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The Clarke Variations By Eric Bolvin


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Eric Bolvin explains: There are two essential books that just about every trumpet player has studied; Arban’s Conservatory Method and Clarke’s Technical Studies. The Arban is fondly referred to as “the trumpet player’s bible”. If that is the case, then the Clarke should be “the new testament”. I consider Herbert L. Clarke to be the “George Washington” of trumpet, as he was the one of the first Americans to achieve greatness as a performer on the cornet. He was also one of the first notable pedagogues and taught such greats as Rafael Mendez and Claude Gordon, who was my teacher. I am fond of telling my students that they are the great-grandchildren of H. L. Clarke, one of our country’s first great virtuosos.

The impetus for this set of variations is based on the idea of an “Expanding Scale” or “Expanding Range”. Each set will start with a small range of notes covering an interval such as a5th and will expand over the course of the study to the whole range of the trumpet. The idea is to imagine you are “holding one note” and let your fingers do the rest. This concept is, of course, metaphorical but if employed will greatly enhance your technique and efficiency.

This is a progressive course, so it is recommended that you practice the studies in the order they are presented. Make note of the intervals in each study. Study 1 is all chromatic, so it is easier to transition from one note to another. The second group is based on Clarke Study 5 and is all diatonic. The third group is based on Clarke Study 2 which is diatonic with some thirds. The fourth group is based on Clarke Study 3 which is arpeggios. So with each group the intervals get a little more challenging. I’ve also included more chromatic work based on Studies 7 & 8.

The studies also start in the middle register and then work upward, leaving the lower register for the end. This is a great way to develop a sure setting for the entire range of the horn.

Check out some samples to the left, then grab an immediate PDF download above.

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