Lorraine Woiak
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How To Pick Up Clarinet at Any Age

The Beginner's Guide to Clarinet

Photo taken from nbcnews.com

Music has a tremendous influence on everything in life, from entertainment to mental health. That said, learning how to play an instrument for the first time may be daunting. Whether you have kids starting in band or you are in your 70s, here are the basics you should know about picking up the clarinet.

Getting an Instrument

There are millions of music stores to choose from and hundreds of instruments to explore. Finding a quality instrument at a decent price is not as difficult as it may seem. Stores offer a variety of plans to accommodate anyone's needs. Many places have a "rent-to-own" program. This is what I would recommend to any beginner as you will not have to pay a big sum of money as you would when buying an instrument but you also have the chance to own it if you decide to stick with it, unlike a normal rental. You will pay a fee every month just like you would when renting. However, your payments will go toward the sales price of the instrument until you paid enough to own it. It is pretty much a dispersed payment plan. Every contract is different so make sure you read carefully. With some, everything you pay goes towards buying the instrument; with others, you only get a discount on the instrument.

If you do decide to buy an instrument right away, you can often find cheaper used ones in store or online. Be careful with buying off of non-music websites like eBay as instruments may not be as in good condition as listed. 

Check out these music stores to get started...

Family Music Centers

Melk Music

Popplers Music

What Instrument to Get

There is a variety of instruments designed for a variety of purposes whether it be beginning marching band or professional solos. The most common clarinets are wood and plastic. For younger musicians and students, it would probably be best to get a plastic clarinet as they are cheaper and require less maintenance. This is what most people start learning on. If you are buying one for yourself then it doesn't hurt to look at wood ones. Wood provides a better sound but it is difficult to appreciate the quality of them unless you go through playing on a plastic first. As you will discover, there are thousands of brands to choose from too. Everyone has their own preference so it would be best to go out to some stores and test out some instruments first. 

Other Equipment You Need

These things are a must. They can be found at any music store for only a few bucks.

  1. Cork grease (no it's not chap-stick)                                                             
  2. Swab
  3. Mouth piece brush
  4. Reeds (most beginners start with Rico #2 reeds)

There is a never ending list of things to get that are not necessary to play the instrument but sure make life easier. Here are just a few.

  1. Clarinet stand 
  2. Music stand
  3. Reed guard (makes reeds last longer ultimately saving money)
  4. Thumb rest cushion
  5. Mouth piece pad

Lessons and Books

Lessons can be beneficial to musicians of any age and skill level. Contrary to what most think, lessons don't have to be expensive. If you are just beginning, it will not be too hard to find talented high school or college students who are looking to make a little extra cash teaching basic skills. Many music stores also offer lessons at a reasonable price. The most important thing to remember about lessons is that you will only get out what you put in to them. If you are just going to your lessons and not practicing on your own, you are not going to see too much improvement. Many lesson teachers will recommend specific books targeted at your skill level. Essential Elements is a series that covers a great range of abilities. I have found it to be the most effective book for teaching beginners as it has fingering diagrams and does a great job at explaining every music concept you come across. As you progress, you may find other books that interest you. My lessons teacher in high school gave me Rose Etudes, a book I am using with my current instructor in college. Remember to start easy and push through the frustrations. 

End Note

Hopefully this article helped you find out how to get started in your career as a clarinetist. Everyone's experience is different and while some may pick up a new instrument easily, others will struggle. Don't give up, follow your dreams, and have fun. Now go play some music! 

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