Submitted by Jeff Purtle on Fri, 06/10/2016 - 12:15
Herbert L. Clarke's Technical Studies cover

In 1912 Herbert L. Clarke wrote one of the mostly widely used trumpet method books. It is still in use today by every serious professional and aspiring professional trumpet and brass player. The size of the book, 53 pages, is far outweighed by the volume of wisdom contained in just a few brief comments on how to use the book. This book however, like many books, has been subjected to reinterpretation. In the early 1980s the book was reprinted with translations into three languages (English, German, and French). At that time the English text was changed, possibly for easier translation. What was lost were some of the original comments that agreed with Clarke’s philosophy of brass playing. This article is first intended to be a source of the original text and secondarily explain how it fits with his other writings and why the revisions are not in agreement with his original intended meaning.

The editors and revisers of many other method books have changed the text to a different meaning and neglected correcting obvious errors with notes and misprints, as Claude Gordon so appropriately noted in his recent editing of the Saint-Jacome's Complete Method For Trumpet or Cornet. The different layout of the current revision of Clarke’s Technical Studies (as opposed to the original) shows that the look of the slur lines is different and sometimes unclear whether a slur ends at a given measure at the end of a line or continues to the following line.

The complete version of this article, with all Clarke's fingerings, is accessible with an account in the private Clinic and Private Student pages. These were from Claude Gordon who received them directly from Clarke. Some of these are listed in Claude Gordon’s Systematic Approach To Daily Practice, but not the complete list. They are not to be seen as an option in practice, but are to be played every time. Some fingerings will prove to be more awkward and some less awkward than the normal fingerings. The end result is better control of each finger and a working knowledge of the fingering to use in any given situation.

All of the metronome markings are possible as well as the breath control instructions. Clarke and others have gone beyond the goals set in the book.



This work has been especially written to enable the cornet student how, through proper practice and application, any obstacles which may occur in musical passages written for his instrument, may be overcome.
By playing the exercises contained in this book in one breath, according to instructions, the student will acquire endurance without strain or injury. The muscles which control the lips must be trained until they are elastic and strong, and always remembering that only a slight pressure and not brute force is necessary to produce a tone.
It will be found possible to play the highest, as well as the lowest note in these exercises with equal tone quality, if they are practised according to the instructions that precede each study. All the exercises in this book are playable, and not very difficult, if practised slowly at first and not for too long a time. I have used them in my daily practice for years and they have been the means of my reaching the highest notes after playing a two hour concert and also of preserving my lips so that they never tire. What has been a help to me should surely be of benefit to other cornet players.
One cannot expect to attain the highest point of excellence without hard work and perseverance. Never be perfectly satisfied with yourself. Try to improve to some extent each day and to experience that satisfying pleasure in having conquered what at first seemed an impossibility.
Correct the least mistake you make immediately. Bad habits are easily formed and difficult to remedy.
To become an expert on the cornet, one should familiarize himself with as much material for this instrument as possible. In this way a substantial musical background is assimilated and much information and knowledge is gained.
There are few celebrated cornet soloists, although thousands play the instrument. Most players practice incorrectly and by neglecting the elementary work, lose many of the benefits to be gained.
The third book of this series is devoted to characteristic studies of every description. While slightly more difficult, the melodious element has not been overlooked and the entire material has been graded with the same care as the contents of this Second Series.


This work has been especially written to enable the cornet student to conquer any technical difficulties he might encounter in the literature for the instrument.

By carefully following the instructions in this book, the student will build up strength and endurance without strain or injury to his embouchure. If the lips remain flexible and the tone is note forced, it will be possible to play easily any note, regardless of the register. The exerices (misprint) in this book are not very difficult if practiced slowly at first. I have used them for years in my daily practice to maintain my endurance and to prevent fatigue. Hard work and dedication will be required to achieve a high degree of excellence; but by correcting your slightest mistake and by striving for improvement each day, your efforts will be rewarded by conquering what seemed, at first, impossible.
The student should familiarize himself with as much of the cornet repertoire as possible in order to gain a substantial and diverse musical background.
The third book of this series contains slightly more difficult studies of every description which have been graded with the same care as the contents of this Second Series.


