose Celebrated Method for Clarinet
      2. The crazy ass Big Kahuna – play through the Stark arpeggio studies ( yup, the whole damn book!) 3 times(!!) each time playing it twice as fast (!!!) as the time before. It should take about 45 minutes.

So I never got to the point where I was able to do the same warm up in my teacher did. Maybe that could be a long-term goal for me. Hmm… Anyways, this time around, I decided to get a few other ideas regarding how to warm up. From my research on the interwebs, the Robert Spring warm-up seems to be quite popular and well-regarded one so I have decided to take that one and measure with my teacher’s old student warm up:

  1. Breathing / reading exercise
  2. Long tones starting on low-e going all the way up to double high c as laid out in the Robert Spring warm-up.
  3. Klose scales at 60 BPM.
  4. Langenus arpeggio sheet at 60 BPM.
  5. 3 octave chromatic scale at 120 BPM
  6. Klose 3rds at 60 BPM.
  7. Langenus staccato study at 120 BPM.

Now Spring has you go through some of these exercises at much faster tempos but I’m nowhere near ready for that. It’s actually taking me quite a while just to get everything up to the temples I’ve listed above. So as you can see there are some commonalities between the two warm ups. Another common trait is both warm ups, meaning the original Spring and my teacher’s warm ups are supposed to take 45 minutes. That’s a bit much for me so when I break up my practice sessions, I have also been splitting up by warm-up for each practice session. Maybe I’ll post about that in more detail in the near future.

  1. After doing this for a month or two, I have come to a few conclusions:
    Maybe like my old teacher has said I can drop the long tones at some point. I will do so when I finally feel completely comfortable with how relaxed my hands are on the instrument. I think this has helped me greatly but I’m not quite there yet because there are still times when I forget and I definitely tense up my hands.
  2. Playing scales arpeggios and thirds slowly at 60 BPM pretty much the dynamic stretching for the fingers. Again both teachers seem to recognize the necessity to get your fingers going gradually through some of the most common patterns you’ll approach in music.
  3. The chromatic scales laid out in the Klose book seems unnecessarily wasteful – basically going through all 24 tonalities via the chromatic scale. I’ve decided to just do one three octave chromatic scale as kind of a sprint drill.
  4. There definitely is a meditative and mindfulness component of warming up. At least for me, even though these have somewhat become rote and memorized, if my mind slips or gets distracted, mistakes usually occur. Also, if I’m pushing the breath past the point of comfort, I start making mistakes then also.
  5. One final and related note, I can really feel when things are honing in. I can feel my fingers loosening up, I can feel my sound getting locked in and consequently my embouchure getting dialed in.
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