Clarinet Solo Preparation
A Course of Study and a Review of Recommended Solo Literature
Alan E. Stanek

Reflecting upon many years of auditioning high school clarinetists for honor groups, summer music camps band and orchestra placement, teaching junior and senior high private students and my own college/university applied music majors, I am amazed that these students play as well as they do. The best ones seem to be a result of an extra dose of talent, many hours of correct practice, and often outstanding instruction and modeling from their high school music teacher or private instructor.

However, my experience leads me to believe that too many instrumentalists today (including clarinetists) are going through a rather standard course of study which includes: Books I, II, and possibly III of a band method and band music with some scale and rhythmic drills for technique. Some may aspire to play a solo or chamber ensemble work at a yearly district music festival. When the student reaches the ninth grade they are informed of the requirements for All-State Honor Group auditions and given a copy of audition materials, often exercises from the Rubank Advanced Method for Clarinet and previously learned scales. For many, this ends their formal training.

Few of the many fine new band method books being published pay much attention to the idiosyncrasies of each instrument (particularly the clarinet), and many correct playing practices are either ignored or left out. The typical band method stresses fundamentals, which is good, and numerous rhythmic exercises, but not enough material for the practice of specialized skills that are unique to the clarinet and essential for learning and performing most of the clarinet literature found on state solo lists.

When directing/rehearsing the full band the non-clarinetist music instructor may not fully grasp and remember the special alternate fingerings that make for smooth and even finger technique. This is particularly true when considering the rotation of right and left little fingers, the correct altissimo register fingerings, correct positioning of the left thumb, crossing the "break", and the correct use of chromatic, trill, and resonate fingerings. Few band compositions are written in key of D major (E major for clarinet) or G Flat major (A Flat major) which demand special finger techniques. The other woodwind instruments have far fewer alternate fingerings (except perhaps the bassoon) and are octave overblowing. Band methods certainly have a place in the school curriculum, but these methods do not contain the essential material that will enable the clarinetist to perform much of the standard clarinet repertoire.

Clarinet students must be encouraged to study privately. What follows is an annotated Course of Study for Clarinet plus an annotated list of nineteen Preparatory Solos for Clarinet that can be used as solo literature for the younger, less advanced student.


Intermediate Method
Skornica and Miller

This volume of the Rubank series aids in the development of the intermediate clarinetist. These studies teach proper use of alternate fingerings that are essential for the development of flawless finger technique. As the subtitle indicates, this is the follow-up course for individual or like-instrument instruction. This work can be followed by the Advanced Method or works below.

20 Solo Studies for Clarinet
Wayne S. Clark, tran/arr.

Wayne S. Clark has selected and transcribed twenty Vocalises of the Italian operatic tenor, Marco Bordogni (1788-1856), for instrumental use. According to Clark's Preface, they have been progressively arranged to develop technique and musicianship through the interpretation of melody in all its varied forms of expression. The aim of study is the development of a beautiful, singing tone, and the attainment of the greatest fluency, not as an end in itself, but as a means of achieving artistic interpretation of all music. These studies develop breath control, articulation (especially legato), a tasteful use of ornaments (which need to be performed by the less experienced student) and a command of the instrument through correct use of auxiliary fingerings (which are indicated). In addition to the well-written six page essay on phrasing and interpretation, articulation markings and embellishments, the book has a separate piano accompaniment which would be useful for those first solo experiences.

60 Rambles for Clarinet
Leon Lester
Carl Fischer

These relatively short recreational studies were composed to provide the younger student with pleasurable melodic and rhythmic materials that explore rhythm, style and phrasing. Mr. Lester indicates in his preface that "their proven value as recreational and study material should lighten many lessons and brighten many practice sessions".

The Advancing Clarinetist
Leon Lester
Carl Fischer

The etudes contained herein are freely adapted from many of the traditional 19th century tutor-authors: Klose, Lazarus, Baermann, Weissenborn, and others. The difficulty level is medium. Students with staccato tonguing problems would benefit from practice on #15, with particular attention to notes in the chalumeau and throat registers only at first (e.g., meas. 1-8, 17-24, etc.). The legato tongue etude which precedes it would help prepare the tongue for correct placement thus reducing the "tutty tongue sound" so many students experience. The three forms of the diminished seventh chord are melodically explored in #13. Many of the etudes require correct placement and flexibility of the left hand index finger. Lester has edited in correct alternate fingerings to some extent. Unfortunately, Lester's The Developing Clarinetist - 31 Clarinet Studies is no longer in print from CPP/Belwin, Inc. This volume contains slightly more advanced studies of much use to younger players.

Clarinet Scales and Arpeggios
Avrahm Galper, ed.
Boosey & Hawkes (Canada) Ltd.

Galper, former principal clarinetists in the Toronto Symphony, has basically edited Albert's 24 Varied Scales and Exercises with additional technical studies to develop ease and tonal production in all registers of the clarinet. Particularly useful is the study for transition from chalumeau to clarion registers, preferred fingerings, mechanisms (somewhat like the short, one to two measure finger exercises, in Rubank's Advanced Method). This basic scale technique book includes annotated scales, thirds, arpeggiated tonic and dominant seventh chords, chromatic scales and diminished seventh arpeggios. Whole tone scales and arpeggios are at the end of this volume and should be incorporated with the scale studies.