An important point about breath control and playing “in one breath” is left out of the revision. This is especially important because the point lost is that playing that way will cause certain things to happen. The phrase “the muscles that control the lips” is changed to “the lips”, which doesn’t agree with Clarke’s statements in other writings that “The lips do not play the instrument.” The original emphasis about there being a wrong way to practice is left out, leaving the impression that mere “hard work and dedication” by repetitious practice of correct notes will solve everything. The encouragement to familiarize oneself with more repertoire in the revision “in order to gain a substantial and diverse musical background”, while good, misses the original point of not just solos but “elementary work” (found in method books). By removing the original sentence following the comment the context and emphasis is not what Clarke was trying to say.

First Study


All these exercises must be played very softly. By practicing in this way your lips will always be fresh and under control. If they are played loud, the opposite effect may result, and the lips may be permanently injured. The principle is the same as that of a physician prescribing three drops of medicine which will cure, whereas a spoonful will kill.
Practise each exercise eight to sixteen times in one breath. Press the fingers down firmly and keep the lips moving. Contract the lips slightly in ascending, relax in descending.


Do not exceed the dynamic markings indicated in these exercises to avoid fatigue and strain to the lip muscles. Permanent injury to the emrouchure (misprint) may occur if the tone is forced.

Practice each exercise eight to sixteen times in one breath. Tighten the lips slightly in the ascending line, loosen them in descending lines.


The words “tighten,” “loosen” and “strain” were never in the original. “Tighten” is not the same as “contract.” The dynamics of pp were an eventual goal and not to be played until sufficient power and control was developed. The exercises eventually can be played 55 times in one breath and the etude 4 times. "Press the fingers down firmly" was left out of the revision and this was such a key point that Claude Gordon would stamp "LIFT FINGERS HIGH, STRIKE VALVES HARD" in red ink on every exercise like Clarke's Technical studies. For further clarification on these items read Clarke’s other three books, especially Setting Up Drills, and books by Claude Gordon, who studied with Clarke ten years.

Second Study


Accent the first of each group of four notes to insure perfect rhythm.
When practising this Study, first play each exercise slurred, as marked, then practise it single tonguing very lightly. To become still more expert try double tonguing.
Should certain exercises prove more difficult than others, work on these until they are thoroughly mastered. Do not waste time on those that are easy. Remember that to improve one must master difficulties each day.


Play these exercises legato at first, then very lightly single tongue them. Finally, to further develop your articulation, try double tonguing. Accent where indicated to maintain a steady rhythm.

Concentrate your practice on those exercises that are more difficult for you -- don’t waste time on those that are easy.


Legato in the revision does not mean the same as slur in the original.

The exercises should be continued up and octave, repeating back to #33.
The exercises eventually can be played 12 times in one breath and the etude 4 times.


See my complete article and Claude Gordon’s Systematic Approach To Daily Practice (p. 20).

Third Study


Practise without repeating at first, until the fingers are under perfect control.
These exercises are excellent for training the lips to be flexible in slurring, single and double tonguing, especially toward the end of the Study.
Etude III can be played entirely in one breath with practice.


Practice without observing the repeat signs until you have thoroughly mastered the fingering. Remember to keep the lips soft and relaxed throughout.
When you have mastered your legato technique, try single, and double tonguing.
Practice Etude III until you can play it in a single breath.


In Ex #46, both measures 7 and 8, beat 3 is to be a pedal E# and played first valve. Clarke considered this part of the cornet range as seen in his Elementary Studies book.

The breath control instructions from the original show Clarke’s overall approach of letting breath control develop at the players pace, never being stressed at the expense of clarity and accuracy. The upper notes should be accented to get the correct feel as explained by Claude Gordon in Brass Playing Is No Harder Than Deep Breathing (p. 28). The original does not say to keep your lips soft and relaxed, but that the exercises with train and develop it. The etude can be played in one breath, but this might take time and several times through the book.


See my complete article and Claude Gordon’s Systematic Approach To Daily Practice (p. 22).

Fourth Study


On account of the difficultly of producing a whole tone trill on the cornet it is often played in an irregular and clumsy manner. It was in order to overcome this difficulty that these exercises were written.
Mechanical imperfections are frequently found in the construction of cornets, but by slow and careful practice these defects can be remedied and the intervals made to sound clearly in the different registers. These irregularities are often found in the interval from B(natural) to C#, in Ex. 71; also C to D in Ex. 72.
The fingers as well as the lips must be elastic.
Single and double tongue the exercises after you have made sufficient progress in slurring them perfectly.
Try to play Etude IV in one breath. It is possible


These exercises were written to overcome the difficulty of producing the whole tone trill on the cornet.

