What's Written

You could call it laziness, you could call it an educational exercise, but what you can't call it is a waste of time. I'm a clarinet player, which means I'm used to seeing a lot of notes that aren't necessarily musically important. One of the ways I learn music is to simplify it. I naturally gravitate toward more musical pieces with less virtuosic technique, but that is almost impossible to avoid when you study any music formally, especially clarinet solo standards.

The music below is an excerpt from one of the etudes that I'm currently working on. How would you simplify it to make it easier for sight reading and understanding?

Here's what I did to the first 8 bars:

  1. Anything that looks like a flourish or a turn is OUT.
  2. Anything that is an elaboration of a longer note is OUT.
  3. Big flourishes become eighth note points.
reduced 20 grand studies clarinet etude

I actually practiced like this before I added the other notes in, and guess what? The flourishes were more even and more in time than if I had practiced them from the beginning. I often forget to practice like this because I get so stressed about learning all the notes. I need to remember that this is how you learn all these notes in such a short period of time!

Disagree with my reduction? Awesome! I love to discuss music - feel free to leave me a comment below or reach out to me by email. I'm more than happy to write retractions for anyone who convinces me. :)

Have no idea what I'm talking about, but want to learn? These skills are learned partly by composing! We only have a couple spots left in our Young Composers Camp. Learn all about this and the exciting world of composing! OR take private lessons and discuss how you can get out of practicing a bunch of notes with your own personal teacher! Happy practicing :D

Ashley Wright

Ashley has a breadth of experience in administration, music, and music management. She currently works as the Office Registrar at the Nashua Community Music School and manages the New England Chamber Players and Barbershop Ladies of Tallahassee (where she was a founding member). Ashley designed and implemented both the NECP and BLT websites, as well as designed the BLT logo. She was formerly an usher and stage crew member at the Florida State University Ruby Diamond Auditorium, and a resident assistant and office assistant at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.

Ashley has played with the Nevers’ Second Regiment Band, the Southern New Hampshire University Wind Symphony, and she attended the Belgian Clarinet Academy last summer. She recently graduated with a BA in Music from Florida State University as a clarinet major, where she studied with Dr. Deborah Bish. For other musical accomplishments: last year, Ashley composed a film score that was recorded by the Florida State University Philharmonia Orchestra and played tenor saxophone and sung backup vocals in the FSU Ruby Diamond Auditorium for the FSU Blues Band with Charles Atkins.

She received her first bachelor's degree in physics (with a music minor) from Boston University. She worked as an engineer for two years in Quality Assurance and Software before returning to school for her music degree, and she spent last summer as a software intern. She has a lot of experience developing independent Python tools, especially for data processing.

Scales. *shudder*

I hate scales, but I also acknowledge the benefit of them. And no, I'm not just talking about the hidden benefit of being a better player or even nailing that verbatim A Major scale written directly into the third movement of Puszta. My favorite part of playing scales well is playing them fast. Really, really fast. A tempo I cannot get some of my other music up to.

I tried to fight scales every year of my degree. My very first long-term clarinet teacher didn't believe in playing scales every day as long as you knew them. So when I went to Florida State, and had to pass scale juries every semester. I suffered through test after test of major scales, harmonic minor scales, melodic minor scales, natural minor scales, thirds, dominant chords, etc. until I realized scales would only get better if one of the following things happened:

  1. There was no metronome during the test.
  2. The metronome wasn't set so high (quarter note = 72, and all the scales were in 32nd notes!)
  3. I didn't have to learn so many scales.
  4. I had more time to practice.
  5. I was better at clarinet.
spongebob squidward jellyfish circle fire broken clarinet

Since none of those seemed possible I developed the following methods to learning my scales faster and as efficiently as possible. I learned all of this on clarinet, but these tips apply to almost any instrument (a little more loosely to voice, probably not percussion :P).

football breathing
  1. Focus on your air. Super cliche, but the FIRST thing to go when you're playing something you think you know. In the midst of scale season, I was always panicked about getting them fast enough. It's tough when you're in a situation like that, but sound quality is so important. Besides the obvious reason, not because it makes learning your scales easier, but because it relieves tension while playing. And when you're playing at least 12 scales per day, the less tension, the less you hate your life.
  2. Print out your scales. Memorization will be key later, but before you memorize, you must visualize. I know they're easy to figure out, but most people are visual learners, and being able to read scales (and markup mistake points and tips) is more valuable than you probably realize.
  3. Write on your printed scales. This cannot be emphasized enough. No matter how embarrassed you are to write down helpful hints on scales, DO IT AND YOUR LIFE WILL BE EASIER. You'll notice all those "random" mistakes are actually always happening from Bb - C# in the altissimo register of d harmonic minor.
  4. Play them in order. For a really long time I tried to mix up the order of my scales every day so I wouldn't only know them in order. Turns out this is backwards (like not memorizing before visualizing). I started seeing real improvement in consistency and memorization when I played them in order every day and only mixed it up occasionally instead of the opposite.
  5. Only play as many as you play well and correctly. This is something I struggle with all the time. It's better to mess up 5 scales per day than play 1 correctly right? WRONG. Even if you feel doofy only playing one scale per day, even though you're 26 and getting a college degree in music, DO IT. School and teachers some times pressure you to learn faster than you're able. Your job as the student is to only practice what you can without working error into your playing. If this is truly the reason for doing something (as opposed to laziness), your teacher will understand.
  1. That goes for tempo as well - only as fast as you can play well and correctly. Mix it up: use the metronome, then don't. But whatever you do, don't play so fast that you mess up 3 times before you get to the scale the way you "should" be able to play it. Just like playing them in order most of the time so you can play them out of order when necessary, play them slow most of the time so you can play them fast when necessary.
running trip
  1. Make up scale songs and practice like you're learning a solo. This is my creative composer side coming out, but no shame in trying to enjoy scales. I liked to make up little songs that help me work on my weak areas. Additionally, use patterns, anchor notes, swung notes, and every other little trick you like to use for solo music. NO SHAME. Scales should sound just as pretty as an solo (even if they're a little more predictable).