Melodious and Progressive Studies
David Hite, ed.

There are two volumes of these studies containing expressive studies based on scales and arpeggios, melodic studies, and the Klose major/minor scales and thirds. Each group of studies is set in a progressive order. All studies in each key should be completed before going to the next key. For example, complete No. 1 in C Major of Demnitz scales, then No. 1 in C Major of Demnitz chord studies, etc. These studies are medium-easy to medium in difficulty and encompass up to four sharps and flats in major and minor keys, utilizing basic meter signatures, rhythms and articulations. Book II includes Caprices and Etudes by Gambaro and Dont and special studies for more intense work on the tongue, the left hand, and the left thumb. A glossary of unusual interpretive terms is found on the inside back cover.

Artistic Studies from the French School, Book 1
David Hite, ed.

This volume contains the 40 Studies, 32 Etudes, and 9 Etudes, effectively adapted from the great violin teachers of the 17th and 18th century, by Cyrille Rose. David Hite has edited these etudes and studies with breath marks for proper phrasing, added alternate fingerings, and traditional interpretations of tempi, etc. The first twenty studies can help the young clarinetist refine the basics of finger technique. Eighteen of the twenty are in major and related minor keys of no more than one sharp or flat. The sixteen slow, expressive studies of the 32 Etudes should be thoroughly learned. Daniel Bonade considered these studies to be the bible of the art of clarinet playing and the key to orchestral repertoire.

12 Etudes for Clarinet
Victor Polatschek
E. B. Marks

These twelve etudes which serve as a prelude to Polatschek's Advanced Etudes. are designed to develop an even and precise finger technique. The staccato exercises, Nos. 4 and 5, will help the student achieve perfect synchronization of fingers and tongue.

26 Studies for the Clarinet
Cyrille Rose

Rose transcribed and adapted these studies from the violin works of Mazas and Kreutzer. This is high quality music with a medium difficulty level (IV-V).

Foundation Studies
David Hite, ed.

This 1989 publication contains Carl Baermann's Method, Part III, Scales, Chords and Intervals. According to Mr. Hite*, it serves as a lifelong daily study book which can be used to solve nearly every technical problem the clarinetist will encounter. "How to practice" routines and general advice sections are included. Use of this book or Galper's volume, mentioned above, is recommended by all developing clarinetists.

*References to my annotations of Southern Music Company publications can be found in a very useful pamphlet entitled A Clarinetist's Study Guide by David Hite, available from the Southern Music Company, San Antonio, Texas 78292.


Baermann, C
Second Movement (from Concerto Militaire)
G. Schirmer: Solos for the Clarinet Player

This slow movement is similar in style and technical requirements to slow movements by Weber and Mozart.

Bassi, L./ed. H. Voxman
Nocturne (Rubank: C&C Collection)
Lamento/Nocturne (Rubank: Book of Clarinet Solos/Intermediate)

These first recital or festival solos for the younger student will help develop the student's ability to play cantabile melodies, make tempo changes, shape phrases dynamically, perform ornaments and cadenzas (easily worked up with the guidance from the teacher) within a six to eight minute selection. The student must have, or develop during the learning of these works, a sense of alternating little fingers, Italian musical terminology, a range from d' to e''', and a liquid tone in the clarion register. The accompaniment is medium in difficulty. These are favorite compositions for adjudication of the younger soloist.

Becker, J./Voxman
Rubank: C&C Collection

Becker's Romance and Marc Delmas' Promenade (see below) are similar in tempo and style. Both are fairly limited in range and technical demands. Becker's Romance is easier than the Delmas. It includes written out turns. The Delmas begins in E Major, modulating to a key signature without sharps or flats but with many chromatically altered tones. This is excellent practice for the little fingers. Both solos develop expressive playing and tonal control.

Beethoven/tr. Webster
Sonata in D
G. Schirmer

Beethoven wrote this work for piano - four hands in 1796. According to Michael Webster, "This transcription is meant to fulfill a dual purpose: as a solo work well within the technical means of the intermediate student, and as a recital piece valuable for its brevity and Mozartean charm." This work served as an introduction to the teaching of the Mozart Concerto and Larghetto (see below). Crisp, clean staccato tonguing is required. This piece works!

Busoni, Ferruccio
Elegia (from Suite K.88)
G. Henle USA

In a fairly pricey collection by the Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni entitled Fruhe Charakterstucke or Early Character Pieces, a six movement suite includes this lovely Elegia. This is a work unknown to most clarinetists and was recently recorded by Kari Kriikku on a CD of highlights from ClarinetFest '95, the annual conference of The International Clarinet Association. This is not the well-known Elegie by Busoni but rather an earlier work in an expressive, chromatic, 19th century style for your more mature players. A good preparatory study is #26 on page 27 found in Lester's The Developing Clarinetist noted above.

Delmas, M./Voxman
Rubank: C&C Collection

See note above under Becker's Romance.

Finzi, Gerald
Five Bagatelles
Boosey & Hawkes

These five short pieces by the 20th century English composer Gerald Finzi are excellent first recital pieces. The first four - Prelude, Romance, Carol, and Forlana explore the "singing" quality of the clarinet and are accessible by the upper intermediate clarinetist. The fifth movement, Fughetta, requires nimble fingers and the range is extended to altissimo g'''. For a first solo experience one could assign Carol and the Forlana for contrasting movements. The switch between simple and compound meters will challenge the intermediate player.

Koepke, Paul
Scherzo in C minor
Rubank: C&C Collection

A short, fun piece to help the developing clarinetist play with a light, playful staccato. Some irregular rhythms and a short cadenza are a challenge. The piano accompaniment is medium. The ensemble is easily "put together" and audiences find it attractive.

Mozart, W. A.
Adagio -- from the Concerto K. 622 (Rubank: C&C Collection)
Larghetto -- from the Quintet K. 581 (G. Schirmer: Solos for the Clarinet Player)

The Mozart movements above are similar in style and are excellent means to teach interpretation. Tempi are slow and leisurely, M.M. quarter note = c42-60. Students must learn to subdivide the beat. This is great music!

Pierne, Gabriel
Canzonetta, Op. 19
Rubank: C&C Collection

This short, instrumental work requires nimble fingers for the quick, arpeggiated melodic line. The short, meno mosso B section of this tripartite form allows the player to project a legato melody using alternating little fingers.

Schumann, Robert
Fantasy Piece Op.73, No. 1
Rubank: C&C Collection

This is genuinely romantic music for the clarinet. This original composition for A clarinet has also been effectively scored for violin, oboe, flute, cello, and even saxophone. The piano part is an integral member of this chamber ensemble and requires the performers to play triplets against duplets. The Rubank edition is for B-flat clarinet. Eric Simon has edited the entire work -Three Fantasy Pieces, Op.73 - as found in the G. Schirmer publication Masterworks for Clarinet. This edition contains the original for A clarinet and a transposed part for B-flat clarinet.

Stamitz, Carl
Concerto #3 in B-flat
C. F. Peters

To teach the classical style and technique, this work is more readily accessible than Mozart's concerto. Typical 18th century passage-work makes this a wonderful prelude to studying the concertos of Mozart and Weber.

Strauss, Richard
Romanze AV 61
B. Schott's Sohne

Written when Strauss was a youthful 15 years of age this ten minute work may tax the less mature player. Published in 1992, this work was given its first performance since 1879 by Sabine Meyer, clarinet and the Munich Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra. In a clarinet and piano version this work offers an interesting impression of what was yet to come from the pen of this famous composer.

Six Studies in English Folk Song
Stainer & Bell/Galaxy

Originally written for violoncello, these six simply, beautiful folk songs and excellent material for developing phrasing, a "singing tone quality" and smooth finger technique. The first five are medium-easy to medium in difficulty and can also be effectively performed on bass clarinet. The sixth song, a definite contrast to the previous songs, should be played lively. Tongue and finger coordination is required.

G. Schirmer

Attributed to Wagner, this 19th century composition by the clarinetist/composer Carl Baermann is most effective in performance by the player who can control the tone during long phrases at an Adagio tempo, M.M. quarter note = 42 or an eighth note = 84. The original composition, scored for clarinet and string quintet, is quite effective with piano or organ.

Sonata (mvt 2 or 3)
McGinnis & Marx

Wanhal was one of the earliest composers to write for the clarinet. The slow movement should be at a very leisurely tempo, M.M. quarter note = c.46, and is excellent preparation for Mozart's slow movements. The final movement is a rondo and serves as an introduction to the classical style. The 3rd movement is also published by Hal Leonard and found in the Learning Unlimited Solo Cassette Series, edited and performed by Ramon Kireilis. The Rondo Allegretto as well as other solos in this series is prefaced with a study guide which includes special fingerings, practice exercises and professional tips to help improve one's playing. A cassette provides clarinet/piano performance on side one and piano accompaniment only on the other. Nimble fingers and tongue are required for this movement. The piano part requires a sensitive performer.

Weber, C. M. von
Concerto No. 1 in F minor (2nd movement)
G. Schirmer: Solos for the Clarinet Player

Weber's works for clarinet, including the two concertos, the Concertino, the Variations, Op.33 and Grand Duo Concertante, are standard repertoire for high school and college clarinetists. The scale and arpeggio techniques, and articulation skills that are necessary to perform these works are developed through diligent practice of the exercises and etudes mentioned in the first part of this article. Exposure to the slow movements of Mozart's and Weber's works is essential to an understanding of the concept of "contrast" inherent in the word concerto. Such works can aide the preparatory student as they develop their clarinetistic skills.

Alan E. Stanek
Idaho State University
March, 1997

Copyright © 1997 Stanek, Alan E. All Rights Reserved