With slow and careful practice, the mechanical imperfections found in some instruments can be surmounted. The most troublesome intervals are B(natural)-C# (Ex. 71) and C-D (Ex. 72).
The fingers and lips should remain flexible throughout this study. When you have mastered these exercises as written, single and then double tongue them.
Practice Etude IV until you can play it in one breath.


The overall concept of developing breath control is missed slightly in the revision. Clarke’s line of priorities is as follows: correct practice, accuracy, speed, breath control with numerous repetitions. Clarke’s definition of the seven items of correct playing in his Setting Up Drills should be compared to Claude Gordon’s seven items in his Systematic Approach To Daily Practice.


See my complete article and Claude Gordon’s Systematic Approach To Daily Practice (p. 24).

Fifth Study


Endurance is 90 per cent of cornet playing, and will-power is necessary to accomplish what is considered an impossibility by many players.
Diligent practice of the preceding material must have improved the breath control of the player who should now be ready for this Study containing more ambitious exercises. Here is a test of endurance and breath control as these exercises comprise a range of two octaves.
Do not attempt Ex. 94 until you have played the preceding ones over many times with perfect ease. Then try the next a step higher and so on until you have mastered all. Remember that a twenty story building requires a much firmer foundation than a structure of only two stories.
Do not strain or force the tone. Single and double tonguing this study will add to your advancement.
Etude V must be played in one breath.
These minor and major scales are written to promote agility of the fingers, which is so important in solo playing. They should be played very slowly at first, then as rapidly as possible in one breath.
Play the entire page in one breath.


Mastery of the preceding material will have improved your breath control and endurance, and you should now be prepared for these more advanced studies.

Do not advance to a new exercise until you have thoroughly mastered the previous one.
Observe the dynamics carefully to avoid lip strain. When you have conquered the study as written, single and double tongue it.
These scales will help to improve your finger technique. Begin slowly and practice until you can play them many times in one breath.
Play the entire page in one breath.


The subject of will-power in developing breath control is left out of the revision. Notice that Clarke now says with italics “Etude V must be played in one breath.” To be an accomplished brass player you must have the attitude of an athlete that sees his goal and won’t let anything stop him.

The original third paragraph is changed so much as to remove the specifics about how to advance the range in this particular type of study. The point is systematic development at the pace each individual player can handle. With this in mind the exercises can be extended far beyond even what is in the book. “Lip strain” is a phrase Clarke never would have used. (I have heard the etude played two times in one breath.)


See complete article.

Sixth Study


Another form of major and minor scale practice in different registers; a great help towards endurance, technic and elasticity of the lips.
Both tonguings should be practised as usual.
Perhaps now you will realize that much more benefit is derived from playing these exercises in one breath than by holding long tones. At the same time endurance, technic, elasticity of lips and the knack of reading music rapidly, is gained.


These scales, which encompass nearly the entire range of the instrument, will improve your endurance and lip technique. Practice as written as well as single and double tongued.
You will begin to realize that your technique, endurance, and music reading facility will improve far more by playing these exercises than by simply playing long tones.


The point of playing these “in one breath” is left out. This is a significant error because the main point is a long tone on one note verses a particular exercise that moves around the instrument with coordination of the fingers, wind control, flexibility and range. Long tones are stagnating by comparison.

This is not over the entire range as the revision states. Clarke in his Elementary Studies book shows that the cornet can play from double pedal C to double high C and he was known to play to triple high C. Cornet soloists of that time played higher and lower on inferior instruments by today's standards. “Lip technique” was never a phrase or concept of Clarke.


See complete article.

Seventh Study


The practice of chromatic triplets is beneficial to all cornet players. In this Study there are a series of triplets in all registers, augmented by arpeggios which are most helpful. Master each exercise by playing it as clearly and fluently as a good violin or clarinet player would do. Frequently I have had a clarinetist play over certain exercises with me, so that I might imitate him in reproducing difficult studies on my cornet as fluently as he did on the clarinet. It is a good idea to try this.
Notice the change of time from sixteenth triplets in Ex. 154, common time, to sixteenth notes in six-eighth time in Ex. 155. Quite a distinct change in rhythm.
Practice these arpeggios triple tongue also, but do not strain to reach the high notes. Use double tongue for Ex. No. 155, 156, 157.
Arpeggios using the chord of the diminished seventh.
Play each exercise from four to eight times in one breath.


