Trying Out the Clarinet

Join Jeannette as she gives a tour of the clarinet! She’ll show proper reed placement and how to blow into the mouthpiece as well as a demonstration of the wide range of clarinet sounds.

Interested in playing the Clarinet? Here’s some things to consider:

Equipment Considerations:
Student level clarinets are made of a plastic resin, rather than the wood found in professional instruments, and pitched in the key of Bb. While wood instruments have more of that “clarinet sound”, plastic instruments are more durable. Wood instruments can chip and crack, which likely results in costly repairs. Once a player has some expertise it’s time to consider an upgrade to a wooden instrument.

Accessory Considerations:
Reeds! Clarinets require reeds to make a sound. However since reeds need to be replaced when worn out, they are an ongoing expense. Typically bought in a 10-pack, and depending on usage, a box of 10 reeds will usually last about 6 weeks. (This will vary depending on time played and strength of reed). A common misconception is that clarinet reeds are different sizes, as designated by the number on them (typically between 1.5 and 5). The number actually refers to the strength (or hardness) of the reed with the higher numbers being harder reeds. Beginners will likely start somewhere around a #2 reed but check with your instructor before committing to a whole box.

Mouthpieces! Beginner clarinets will typically come with a plastic mouthpiece. Upgraded mouthpieces made of hard rubber are available but check with the instructor before committing to this one-time expense.

Ligatures! The ligature holds the reed on to the mouthpiece. The typical beginner ligature is made of metal and has two screws for tightening the reed to the mouthpiece. Once again, a lot of what the “correct” ligature is comes down to personal preference or that of your teacher. Get their input before considering an upgrade (a one-time expense).

Maintenance Considerations:
The clarinet is played by blowing air into the instrument. This causes moisture to collect inside the clarinet which, if left there, will eventually seep into the pads and cause them to rot. After every playing session the instrument must be cleaned out with a swab (usually silk or some other absorbing cloth). Due to the nature of the instrument with so many different keys and pads that must all work together, regular adjustments will be necessary and must be performed by a qualified technician. The instrument will go out of adjustment regardless of how skilled or careful the player is, so do not assume it’s due to neglect or abuse!

Financial Considerations:
Student level plastic clarinets are usually one of the more modestly priced band instruments to purchase new (compared to other instruments) and are among the most affordable instruments available on a monthly rent-to-own basis.
Reeds will be the most consistent ongoing expense, especially if the player prefers one of the premium brands or cuts.
Upgraded new wood instruments will easily approach $2000 or more for some brands. This may be a down the road expense, but should be budgeted for if the player is planning to make clarinet their primary instrument.

Fun Fact:
The clarinet is one of the most flexible musical instruments in the world. It can be used for marching bands, military bands, jazz, klezmer or concert bands.