Samstag, 4. Dezember 2010

To be Being your own teacher

When you learn to play an instrument, you start with regular lessons with a teacher. He or she helps you to play the instrument in the right way. Right from the beginning though a student spends most of their practise time alone. In the best scenario a teacher shows you how you should practise. Two rules are unquestionable right: „Practise as well as possible“ and of course „Practise as much as possible“
As we know our first connection we have to something is very important. Thus the first lessons I get are the most important ones. What does the teacher says about posture, about embouchure, does he or she helps to find a good reed? It is evident: the role of a teacher is so vital!
However, the majority of the time we spend with our instrument is away from a teacher. We depend on ourselves. And must therefore be our own teachers. Time is always scarce, so it is so important that we use our time as sensibly as possible. The typical way of practising: I take a piece, start from beginning and after the first mistake I stop and try to repeat the failed passage with the mistake in it and go on like this till the end. This is definitely not the best way to practise.
Practising is a creative process, an art form in itself. Before starting it is best is to consider: What is my aim and how can I achieve it. Possible questions could be among others:

1. On which technical problem should I work, and how do I include them in my warm-up?

2. On which pieces should I work at the moment – which piece needs a break?

3. Does a piece require detail work or shall I try to get through the whole piece?

4. In which sections do I practise: one bar, one tone combination or some several lines?

5. How much time do I spend on one aspect, when do I go to the next?

6. What is most important?: The sound, the legato or the musical idea?

7. Do I learn to play by heart, do I record myself?

8. Do I follow a strict system or do I decide spontaneously how to practise?

9. Should I have breaks in between?

10. Does my practising follows a clear idea or do I just play?

Etc. etc.
We see It is obvious: There are so many decisions to be made. But that’s the fun of the game: Be creative and shape the practising in the best way that you can achieve the best result and that it is fun. It is very easy: Just observe your practising like a teacher and be honest with yourself: Is it really good how I am practising? We are often better at criticizing others than ourselves. When you start to teach you have to think about which way of practising is the best for the pupil. Just do the same with yourself: be your own teacher.

and: go on a new organisation is born.

very best

Matthias Müller

Dienstag, 24. August 2010

New clarinet methods

In German we say „Sometimes there is something in the air“ or „The time is ripe for something“ when a new development happens in a similar way in different places. When I started to write my clarinet method „Claritop“ ( I heard from a student that Reiner Wehle is writing a method as well. His three volumes of Clarinet Fundamentals ( ) appeared at the same time as mine. When I saw his method I realized that it is based on the same philosophy. Reiner Wehle visited my masterclass in Switzerland this week and comfirmed that he had the same impression. At ClarinetFest in Austin I met Larry Guy and he gave me his books „Intonation Training/Embouchure Building/Hand and Finger Development“: Incredible, he did in USA a similar thing that we did in Europe at the same time!
What is this similar idea about:
· Good exercises are the basis for the development of technique.

· Technique means not only fast fingers. Technique is breathing, posture, sound, intonation & articulation etc.

· We can give important explanations about clarinet technique and they can be very helpful.

· Basics are important. If they are not good, all the rest cannot work really good.

· Important is precision and thoroughness.

· They are based on the work of our excellent teachers: Daniel Bonade, Hans Rudolf Stalder and Hans Deinzer.

This is not new but it was hardly applied to the Clarinet in the 19th century. There was a certain activity in the 20th century but it was as a whole quite poor. Everything based on the 19th century. Bärmann, Kröppsch are not bad, but there are now better methods.
It is so important that we are always aware why we practise and what is our aim and the way to achieve it. We have to start with the easy things and go step by step to the more difficult ones. Never jump a step. If you play too difficult things you get cramped. Try always to feel free and relaxed. And don’t forget: Good practising is fun! The succes will make you happy.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate and contact me.
All the best

