Such is the repeated lament of so many grade examiners. Students almost invariably identify this as their area of greatest weakness and all too many teachers profess that they are at a loss as to how to address the issue.
Scales and arpeggios pose a particular difficulty for wind players in that there are few simple, recognisable patterns of fingering. Keys are attached to the instrument in all sorts of odd places, in what can seem like a haphazard manner; some open holes when depressed, some close holes. There are many alternative fingerings and, in the case of the clarinet, fingerings vary between registers. To rise to the demands of orchestras, chamber ensembles, jazz bands, solo performance, the player must have an ability to navigate through all the keys that is so securely based that it has become, effectively, instinctive. This can only be achieved through repetitive practice over a long period of time. The full technical requirement for Grade 8 can take several years for the average student to acquire. The disciplines required to acquire facility – one might say literacy – in all the tonalities should be applied from the earliest possible stage of learning as the whole process is cumulative.
This presents something of a challenge to both student and teacher: students find the drudgery unbearable, whilst teachers are reluctant to be drawn into conflict over the issue. Some respond by attempting to ignore scales and arpeggios altogether, but progress cannot be made that way. We have come to the conclusion that simply to present students with a book of scales and tell them to get cracking does not work in most cases. What is needed is a method which presents the material in manageable portions and guides the student through daily practice. This series of books attempts to fulfil that need. The theoretical background, fingerings and fingering patterns are explained on a lesson by lesson basis with exercises to enable the student to assimilate the various coordinations. Each lesson is followed by a six-day practice schedule. Thus the student is guided at every stage. This does not in any way diminish the rôle of the teacher. There is material for use in the lesson and the teacher should ensure that everything is understood and exercised so that the practice schedules can be followed effectively through the ensuing week.
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