Music Education

Tips for Learning how to Play the Clarinet

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"Tips for Learning how to Play the Clarinet"
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Clarinet - the ol' licorice stick!


1. If you have a second hand clarinet, get it overhauled. Pads can become leaky, springs unsprung which makes it very tricky to play. At least start with an instrument that works.

2. Reeds. For beginners, start with 'soft' reeds (graded 1 - 1 1/2). Buy at least 5 to start - you will break them, as you are learning to care for them.

3. Invest in a few lessons with a music teacher, preferably a clarinet specialist. Simply put, this is due to the fact it is much easier to set up properly when you have someone guiding you. Not sure if you did it right? Ask the expert.

4. Other accessories that make learning clarinet easier:
i) A Music stand. Very important. You will need one, to ensure you play with correct posture.

ii) A clarinet cleaner. Your instrument needs to be cleaned after each practice. It is easy and quick to do, and inexpensive to buy from any reputable music store.

iii) A pencil and notebook. The pencil is for you to write on music and the notebook to keep a copy of music symbols and fingerings as you progress. Its a great reference tool.

iv) Cork grease - especially if you have a new clarinet. Apply a little to your finger and rub onto cork joints to make set up easier. Use sparingly.

v) A beginners Clarinet 'How to' music book. There are lots of the market, have a look in a sheet music store to pick one you like the look of. They are all different, with the same end result.

vi) Thumb rest. Available from good music stores. Not essential. Is a little cushion for your Right hand thumb. They are usu sally very inexpensive.

5. Have a good attitude. Be positive about your progress! Make sure you remember that squeaking is part of learning clarinet - you will improve (squeak less) with regular practice.

6. Physical - the clarinet has many keys that little hands cannot reach. The youngest I have started students is 7 years - but they were ready in physical (and mental) size.

7. Posture - When learning the clarinet, it is a good idea to sit. Put your bottom on the front of the chair with your back straight and not touching the back of chair. Put you feet on the floor, slightly apart. Shoulders slightly back. Be comfortable.

Your clarinet should be straight in front of you, held at a 45 degree angle.

Hands should curved around the clarinet, making two 'C' figures. (Left hand 'C'; right hand opposite.) Left hand goes on top. Keep fingers close to keys.

8. Mouth position or 'embouchure'. Teeth on lightly top of mouthpiece, chin flat, 'smile'. When you take in air, your teeth stay on the mouthpiece. Your lower jaw opens to breathe more air. Think 'too, too, too' to get the correct tongue action on the reed.

9. Breathing. Take very deep breaths, filling up in lower cavity, the diaphragm.

10. Aim for short practices when you start - about 10 - 15 minutes - to build up your embouchure muscles. 3 practices a week is a great way to start!

The clarinet is one of the most versatile musical instruments, it can play over 3 octaves which is effectively over 40 different notes! It is used in different styles of music: classical, jazz, popular and church music to name a few. You can also join a variety of music groups: Orchestras, Big Bands (jazz) or Concert Bands which are filled with like minded fun people! I wish you well - good luck!

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