Montag, 2. August 2010

ICA ClarinetFEST Austin 2010

Hi Clarinetfriends
I just came back from the ClarinetFEST in Austin. Everybody who was there would confirm that it was a terrific Festival. Well organised by Nathan Williams and Richard Mac Dowell. Thanks and congratulation – you did a great job for the clarinetfamily. It was really the feeling of a family. Indeed all musicians can be the best friends in such circumstances.
It was so impressive to see how different the clarinet can sound. Best in Romantic and Classical Music, in Jazz, Klezmer, Contemporary and with Electronics as well as a group in clarinet-orchestras. A rich and huge range. I could discover new fine compositions for clarinet: Have you ever heard of Whitney Prince, Roshanne Etezady or Theresa Martin. They composed awesome Duos for Clarinet. Robert Spring and Jana Starling introduced them in a terrific way. Or did you know that Costa Rica has a rich clarinet life with a society and a own Festival? The whole world is moving.
And then the Bass Clarinet Blow-Out of Rico: What a fantastic group with Laurie Bloom, André Moisan, Rocco Parisi, Alcides Rodriguez and Pedro Rubio. And they played the new Rico Bassclarinet reed – superbe sound! I played my newest compositions for clarinet: My 6 Etudes de Concert and 2 movments of my new Clarinet Concerto. They are on my new CD Virtuoso ( and published by Edition Hug ( and by Metropolis Musicpublisher ( On my website you can listen some samples.
On the home back I was visiting Eddie Daniels in his home in Santa Fee. He is not only a terrific clarinet Player but a great personality as well. What an open mind: We discussed about all kind of music specially about Stockhausen and Ligeti – and of course about Thai Chi. I was allowed to assist to a lesson with Eddie and Mirabai. Big stars can be so human and modest... Yours Matthias

Mittwoch, 2. Juni 2010

The Art of Technique

The interaction of technique and art is obvious in the case of music as the artist makes visible use of their technical skills in the performance of their art-form. In the case of virtuosity this aspect actually prevails and artistic expression takes second place. This need not be seen negatively if the artistic content and a fascinatingly brilliant technique are able to complement each other. The music of the great masters is often very technically demanding.
Generally speaking, what we understand by the term technique is the ability to overcome the difficulties of our instrument. It is essential to have the goal of the instrument and body becoming a single entity, in fact, for the instrument to almost become a bodily organ. An exceptional musician is one that has become grafted to their instrument and one where the borders between body and instrument have become blurred.
It makes sense to separate technique from music and art during the working process but it is important to keep in mind that this is only a temporary separation. Contrary to popular opinion regarding instrumental technique, a good technique and fast finger are not one in the same.
Clarinet technique is made up of a wide range of differing aspects: breathing technique, tonguing technique, articulation technique, good intonation, finger technique etc. to name just the most important features. It is therefore worthwhile to spend some time focussing solely on instrumental technique.

1. The basic technique required for a specific aspect, such as, inhalation, creation of air pressure or finger control while playing legato over larger intervals.

2. The combination of several basic techniques, such as articulation, which involves controlling the pressure of tonguing combined with precise finger control.

3. Application of technique in a musical context, in which something new is required in each moment. An example of this would be if a player is faced with playing a long held note that is interrupted by an accent, in the next moment a leggiero passage of separated staccato notes that is in turn followed by an expressive section with legato over large intervals.

That said it is important to reiterate: If the basis is not laid soundly what follows will have not have a stable foundation. It is dizzying to consider the technical requirements of the Mozart concerto and the quick succession in which all these aspects have to be processed. In the case of the clarinet, as with wind instruments in general, it is necessary to note, that the process of playing is not particularly spectacular. This is because the technique required is mostly invisible. With piano and string instruments everything is visible and for that reason these instruments appear more virtuosic. Apart from small finger movements the most important aspects of clarinet playing are invisible to the naked eye. The fine control of the embouchure, the most exact managing of jaw pressure remains just as hidden as the variation of air pressure while playing large intervals. That this doesn`t appear spectacular to an audience is one thing. More importantly, however, we must acknowledge that it is precisely this feature of clarinet playing that can leave us as learners feeling as if we have to find our own way in the dark, at least at first.

For that reason we need to differentiate between two procedures:

• Work on the fundamental basics, i.e. working on and the refining of general technique.

