Yamaha Artist & Ideal G Models

Hello faithful readers of ponyreviews! I was in Tokyo for a few days and was very fortunate to visit Yamaha Ginza. There I tried the two premiere models of Yamaha’s B-flat clarinets: the SE-bored Artist model, and the Custom-bored Ideal G model. Little bit of a background: the SE bores are Yamaha’s take on the “French-inspired” bores, and the “Custom” bores are more “German-inspired.” I have to say this is kind of a crude generalization of clarinet sounds and designs, but perhaps the best way to understand what I am (or Yamaha is) trying to get at is to listen to recordings of many French players and many German players. Also of course if you can, try these instruments for yourself.  Instead of trying to describe my feelings about the Artist and the Ideal G in words, I decided to simply add a rather “raw” footage of my playing each instrument for the very first time. The first clarinet (with the Silver emblem) I try is the Artist model (b-flat). Few seconds into it I mess around with the thumb-activated low e/f correction mechanism. I have never actually tried these mechanisms before but was really excited and fascinated. The second clarinet in the video of course is the Ideal G (also b-flat). This one didn’t have a thumb pitch correction mechanism. I was kind of rushed to make this video so please ignore (as much as you can) any playing flaws (there are many…). The clarinets were both in perfect adjustments and any flaws were due to my own shortcomings. Thanks for reading/ watching and let me know what you think of each model (on here, on YouTube, or on Facebook, whatever is most convenient  for you)!

Hiring a Musician

When you hire a musician whether it’s for playing your wedding, teaching your children,  recording your piece, etc., there are things to keep in mind. Some of these seem small but they can make the experience much richer and rewarding for both parties.

Payment

If you are on a tight budget, be upfront about it. This way, there is a smaller chance of misunderstanding later on either end. Explain the gig in good depth of details, and include the total pay amount. The musician will either take it or not. If you are wary of having to ask a ton of musicians, there is a simple solution- ask the musicians for other recommendations in case they are not available. They will most-likely help you out. Don’t ask for their rate and then try to bring it down. You are not buying a t-shirt at a flee market, you are buying someone’s service and their time and resources to prepare and to be there. The music industry is a very competitive one, and the odds are they are already offering you the best deal possible.

Payment (part 2)

Be on time with your payment. The best thing to do is prepare a check or cash for the musicians at the gig to be given upon their arrival. This way you don’t forget to pay them and remember when it’s too late.

Material

Again, be very specific about what you need from them from the get-go. Do not expect extra material/ time from the person you are hiring, especially for free. If you have specific material you want to be performed, e-mail the music or the titles as early as possible. Do not expect a flawless performance of a Ligeti concerto the morning after the night you e-mail the PDFs to the musicians/ contractor. No matter how easy or sight-readable you think the music is, send it early!

Space

This part seems to slip a lot of people’s mind. Make sure you tailor your hiring to the size and the location of the venue. If you are hiring a woodwind quintet, don’t do it outside (if you can help it) or in front of an AC unit- oboes and clarinets are notorious for cracking  under rapid change in humidity/ temperature. If you are hiring a jazz combo for a corporate fundraiser event, make sure there is plenty of space between the musicians and the people dancing. Musicians do not like it when their music stands get knocked over by people who don’t even realize what they did was not cool. For teaching, make sure the room is spacious and is not a storage unit. Make sure it’s sound-proofed

Empty Promises

Try to leave the gig to just being that gig. Do not talk of future gigs. Keep things professional and pleasant but try not to interact way too much. If you appreciate their service, shoot them an e-mail the following day. Musicians value their time and sanity highly. This is not the only gig where they have to be surrounded by many people who are interested in chatting them up in various lengths.

Family/ Friends/ Students

And lastly, if you hire someone to do a professional task, you must pay them professional rates. Do not expect to pay lower rates for any reason. If you really deserve a discount in universe’s eyes, the people being hired will let you know. But for the love of God do not ask for a discount. Be a good person.

