O.J.'s Trumpet Page Artists and personalities



Mr. Clarke was a very modest man and a fine gentleman. He took care of me like a father would a son. I was just a young man. He gave me all the benefit of his experience. I was ready to leave the Sousa band at the end of the third week and go home. I had never played so much music in one day as we played in the Sousa band. My lips were swollen , I had a little callous hanging down from the inside of my lip. Yes, a real corn , I was pulling off my lip every morning with a pair of tweezers. I said to Mr. Clarke, "I'm afraid I'm going to have to go home because I can't stand this pace. This work is harder than anything I have ever done in my life. I'm going to have a talk with Mr. Sousa about it." So I did, I said, "Mr. Sousa, I'm afraid I'm a failure here because my lips are so tired, so swollen and dead that I can' t play." His answer was one of the most non-sensical and inane things I ever heard him say. He said, "I don't see why a cornetist can't play as long at one time as a violinist." I thought it was so ridiculous, I went out to my chair on stage and cried tears of sorrow and despair.

Mr Clarke leaned over and said, "Now don't you play a note tonight and in the morning come over and see me, I want to talk with you." The next morning I met him and he said, "Frank, I want to tell you, you are beautiful player when you are fresh, but you will never be fresh in this band. You know, I have gone through everything you are going through and more. You see, I had to go through this same experience to be able to find a way to build up the endurance to do this work. It has taken me years to do this. In the first place, Frank, you play with a little too much pressure on your lip. I'll show you how to strengthen those muscles in your lip and strengthen your embouchure so you can withstand this work." Then he took me up to his room and gave me the greatest cornet lesson I ever had. He showed me how to exercise the muscles of my face just like you would the muscles of your arms, to make them firm and strong. He said, "now tomorrow I don't want you to play and if Mr. Sousa looks at you, just ignore him, pay no attention to him." I said it was going to be hard to do that. He said, "You do what I'm telling you." All that day and all that night I didn't ply a note on the band. Then the swelling started to go down and the lip turned black and blue. Gradually I started in on the practice he showed me. You know, I used to hear him do it himself for about 30-40 minutes a day in his dressing room.

Mr. Clarke had developed a warm-up that was terrific. I used it myself and later I taught it to my students. Well, gradually the lip developed strong muscles, a strong embouchure was in the making and I stayed on the rest of the year without any further lip trouble. (these same studies have been published and are known as the "Technical Studies" by Herbert L. Clarke and are published by Carl Fischer, Inc., of New York City.) I owe a lot to this man, Mr. Clarke. Endurance is 90% of the skill of playing well. Later when he retired I was able to take over his chair and assume the same responsibilities that he carried.

These "Technical Studies" of Mr. Clarke were fantastic. You see most young players will put the mouthpiece up to their embouchure and set their mouth in one position and try to play all over the register of the cornet. That was my trouble. Mr Clarke had a theory. He said, "pronounce your vowels" and I said "A, E, I, O, U." Well he said, "Isn't your mouth in five different positions, one for each sound? Now try to say your vowels without moving your mouth. AH, see you can't."

Now I have been practicing this movement of vowel sounds every day since until the last day I played my horn. I got to the studio from one-half hour to forty-five minutes early and always went through these vowels sounds and the exercises. In many respects you don't eat the same things at every meal - you change the diet from meal to meal. It gives variety and helps the appetite. Thus by doing these different vowel constructions and the exercises that he wrote that went with each, you could really build an embouchure. When I played with Mr. Sousa I used to worry my life away as Mr. Clarke would play the "Sextet from Lucia" with a high Eb on the end and for an encore do the Quartet from "Rigoletto" in the same key and end on another high Eb. This really takes endurance. I used to ask, "how does he do it?" Now I know the secret also.

This was posted on tpin:
  From: JohnJ1409@aol.com
  Date: Sun, 27 Oct 1996 14:24:41 -0500
  Subject: HL Clarke and Frank Simon
My wife had an album that I recently discovered, "ASBDA Presents the Sounds of Sousa" which included a booklet of rehearsal techniques and this trumpet advice from HL Clarke to Frank Simon: