Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to become a Jazz Clarinetist

Several times over the last few years I've been asked the best way to become a jazz clarinetist. Well, that's a tough one, as there really is no best way, and perhaps there isn't even a good way. I don't recommend trying it unless you have to, and if you have to, you tend to find your own way of doing it. Having said that, here are some steps that I've noticed are pretty common. By posting them, I'm not endorsing them. Just saying they tend to be the way to go about it. Please drink responsibly. 

1. Quit your day job.

2. Go to New Orleans.

3. Eat blackened fish at the Gumbo Shop.

4. Play on the street or anywhere they'll let you sit in.

5. Acquire tremendous technique.

6. Learn everything you can about scales and chords.

7. Put on your headphones (or somebody else's if you can't afford your own anymore) and listen to Sidney Bechet, Leon Roppolo, Omer Simeon, Johnny Dodds, Jimmie Noone, Irving Fazola, and Pete Fountain.

8. Play Pete's solo to "St James Infirmary" in retrograde, only to realize it sounds better played forward.

9. Go to Chicago.

10. Drink vast quantities of bad alcohol. (Optional, but too well documented to leave off the list).

11. Shout Frank Teschemacher solos loudly and somewhat angrily while sauntering around the Loop.

12. Repent early and often.

13. Stare at the ceiling of your hotel room for several hours in the afternoon while running through Benny Goodman solos in your mind.

14. Smile softly to yourself, knowingly.

15. Drive to Shekomeko, NY, in the middle of the night, so as to arrive in early morning.

16. Imbibe the air.

17. Stand in the middle of Route 82 or 83 and contemplate the scenery while mentally noting the perfections of Shaw's solo on his last recording of "Don't Take Your Love from Me."

18. Call, email, or text her, saying it's not her fault and you're trying to set things right.

19. Pick up your horn.

20. Let the blues out before they kill you.

21. Lose technique to make rent ("Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth.")

22. Forget everything you learned, but forget it in the right way (or else all your learning will go to waste).  

23. Play 'A Closer Walk With Thee.' The right way this time.

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