• The learning of technical challenges specific to a certain piece.

Both the different procedures should complement each other because the possibility of artistic expression only becomes reality once the necessary technique had been mastered. Contrastingly, an artistic desire may necessitate the learning of a special technique and in this way encourages the player’s further development. At the beginning of the learning process it does, however, pay to follow a progressive technical programme. The broader the foundations are placed the easier it will be to solve specific problems later.

New release
Etudes de concert by Matthias Müller
6 solopieces that includes passages of high technical difficulty. Every piece makes specific demands on clarinettists as
• subtle articulation
• large, quick leaps
• sustained fingerwork combined with circular breathing
• different extended techniques as slapping, glissandi, flutter-tonguing, multiphonics, quarter-tones
• double and triple-tonguing
The difficulties lie not just in the technical challenges as matter of mastering a challenge, but also how it is mastered. The decisive step only comes when their technical demands can be met in a concert situation – thus when they are bound up with a musical idea.
Available by: Hug&Co. Musikverlage

I will play the “etudes de concert” at the CLARINETFEST 2010 in Austin, Butler School of Music, July 23, 2010 Mc Cullough Theater 9 a.m.

ICA-Clarinetfest 2010 Austin July 21-25, 2010

International Clarinetcompetition and 1. European Clarinet Festival
Kortrijk Belgium, Oct 30 – Nov 7, 2010

Dienstag, 24. November 2009

Are there still national clarinet schools?

November 24 2009

Dear Clarinet friends

With this letter I will start my clarinet blog about all subjects concerning the


· Release of new pieces

· interesting recordings

· new methods and projects

Last but not least I will also keep you up to date with my own projects. I hope that the blog can motivate clarinetists to interact and give their own input so that it will be an international platform for the profit of a lot of players. I will structure it in the following way:

A: questions and answers

B: new releases

C: comments on questions and open discussions

A: Are there still national clarinet schools?

Let’s start with a overview of the history of the clarinet. We know that the clarinet was invented by Johann Christoph Denner (*August 13th 1655 in Leipzig † 20 th April 1707 in Nuremberg) It was not, however, a completely new invention. Shawm had already existed for a long time all over the whole world and the chalumeau was also already present. Actually it was not a new invention but a development of the instruments that already existed. Nevertheless it was an important step for us! The next step came with Johann Stamitz. His work in Mannheim marked the beginning of the classical era and his clarinet concerto was the next important step for our instrument. We have to consider that he wrote the piece for Gaspard Proksch who played in the orchestra of Jean le Riche de la Pouplinière in Paris. The interaction between Germany and France has been an important subject since the birth of the clarinet. The fruitful work of Mozart, Anton Stadler and the instrument builder Theodor Lotz were all vital for the breakthrough of our instrument.

In The 19th century further developments came at the hand of the great romantic composers (and the outstanding clarinetists H. and C. Baermann and J.S. Hermstedt) in germanspoking countries. Meanwhile in Paris important inventions were made by Müller and Klosé. The German system, named after Oskar Oehler (1858-1936) came much later, as well as did the „English“ clarinet by Eugène Albert (1816–1890). At the beginning of the 20th century the centre for woodwind instruments was in Paris. Here the impressionists and the politics of the Conservatoire superieur began a succesfull century in which the woodwinds were raised to the same level as the string instruments and the piano.

At this point Benny Goodman has to be mentioned. Far removed from the origin of the clarinet Goodman built up a new tradition for our instrument and became the most important clarinet player of the 20th century. He became known as the King of Swing and is still considered one of the greatest jazz-clarinetists . He also influenced the classical field by encouraging important composers to write for clarinet.

One other country should also be mentioned: Italy. There were no world-famous Italian clarinetists in the first half of the 20th century but there was a very good school, which placed emphasis on a round, dolce sound likened to that of the best singers. Edmondo Allegra for instance played the first performance of “L’histoire du soldat” by Strawinsky.

