Sara removed the now-wet reed from her mouth and sighted it on the mouthpiece to make sure it was aligned properly. she slipped the ligature over the tapered tip of the mouthpiece and carefully tightened the screw. Each adjustment was precise, like someone reassembling a firearm after cleaning.
The was one of her favorite parts of playing. The meditative aspects of assembling the clarinet helped to clear her mind before the hour that lay ahead. She worked the mouthpiece onto the neck, feeling it reach the place she knew would be closest to in tune.
The edge of the cork was worn and would need to be replaced in a few months. It didn’t matter right now. What mattered now was taking the time to do things properly.
first came the tone exercises, from pianissimo to fortissimo with a B-flat (the lowest in the register), working her way up to the highest note she could play in octaves, then back down in fifths, fourths, and finally in minor thirds.
The sound of the diminished scale was particularly haunting on the clarinet she reflected, though the effect was somewhat ruined by the fact that each note was held for a minimum of 32 beats, in order to train her diaphragm.
Once she finished with these exercises, she started working her fingering exercise. octaves, fifths, fourths, minor thirds. Ahh, there’s that sound. No matter how many times she played it, it somehow resonated.
Each day she practiced a rhythm for 10 minutes. Today was triplet quarter. The same pattern as someone pronouncing “cinnamon bun” (ta ta ta taaa). running her fingers up and down the arpeggios, she let her mind wander and was noticed almost immediately the drop in quality.
Refocusing on the tone, she worked, shifting focus from fingers, to embouchure, to breath and back.
After the exercise was complete, she looked up. 20 minutes had gone by. Shoot! I need to practice the new chart. She pulled it out. It was Ornithology, by Charlie Parker.
“Why did I agree to do this?” her second thoughts asked. They were always trying to find a way out of whatever discipline she had committed to.
“Because it’s a great song and will make us better.” her first thoughts said. Logical as ever, of course.
“Yeah, but why this song?”
“Because of the reason you’re trying to weasel out of this.” she told herself. “Because it’s hard.”
That silenced Sara’s second thoughts until the frustration had built up in her third play through at 1/8 speed.
“See? I told you, we’ll never get this.”
“Breathe.” said her third thoughts. This was the part of her that watched the others in her head. The one that got called in to settle disputes and keep her on track.
“Breathe and let’s get through this. We can do this.” Although Sara never thought about it in those terms, the sound of the voice and words it spoke were exactly like her mom would have said if she were there. Somehow the words and tone always got to her and helped calm things.
“Okay” said her first thoughts, “Now that the interruptions are over, let’s begin again.”