Clarinet Challenge ~ Can you say Fricken Hard?

UntitledI am firstly a sax guy. I have a lot of music to prepare for the seven holiday gigs I have in December. Clarinet remains my biggest challenge and after three years of a on again, off again relationship, I still struggle to tame the back stick o’ death. Here’s my current challenge from Opus One:


I have a pretty decent sound on my Buffet Festival R-13 soprano clarinet, even when I play up to the first F above the staff. But song flies with a meter marking of a quarter note equals 190. And the band tends to take it even faster. There are precious few tricks to playing this well. Time on the stick is the only cure.

In this next example, I’m on bass clarinet. And my bass clarinet is the highly regarded Selmer Privilege keyed to a low C. Most of it is just flat out fun, but the first quarter note run is this fast, “Da, da, da, da, da, da”. Oh right, you can’t tell that way. Think about 210 beats per minute. It’s the fingering of D# to C# and then to B that gets me every time.


The notes are mine and in the color of marker that doesn’t show up if you copy the music. If I make a mistake in the reading of this music, I do everything possible to make that not happen again. Thus you see the key change highlighted twice in one line. With so much music to practice for (seven gigs in December remember, and that doesn’t count the dress rehearsal and practices) I’m bound to not get enough time on the music. Fortunately, most of the heavy lifting is being done by the pros in the band.

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra) a GOLD sax quartet, and enjoy time with family and friends.
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4 Responses to Clarinet Challenge ~ Can you say Fricken Hard?

  1. Mark Kunz says:

    If you think your part is difficult, try Jamie’s. The other is just a scale of quarter notes. Practice your B natural scales forward and back. D# is played on the right hand, C# is played on the left, B natural is played on the the right and the rest is cake. Now take it up to tempo and don’t drag…1,2,1234! Remember, the pros are getting paid exactly the same as you.

  2. Gandalfe says:

    I just realized that my special alternate (left-hand Eb) key is on the Buffet Festival but not the Selmer Privilege. Time to drag it out… again.

  3. Donna says:

    can you record some of what you play and post? I would enjoy listening and I’m sure others would as well 🙂

  4. Gandalfe says:

    Well I have a bunch of recordings at But here is a timely one for the season:

    Enjoy Donna! And happy holiday to you and yours. :O)

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