Learning how to play clarinet is a fun and rewarding experience for students of all skill levels. A member of the woodwind family, the clarinet is used primarily in classical orchestral and concert band music, although it can also be found in jazz, klezmer, Brazilian, Bulgarian Wedding, and Turkish Folk music. While very uncommon, the clarinet has occasionally been used in western rock music.
The clarinet is played by placing the mouth around the mouthpiece with the bottom lip curved under to rest on the reed. The hands are then placed on the keys which can be depressed to create different notes. The clarinet is a single reeded instrument, meaning that wooden reed rests against the hollow mouthpiece and the vibrations between the two create sound. The thickness and hardness of the reed can influence the tone color and many clarinetists carve their own reeds in order to produce the sound they are looking for. Reeds are also mass produced and come in a variety of brands. Generally speaking, when a student is beginning to learn to play clarinet they will need a softer reed as they are easier to play with. Your teacher will be able to help determine what kind of reed is best for you.
Single reeded woodwind instruments date back to Ancient Greece and beyond, but the modern clarinet developed directly from a Baroque instrument known as the chalumeau. Around the turn of the 18th century, an instrument maker named Johann Christoph Denner added a register key to this instrument to create the first modern clarinet. The instrument caught on quickly and it had become a standard part of the orchestra by Beethoven’s time, although it was widely used before that. Mozart in particular loved the sound of the clarinet and he wrote many pieces featuring it. As the 19th century progressed, the clarinet was further developed to create a more consistent sound and many different sizes of the instrument exist. The most common clarinet is the Bb soprano clarinet, but this link will familiarize you with all the different members of the clarinet family.
Musika recommends that children wait to start learning how to play clarinet until at least seven or eight years of age. The main reasons for this are that smaller children can have difficulty reaching all the keys on the instrument. The clarinet also requires strong muscles in the face and good breath control in order to create the proper embouchure and to blow enough air through the instrument. Older children and adults of all ages can begin to learn to play clarinet at any time.
The clarinet comes in many different sizes, but beginning students should look to purchase or rent a Bb soprano clarinet as it is by far the most common. A local music store can also help you determine what a good fit for you would be and guides such as this can be very useful in determining what to look for. You will also need to purchase reeds which come in a variety of sizes and brands. Your Musika teacher can also be of help in deciding what the best route for you is both in choosing your instrument and in purchasing reeds.