A Clarinet Breakthrough

This week I had a major light bulb moment. It’s funny. As a teacher (of other things like swimming) I had seen students pause or stall for a time before moving forward, and then at some point they became ready and wow!

Weeks, if not months ago, my clarinet teacher had started to explaining the circle of fifths (sometimes the notations are reversed and called circle of fourths – especially in jazz groups). I had glazed over as she explained, and she suspended that lesson.

Two weeks ago a friend had given me a Disney song book. To learn certain songs I had to learn some new notes – some sharp, some flat. And I started trying to see a pattern to sharps and flats – the key and scales.

I have a chart in my exercise book to decode the fingering for these new notes

I confirmed the fingering with a set of flashcards. I sent an email question to my sister and another musical friend. If I were playing in E flat, was I always playing an A flat throughout piece of music at the high middle and low parts of the scale unless the measure was noted as natural?

Before the email responses arrived I had found the notes my teacher Pam had made and searched and found the circle of fifths. The emails confirmed my assumption to be consistent.

And like a bolt from the blue, I was struck by the realization of the pattern. And I heard my teacher’s voice saying whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half. Like dance steps (something I do know), the pattern entered my brain and body. I got it!

Of course this is not news to anyone who has learned to play music or taken music theory, but I started less than a year ago! I understood that start with C (no sharps or flats), add a flat and a new scale, add another flat and another scale, etc. The same will work for the sharps – and I know the first two I need for more scales!

And so I return to that Disney song I like so much. I see the pattern, the magic, and feel impetus to learn more and more – new notes, new keys, new scales, new things to practise!

The two things I miss most right now are swimming laps and my face to face music lessons. I have gone back through my book and worked on all those things I hadn’t mastered. Those slurs and fingerings are each getting better!

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