Clarinet Tips | Tone Exercises

27th April 2020

We’re joined by Ben Mellefont, Yamaha Performing Artist & London Philharmonic Principal Clarinettist to discuss a couple of quick and easy exercises for your Clarinet tone development…

Exercise #1: Crescendo & Diminuendo

This first exercise is simply designed to help encourage a steady and consistent supply of air, whilst maintaining pitch. Choose a simple arpeggio such as F Major or G Major and crescendo and diminuendo through the arpeggio and back again. Not only does this help your breathing and air support, but it also gets the idea of musical shaping into your mind.

Whilst playing this exercise:

  • Support the air across the whole range of the instrument for an even tone
  • Focus on pitch – Don’t let the pitch flatten by overblowing
  • Work on a consistent air support at all dynamics
  • Keep the same tone quality at all dynamics
  • Don’t be ‘passive’ with your air

Exercise #2: Articulation

Interestingly Ben calls all articulation “an extension of legato” – and this is a good principal to stick with. Often we try to over-work the tongue in fast staccato passages which is actually contrary to what you should do.

Speed and crisp articulation comes from plenty of practice, good air support and being supple and flexible with the tongue, rather than aggressive. In this exercise you can pick a scale (or do them all!) and play it legato first, then tenuto (legato-tongued), then staccato.

During this exercise:

  • Stay Relaxed!
  • Keep air flow consistent
  • Concentrate on smooth transitions
  • Develop the same confidence with all tonguing effects

About Ben Mellefont

Benjamin Mellefont was born in Sydney, Australia. He was appointed Principal Clarinet of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 2019, having previously held the same position with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he also appeared as a soloist. He has also played as Guest Principal with many of the orchestras in the UK and Australia, and at festivals such as Salzburg, Edinburgh and Aldeburgh. 

Benjamin graduated in 2015 from the Royal College of Music with First Class Honours as the Tegner Scholar, having studied with Barnaby Robson, Richard Hosford, Timothy Lines and Michael Collins. Whilst there he won the Clarinet Prize and Concerto Competition. He has examined and given classes at several of the UK’s conservatoires, and since 2019 has been a Professor of Clarinet at the Royal Academy of Music. Benjamin plays Yamaha YCL-CSGH Bb and YCL_CSGH A Clarinets.

Check out Ben’s recent video with us about ‘Practicing Difficult Passages of Music’.

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