California Music Studios is your source for qualified music instructors in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and the greater Southern California area. We want to help you achieve your musical goals, and we believe anyone can learn how to play the clarinet with the right instructor.
Learn to Play the Clarinet with California Music Studios
For over 25 years, we have been committed to matching students and music instructors for in-home or studio clarinet lessons. Every teacher we work with conducts private lessons, allowing for one-on-one interaction and lesson plans that are tailored to your specific learning style and speed. We recommend hourly lessons once or twice a week, but the clarinet teachers we work with may suggest longer, shorter, more, or fewer lessons based on your progress. Ultimately, it’s up to you!
We report a success rate of 97% or better in matching students to music teachers. However, if you aren’t happy with the teacher you are assigned, we can easily swap your instructor for someone more to your liking. We understand that learning to play the clarinet is so much more enjoyable when you have a good rapport with your instructor.
History of the Clarinet
The humble, mellow clarinet evolved from the chalumeau, which reportedly existed as early as the 12th century. Simple in design, the chalumeau was the first true single reed instrument, and by the 18th century, it was a well-established part of music throughout Europe.Johann Christoph Denner, a German musician and instrument maker, is often attributed with the invention of the clarinet. Denner, whose father made horns and whistles designed for hunting game, improved on various existing instruments, including the flute, oboe, and bassoon. In fact, his invention of the clarinet came from his attempts to refine the chalumeau.
Denner found that the chalumeau could not overblow (i.e., it couldn’t change pitch just based on the player’s breath control). The clarinet, invented some time between 1690 and 1700, added keys, new pipe-work, a better mouthpiece, and a larger bell, all of which contributed to a wider range and flexibility. In 1812, a Russian clarinetist named Iwan Mueller developed padded keys, which gave way to a clarinet featuring thirteen keys and seven finger holes. The basic design hasn’t changed, though the leather and fish bladder padding has been replaced by cork and synthetic materials.
The clarinet was a mainstay of many orchestras, but starting in the 1910s, the instrument became central to the Traditional Jazz and big band movements, adding a smooth, mellow sound that contrasted with the bright, powerful timber of the brass section.
Tips for Playing the Clarinet
If you’re motivated to learn how to play the clarinet, take a look at some of these tips to help you out.
- Posture plays an important role in your playing. Playing with bad posture only creates a strained sound and hampers your breathing. Furthermore, tensing your neck or back will likely lead to continued pain when you play. Playing your clarinet shouldn’t hurt! During your clarinet lessons, keep your muscles relaxed. Sit up with your shoulders pulled down and back. If you’re sitting down, it helps to sit at the edge of your seat.
- Your embouchure comprises your lips and face muscles and how they create a seal around the mouthpiece. The right embouchure allows for an optimal amount of air that then allows the reed to vibrate. This requires a little bit of pressure, but you shouldn’t be clamping tight on the mouthpiece. This prevents the reed from proper vibration, which can cause thin, squeaky sounds that lack in intonation.
- Playing a new reed requires some breaking in, allowing it to gain some flexibility and mold to your playing style. Playing too hard on a new reed will only make your clarinet sound bad and cut your tongue. When you have a new reed, play it slow and gentle. Avoid tonguing too much or playing in higher registers.
- Rotate your reeds so that you don’t overuse a single reed. Remember that reeds are temporary, and as good as any one reed sounds, it will eventually chip or lose its fullness. Clarinet teachers can help you find the right beginning reeds and show you how to properly care for them
- The best way to play in the upper register and altissimo range is to practice long tones with a good embouchure. Use a tuner and hold each high note for at least 4 counts.
Links for Inspiration
- Artie Shaw showing off his skills as a clarinetist, composer, and bandleader with a rendition of “Begin the Beguine”
- The King of Swing himself Benny Goodman playing “Clarinetitis”
- The great Sabine Meyer playing Claude Debussy’s “Rhapsody for Clarinet”
- Martin Frost performing “Klezmer Dance”