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A beginner's guide to the clarinet

What is a clarinet?

The clarinet is a reeded musical instrument and a member of the woodwind family. It is generally viewed as being the chief woodwind instrument and boasts one of the largest pitch ranges of its family. It is played by blowing into a mouthpiece containing a single reed, with different notes created through blowing technique and by pressing the keys that run along the upper and lower joints of the instrument.

As with most woodwind instruments it needs to be assembled before playing, with the clarinet made up of five separate pieces - the mouthpiece, barrel joint, upper joint, lower joint and the bell, from which the sound is emitted.

Types of clarinet

There are three main types of clarinet, Bb (or B-flat), alto and bass. The Bb is the most commonly played of the three and is perhaps the one that most quickly springs to mind when the word clarinet is mentioned. It is generally viewed as being a good place for people to start when learning the clarinet, with its size suitable for beginners. Once a person has mastered how to play one type of clarinet, it is generally relatively easy to learn how to play one of its sister instruments.

Clarinets on the market

Clarinets designed specifically for beginners, such as the Student Clarinet, are available to purchase from £85. This Bb model is capable of taking a would-be musician all the way up to grade six standard and boasts a fluid and clear tone up and down its pitch range, with easy blowing and balanced action. It is also relatively low-maintenance and is a durable and robust instrument that comes with a host of extras. These include cork grease to assist with assemblage, a cleaning cloth and a featherweight hard case complete with handles and straps.

For £129.95, beginners can purchase the Deluxe Clarinet, which is designed to take learners up to grade six and beyond. Its hard rubber body gives it superior projection and tone to resin-composite alternatives and it looks and feels as if it is made from wood.

Those looking to advance their playing further could try a Rosedale Custom Ebony Bb Clarinet for £399, which has a professional quality solid ebony body and can create rich and warm tones. Or for those seeking to play at an advanced level, there is the Yamaha YCLCX II Custom Pro for £1,564.95. This instrument is hand-crafted from specially selected granadilla and is acclaimed for its clarity of tone and full round sound.

For players looking to branch out and learn the other models of clarinet there is the 2009 model Bass Clarinet for £699 or the Alto Eb Clarinet for £799. Yamaha offers advanced versions of both in the form of the Yamaha YCLCX II Custom Pro Bb Clarinet and the Yamaha YCL221 II Bass Clarinet.

Other things to consider

A number of additional accessories are often purchased to aid with clarinet learning, many of which are available in the Student Clarinet Complete Beginner Pack for £99.95. As well as containing the same features as the standard Student Clarinet package, this set includes a black telescoping sheet music stand, a pack of ten 2.5-inch Rico Clarinet Reeds and the Ultimate Beginners DVD instructional video.

In addition, special maintenance kits are available, such as the Odyssey Clarinet Care Kit for £14.99. This set is designed to improve the clarinet's performance and extend its longevity and includes a polish cloth, deluxe thumb rest cushion, cotton brush swab, weighted pull-through swab, nylon mouthpiece brush, multi-purpose dust brush, cork grease stick, bore oil and a guide on how best to care for a clarinet

Posted on 20 Mar 2009 09:00 to category : Tips and advice

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