Monday, 9 April 2012

The strap

I consider it a successful term, by the standard of recent years, at the academy (formerly the high school). My goals were modest.  I wanted to correct the bad fingering technique of two eleven year old clarinettists by prevailing upon them to use a strap to hold the instrument.  The weight of the instrument means that young players invariably take the pressure off their right thumb by resting the side Eb/Bb key on the first knuckle of their index finger.  Not only does this prevent them from using this key, it also means that they can't reach the keys operated by the little finger of the right hand.

Their previous teacher, no doubt a pragmatist in search of a short-term solution, had taught them to play bottom F with the left hand. This is fine until the pupil needs to progress to playing bottom E and, dare I say it, cross the break into the clarino register. It took a while but now both girls use a clarinet strap and, optimist that I am, their index fingers will soon be employed to play, rather than support, the instrument.

The danger of straps is that children rely on them to hold the instrument unaided.  The site of a clarinet swinging from the thumbrest is unsettling to say the least.  And on the last day of term disaster struck.

I had told a young saxophonist on numerous occasions to 1. Put the strap around his neck before attaching the sax and 2. never let the instrument dangle.  While putting the strap, instrument attached, over his head the saxophone suddenly fell to the ground.  He was surprised that, in spite of having broken its fall with his foot, the instrument no longer played.  But not as surprised as he'll be when he gets the repair bill.


  1. If you hold a flute by the foot joint, and the fit is a bit loose, a similar disaster unfolds.

    1. Ouch! I've had a few accidents in my time but not that one. Expensive?

  2. Well it would have been, except that the lady in question (who was, as it happens, carrying my flute at the time) was holding the flute vertically by the head joint. She deftly raised a foot under the foot end of the flute whilst at the same time lowering the hand holding the head joint, and was able to prevent an expensive fall by clasping a now elongated flute between foot and hand.

    (I was trying out a new head joint and they don't always fit perfectly)