#goals

A pivotal part in the growth of a musician comes from practicing and the way in which they practice. However important practicing is, it is meaningless unless it is purposeful and methodical (efficient, involves process, and yields results). I want to quickly touch on some topics today that I learn over and over.

Listening

The pleasure of music is debatable. No one piece of music (or one aspect of music) moves every single person on earth or in exactly the same way. Pleasure of music can come from the aspects of intellectual, visceral, physical, social, and so on. If a musician is like an actor, then would it not be in the best of the musician’s interest to learn as many roles or styles as possible to successfully serve their role in the context? Certain Hollywood actors are criticized for playing the same character in every movie they star in, and many consider them as sell-outs, or failures. If a musician finds a nice sound and functional articulations for playing in a Beethoven Symphony, it does not necessarily mean these things would or should transfer in all other types of music. Just as a person learning a new language cannot learn to speak fluently only through books and theories, a musician must listen (viscerally and critically/consciously) to the style of music they play. This helps them gain the necessary tools/ vocabulary to convincingly execute their art, especially in the formative years.

List

Every serious musician has gone or will go through phases of mindless practicing where they wishfully equate the number of practice hours to the quality of practicing being done. If practicing is not done consciously or thought-out beforehand, it can often be more harmful than no practicing. A fully-alert and un-intrupted hour practice session can be more productive and successful than a mindless practice session that spans 8 hours and consists of Facebook, e-mails, repeated mistakes, snacks, alcohol, socialization, and other distractions that yields no clear result. Regardless of how busy your schedule is, write out a list of specific things you want to get done that day. You will be surprised at how good and eager you are at crossing off the things from your list.

Limits

Tailoring your practice to your daily needs and time availability should be an art itself. Do not give up on practicing because you do not have 3 hours available that day because you’re traveling all day. Think of other ways you can practice without your instrument- studying scores, reading about artists/ composers, listening to music, trying to sing the piece/ lick you are learning from memory, resting, or even doing a routine maintenance on your instrument- all of these can contribute to turning your next musical experience a better one, and even help you become a better musician. Having fewer hours in a day to practice will help you be more focused in the few minutes you do have to yourself and encourage you to become methodical (which hopefully you will transfer to your longer practice sessions).

D’Addario Reserve Bass Clarinet Reeds: First Impressions

Intro

Almost a year ago, I got my new b-flat clarinet (Schwenk und Seggelke M1000B). This clarinet is pitched lower than my previous R13 b-flat clarinet, so it prompted me to get a higher pitched mouthpiece. After having my clarinet adjusted a bit at Buffet by the master technician Melanie Wong, I went down to D’Addario, in hopes of finding a mouthpiece that is more suitably pitched for my clarinet. There I was greeted warmly by Tom Kmiecik, Artist Relations of D’Addario. He was in a meeting with a client but welcomed me in anyway, and gave me a bunch of mouthpieces to try. Not only that, he gave me a few reeds to try with the mouthpieces. I was very impressed with the consistency of their products. Anyway, fast forward a few months, and I contacted Tom out of the blue to see if they have any bass clarinet mouthpieces in development (they had been working on a bunch of saxophone mouthpieces). He said not at the moment, but they were close to introducing their bass clarinet reeds. Fast forward a couple more months, Tom sent me a few boxes of reeds to try! Finally last night, I got to try the D’Addario Reserve Bass Clarinet Reeds (3.0), in a concert hall (Winspear Centre, where the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra plays).