During the 20th century two forms of the instruments developed a very strong position: the French clarinet represented by the enterprise which became established already in 1825 Buffet Crampon and in Germany the German system represented by Uebel and Wurlitzer.The German Oehler-Clarinet was concentrated mostly in Germany and Austria and the French clarinetcame to dominate the rest of the world.

After decades of a semi-monopoly of the clarinet market by Buffet and Wurlitzer, around the turn of the century the market suddenly exploded. Interesting new clarinet manufacturers sprung up all over the world. Some of the most important being: Selmer, Seggelcke, Rossi, Leblanc. Naturally Buffet and Wurlitzer still remained on the market.

It is interesting to noice, that there isn’t a strict separation anymore between the narrow bore of the German system and the wider bore of French clarinets. A lot of Boehm clarinets come closer to the German bore, similar to that of the Dutch-Clarinet. The sound is obviously not influenced by the key mechanism but by the bore, the mouthpiece, the reeds and of course our method of playing.

In the 20th century the quality of the clarinet players increased a lot. This development began in Paris and then developed further with Benny Goodman and Personalities like Karl Leister, Hans Rudolf Stalder, Gervase de Peyer, Stanley Drucker, Robert Marcellus, Giuseppe Garbarino, resulting in a significant raising of the world-wide standard of clarinet playing. Today the standard of playing is almost similar to that of string-players and pianists and good players can be found world-wide.

And what about national schools? This is a difficult question because it is not possible to make a a clear definition of how a German or French clarinetist for instance sounds. In todays international environment it is essentially impossible to recognize what school a player comes from. There are certain tendancies, but they aren’t clear and fortunately there are no particular walls and borders. At the moment there are a lot of personalites who have an individual style of playing, which is charaterised through their sound and the way of playing. Generally a young clarinetist doesn’t hear and get to no just one clarinetist.

He or she can listen to different players and take lessons over the whole world.

They have the unique opportunity of being able to try to find their own method of playing.

I think in general that there are three main tendances today:

1. There are no strict national borders any more. This is due to political changes and the ability to travel more.

2. There is a tendancy towards a more homogenous clarinet sound.

3. Because we can feel freer of traditions, we have a huge opportunity to

find our own personal way of playing – and to hear a wide range of individual styles.

Being Swiss I am very familiar with this situation. Switzerland is a very small country but one in which a good clarinet school has developed over years.This school was lead by Hans Rudolf Stalder and Thomas Friedli and due to interactions with Gemany, France and Italy we were able to develop our own individual style .

The future promises to be very interesting. There are good clarinettists all over the whole world. New, interesting instruments are being built incorporating new concepts in addition to moves to maintain strong traditions and to rediscover the quality of older Instruments. One thing remains clear: The perfect clarinet doesn’t exist (In the same way a perfect life doesn’t exist) but the clarinet world is full of interest both in terms of playing and listening

B: new releases

· My friend and world-renown composer Daniel Schnyder (Switzerland/USA) just

finished his lates compostion for the clarinet, a concerto, Matrix 21 that will be premiered by Eddie Daniels in January in Lausanne (Switzerland). He has already composed a number of compositions for clarinet, such as a sonata with Piano and a concerto with wind-band (for Allan Kay and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra) More information available at: <>

· I have just received an interesting clarinet solo piece from a Taiwanese-American composer

Shih-Hui Chen „twice removed“ (Subito Music Corporation). It is around 8’ and is also suitable for advanced pupils.

My own new releases:

· In November 2009 two new CDs released on the label neos. On CD

„virtuoso“ encorporates a DVD with video-clips of my 6 clarinet etudes and Stockhausen’s „Der kleine Harlekin“. In addition to my recording of my clarinet-concerto with strings. On CD “concerto” is the first recording of the Clarinet Concerto by Boris Tschaikowsky and my orchestration of “Petite Pièce” by Claude Debussy.

· My six Etudes de Concert (jumping around, perpetuum, plaine ondulée,

Vals all’appogiatura, hommage, barnbaro) release in February 2009. (Edition Musik Hug)

C: Comments on questions and open discussion

I’m looking forward to all your comments and suggestions.