This study contains chromatic triplets as well as arpeggios in all registers. Strive for the same clear, fluid tone that would be achieved by a good clarinetist. In fact, it would be very beneficial to play this study with a clarinetist in order to better imitate his or her smooth tone.

Note the change in rhythm that occurs from Ex. 154 to 155.
After practicing these arpeggios as written, triple tongue exercises 151-154 and double tongue now. 155-157. Do not play too loudly to avoid strain on the high notes.
The following diminished seventh arpeggios should be played from four to eight times in one breath.


Wrong note in line 8, measure 2, beat one, E instead of D.

Several times the revision warns of not playing too loud on high notes, which is never emphasized the same way by Clarke. Notice the crescendos on all ascending lines. This can also be seen in other method books. This is very important and for the purpose of coordinating wind power with all the other items.


See my complete article and Claude Gordon’s Systematic Approach To Daily Practice (p. 30).

Eighth Study


Here are more chromatics in an extended form to test technic, flexibility of lips and also for acquiring fluency of tone. When practised softly the lips will never feel fatigued no matter how many times the exercises may be repeated. These exercises will strengthen the whole system, but must not be attempted until sufficient progress has been attained.
Practise them both with single and triple tonguing.


These extended exercises in chromatics will aid in the improvement of lip and finger technique as well as tone production. Careful observance of the dynamics will prevent fatigue regardless of the number of times each exercise is played.

Do not attempt this study until the preceding material has been mastered. Practice single and double tonguing when you have your legato technique under control.


The term “lip technique” is used again by the revision.


See complete article.

Ninth Study


Each of the following chromatic scales advances one step higher and each one is to be played four or more times in one breath. No strain is necessary if played properly.
My daily practice, four times in one breath, to test my endurance under all conditions.
To play these last two exercises correctly, and at the marked tempo in a single breath, requires a cornet with perfect valve action. Otherwise the valves may stick or not respond immediately. Under these conditions the player is badly handicapped and often becomes discouraged. A good instrument is half the battle.


Each of the follwng (misprint) exercises should be played four or more times in one breath. You will not need to strain on the high notes if you keep your lips flexible and avoid playing too loudly.
The following is my daily endurance test. It should be practiced four times in one breath.
The last two exercises will require rapid finger technique in order to play in one breath. An instrument with good valve action is an absolute necessity so that the valves will not stick or respond slowly.


This is a perfect example of the revision interpreting what Clarke meant by “played properly” to mean “keep the lips flexible and avoid playing too loudly.”

Tenth Study


The cornet has unlimited possibilities. This is demonstrated nearly every day in some part of the world by ingenious players who have a knack of working out, with comparative ease, original freak or stunt playing which surprises the entire cornet fraternity.
This study illustrates how, by using arpeggios, a melody may be played to sound complete, without an accompaniment.
Play the small notes sotto voce, or like a whisper, accenting the large notes full and strong. Of course, the lips must be soft and pliable to obtain good musical results.


This study demonstrates some of the virtually unlimited potential of the cornet. In these four tunes, the grace notes form the harmonic accompaniment and the accented notes form the melody.
The melody should be brought out strongly while the accompanying grace notes should be played softly. Make sure that your lips remain soft and flexible throughout.


The first paragraph has been changed, which encouraged creativity in being one of those to work out things to demonstrate and surprise other players. If it were not for the great players of the past setting high standards we would not have the expected level of playing we do today. We must all press on to be the best and never be satisfied with anything less.

Other articles to read: Correct Trumpet Hand PositionBrass Playing Frequently Asked Questions

©2003 Jeff Purtle



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Some even consider the dexterity of the fingers.

Herbert Lincoln Clarke (1867 - 1945) was a self-taught cornetist. You can read about his struggle to perfection in his collection of memories of how I became a cornet.

Since the book disseminated technical studies, some faculties Essay Help and specialists gave their hints and tips about the use of the characteristic activities.

In the presentation, Clarke said: "Each of the activities of this book is playable, and not very annoying, if it is repeated in the beginning and not so long ago, I have been in my daily practice for many years and they were the methods for to play the most amazing sounds after a two-hour show and also not tired, they save my lips with the goal.

The protagonist in the book was Candid Simon, who played with Clarke in the Sousa group.

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