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My Role

The setting was wind ensemble, and the program was not too forgiving for the bass clarinet. My most normal set up is Vandoren B50 coupled with Vandoren V12 3. However, most V12 3s are too hard for me (and most 2.5s are too soft for me). Keep in mind, the B50 is Vandoren’s most open facing mouthpiece (quite resistant). I found the D’Addario Reserve Bass Clarinet Reeds fell somewhere between the 2.5 and 3 Vandoren V12 bass clarinet reeds. At first I was a little shocked by how freely the Reserve reed played, but after a couple of minutes I got used to the feel and was able to effortlessly control my new set up. Silent entrances were made much easier, and blending and tuning were much more definitive and therefore also much easier (to hear and adjust). I played on one reed for the entire soundcheck (I had forgotten that I was playing on this new set up, which is a good sign). To provide more context for the bass clarinet’s role in the wind ensemble (if you are unfamiliar) the bass clarinet often doubles the first bassoon parts, the tutti clarinet parts, and also often the low brass. I need to be able to switch quickly from having light and almost percussive bassoon-y sound to producing very full and carrying low brass sound to intoxicatingly play my solos in that uniquely warm bass clarinet voice. The Reserve reed was able to do these things very well, especially blending with the bassoon.

Drawbacks?

My experience with the D’Addario reeds so far is that the reeds are very consistent out of the box, however they do not normally tend to last nearly as long as Vandoren reeds. If I played in a major orchestra, I think I would probably play the new D’Addario reeds because they are so practical (aside from sounding great) and consistent. However I felt these reeds were not as beefy and resistant as the Vandoren reeds (which are not actually bad things for me, personally) that I felt as if these reeds wear out fairly quickly, like the other D’Addario reeds I have tried in the past. Vandoren reeds I feel sound kind of stiff in the beginning, then sound good, then sound GREAT, and then die. I find Reserve reeds sound really great from the beginning, and then start dying. Different reeds for different occasions, I suppose.

Verdict

I like the new D’Addario bass clarinet reeds a lot. I think in the future I might also try the 3.5s. At this point I would probably use these reeds for professional auditions, but probably not for daily practicing,

Thank you Tom Kmiecik and D’Addario for your kindness and generosity!

 

The Curious Case of the White Master

What is a White Master reed? 

Vandoren’s White Master reeds were designed to be played on German clarinet mouthpieces, although I have met few people in my life who play with these reeds on their French clarinet mouthpiece. I have never owned a German mouthpiece (since I play on French-system clarinets), however I did try these reeds on a few French clarinet mouthpieces. These reeds are much narrower and shorter than regular French b-flat clarinet reeds, so naturally one would imagine they would play better on smaller and shorter (lay) mouthpieces. Not surprisingly, my B40 (shorter lay) saw more success with these reeds than my M30D mouthpiece.

Strength

The strengths don’t translate directly. 3.5 WM reeds are MUCH too hard, whereas 2.5 White Master reeds work quite well (still more back pressure than most 3.5 reeds of other types). They work pretty well on most b-flat clarinet mouthpieces I have, however they do not work so well in the upper registers on my main (M30D) mouthpiece, probably due to its longer lay.

Can I Use Them?

Yes, in fact I have switched my e-flat clarinet reeds to the White Master 2.5 reeds. The tip and the sides fit so much better on any of my e-flat clarinet mouthpieces than any of my e-flat reeds do (most e-flat clarinet reeds don’t really fit most e-flat mouthpieces at the tip, on the sides). You might think, that can’t be- why would Vandoren do that with their e-flat clarinet reeds? I have no idea why. In any event, these reeds are much stronger (in the best way) than than most e-flat clarinet reeds, even at a whole strength lower.

Characteristics 

The sounds is beefy which seems to come from the very dense cane that is used to make WM reeds. Spine is strong yet flexible, articulation is optimized when done with more air and push of the tongue (which is so much more comfortable than the walking-on-eggshells-like feeling of playing e-flat clarinet reeds on e-flat clarinet mouthpieces), projection is good (does not thin out like regular e-flat clarinet reeds do),

Downfalls 

Well for one, obviously, the unfortunate name of the reeds must be updated. These reeds are still nowhere as popular in North America as other Vandoren reeds are, so they are much more expensive (about 10 dollars more).