Scales do not have to be scary or even boring, and they will make you a better player. Stick to it, and even the most frustrated of scale learners out there will eventually get it, even if it takes some time.

Still need help learning scales? The Nashua Community Music School has lesson teachers for all instruments that use scales! Request a lesson with us today!

Most Overrated Famous Classical Pieces

I think one of the reasons everyone thinks classical music is so boring is because any advocate for classical music is afraid to say there are pieces they don't like in fear that they will turn off non-listeners forever. I think we should talk about it.

squidward running from clarinets
  1. Mozart Clarinet Concerto. As a clarinet player, I've heard this concerto approximately 754285 times. Ironically, the second movement of this concerto is what first sparked my interest in clarinet, but the rest of it is so tonal I fall asleep every time. I'm sure I would love it if I was born in the 1700s, but I wasn't. So here we are.
  2. Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture. Enough is enough.
  3. Schubert Erlkönig. Ahhhh no music theory, history, or survey class would be complete without this beauty. I don't hate it by any means, but I have studied it formally a total of 3 times. Trust me, that's a lot. Each subsequent time I studied it, the more I realized there really isn't much to this song. I get that, at the time, it was very innovative to write 4 characters into 1 part, but it just seems so obvious and transparent to me now, it's hard to appreciate it in it's full glory.
  4. Rimsky-Korsakov Flight of the Bumblebee. Again, not a piece I hate, but way too many of my high school friends aspired to play this just because it sounds fast and impressive. Fast and impressive only impresses me for a short time.
  5. Handel's Messiah. I attended a live performance of this in Symphony one snowy night in Boston, complete with standing up during the Hallelujah chorus and everything. I enjoyed that performance, but I have no desire to listen again. Handel, harpsichord, and hours classical singing are not my favorite things.
hallelujah sister act

Completely disagree with me? Comment below. Completely agree with me? Comment Below? Half disagree, half agree? I think you're starting to see the trend.

Welcome!

ashley wright clarinet entrepreneur

Welcome to the Nashua Community Music School Blog! If you are new to the website, welcome to NCMS! We are a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing quality music opportunities to all audience members, performers, and students in the greater Nashua area.

My name is Ashley Wright and I just began working for NCMS in May 2017.  I have a BA in music from Florida State where I studied clarinet with Dr. Deborah Bish. I took lessons with NCMS's own Karen Luttik to prepare for my FSU audition (and four others), in addition to being a part of the former NCMS wind ensemble while I was in high school. As you can tell, NCMS has been a big part of my life for a while, and I'm so excited to be working here and share my insight with everyone. My areas of expertise are clarinet, practice/study habits, running musical organizations, and I have a bit of a technical background. If you're interested, you can read my full bio on the NCMS Staff page.

This blog is going to be part educational, part teacher showcase, part entertaining (hopefully), and part my random opinions on all things music and Nashua.

Ashley Wright

Ashley has a breadth of experience in administration, music, and music management. She currently works as the Office Registrar at the Nashua Community Music School and manages the New England Chamber Players and Barbershop Ladies of Tallahassee (where she was a founding member). Ashley designed and implemented both the NECP and BLT websites, as well as designed the BLT logo. She was formerly an usher and stage crew member at the Florida State University Ruby Diamond Auditorium, and a resident assistant and office assistant at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.

Ashley has played with the Nevers’ Second Regiment Band, the Southern New Hampshire University Wind Symphony, and she attended the Belgian Clarinet Academy last summer. She recently graduated with a BA in Music from Florida State University as a clarinet major, where she studied with Dr. Deborah Bish. For other musical accomplishments: last year, Ashley composed a film score that was recorded by the Florida State University Philharmonia Orchestra and played tenor saxophone and sung backup vocals in the FSU Ruby Diamond Auditorium for the FSU Blues Band with Charles Atkins.

She received her first bachelor's degree in physics (with a music minor) from Boston University. She worked as an engineer for two years in Quality Assurance and Software before returning to school for her music degree, and she spent last summer as a software intern. She has a lot of experience developing independent Python tools, especially for data processing.