However, I would still buy these over regular e-flat clarinet reeds, to play on my e-flat clarinet set up.

Good?

Yes. Use them on e-flat clarinet mouthpieces. Don’t forget to go a whole strength lower. Despite their higher price, I do believe these last longer than most “normal” French style reeds due to their very dense and resilient cane.

*My current e-flat clarinet mouthpiece set up is Vandoren M30 (e-flat) + Vandoren 2.5 White Master.

Dreamsongs by Sean Perrin

Sean Perrin is a clarinetist based in Calgary, Alberta (Canada), which is also where I grew up from 2002. In Calgary, Perrin is known as a skilled educator, clarinetist, and of course, the owner of Clarineat, a podcast that deals with “everything that is neat about the clarinet.”

Perrin released his first CD, entitled Dreamsongs, almost a year ago in May of 2016. Dreamsongs is an all-cover album, consisted of some of the most iconic pieces of music by the American composer Philip Glass and the legendary pianist Chick Corea. All pieces are tastefully arranged for various instrumentations including the clarinet, the marimba, and the vibraphone by Perrin himself. Perrin is also a skilled percussionist himself and shows off his lyrical playing on the album on both the clarinet and the marimba (Truman Sleeps).

In this otherwise somewhat minimalist album, Perrin successfully explores the many personalities of the clarinet. Perrin’s playing is expressive and personal. Along with the grounded and flowing sounds of the marimba played by Rob Maciak, another powerhouse musician from Calgary, Perrin’s clarinet sounds very much alive, curious, and vulnerable. Throughout listening to Dreamsongs I kept visualizing a chick that had just hatched and is discovering the world around it.

Every track flows beautifully from one to the next and is beautifully recorded, mixed, mastered, by Spencer Cheyene, and produced by Tyler Hornby.

Dreamsongs 

Sean Perrin, Clarinet and Marimba

Rob Maciak, Marimba and Vibraphone

Spencer Cheyne, Engineering, mixing, and mastering

Tyler Hornby, Producer

Available at:

Clarineat, Amazon, Spotify, etc.

Tips on Blogging

I have been blogging only for a few months now, and I have a small but a loyal following, most notably from USA, Canada, Japan, and the Netherlands. I wanted to share a series of quick thoughts about blogging.

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Consistency

Content

Tone

Vision

Consistency

At some point I decided that I will write a blog every week. In the beginning, I wanted to write one everyday. I had so much to say, but somehow these days it is a lot harder for me to write. I feel more pressure to deliver an amazing blog post now that I for sure have an audience. It is not easy to try and update a post every Monday, but it creates a (small) routine in my super scattered freelance life and I like it.

Content

My contents have varied. However, I try to stick with what I know and what I am passionate about.

Tone

In real life, I can be quiet, I can be very out-going, I can be very cynical, sarcastic, spacey, and so on. In the beginning, I thought it would be cool to be as real as I can be in my writing and try to let some of these traits seep into my writing. But as I have written before, writing is writing, and it is not the same as other forms of communication. I shared my early posts with my closest friends and they ripped me apart to shreds. And I am very grateful. In writing, it is the best of your interest to get to the point. If people wanted to read a book, they would have read a book. If people wanted to enjoy a nice rant, they would probably have watched one of their subscribed channels on YouTube. Knowing what my blog is to people has helped me shape at times what I will write about.

Vision

I originally decided to start writing here because I really wanted to get better at writing and  also to gain some kind of professional leverage. Obviously I was very ambitious. Like many people in the arts I think I suffer from a (mild) case of the snowflake millennial syndrome. To even think that my writing is of anyone’s interest in this crowded planet is very presumptuous to say the least. In any event, I have really enjoyed writing every post so far. It hasn’t always been easy, but I am proud that I have written over 20 posts now.

Final Thoughts

If you have topics on your mind that you wish I would discuss, please comment below or message me. Thank you so much reading.

Pony