seeking clarinet advice

Well, this is a new topic for the blog. Feel free to look around and make sure you’re in the right place.

Here’s the deal: many of you probably (don’t) know (or care) that I used to play the clarinet. Devoted (snippets of) eight whole years of my life to the thing. And when I played my last note at my high school graduation? Well, I don’t think it’s been out of the case since.

I vaguely remember going to a meeting in 5th grade with my parents about joining band. I was at a new school, and I’m not sure what inspired me to want to play the clarinet, but something did. Somehow, some way, my dad forked over $400 (is that right, Dad?) for a nice, plastic Yamaha B-flat clarinet.

That puppy served me well through sixth grade band at a new school, through the tumultuous junior high years and for 4 years of concert and marching band in high school. I spent some time as first chair clarinet (and some time as last chair because I was scared to get beaten, so I didn’t try out at all–nice). I spent a lot of time getting in trouble for talking. I spent a lot of time wishing I played a cooler instrument. I have a gabillion memories from band class and marching band that are all starting to bubble up after years of inactivity.

Ah, those were the days.

About 42 different times, I’ve almost taken it to an instrument shop to see how much they’d take for it. But something always held me back.

And now I know what it was.

On the way home from my beautiful friend Nichole’s wedding Friday night, Nina fell asleep and Livi and I started talking (Ava was at home with Gabe). She started asking me a million questions about my clarinet. (Turns out her 2nd cousin Mikayla has just started playing the clarinet, and she showed it to Livi at our family reunion a couple weeks ago.)

She’s been talking about it ever since.

I promised her I would teach her how to play it. As soon as I remember how to play it. And as soon as I have the money to buy reeds.

Which brings me to that clarinet advice. I don’t remember a single thing about clarinet reeds. Don’t they have different numbers? Are some harder to play than others? What would I use for an almost-9-year-old? Is she even old enough to play it? Where can I buy reeds? Can I buy them one at a time, or do I have to buy a box? What do I do if I can’t remember how to play it? Because when I put my fingers on the keys a couple days ago? Nothing. Couldn’t remember a single note. Is there anything else I need to know as I jump back on the clarinet bandwagon?

And what do I do if my daughter wants me to homeschool her next year?

And what should I do about my 3-year-old who grows an inch (and learns 50 new words) every single day?

Thanks for praying for my trip to Indy today. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Off to bed! Alarm’s set for 4:45. Are. You. Kidding. Me?

Last thing–did you play an instrument at all in school? How long did you last? Do you still play it?

44 thoughts on “seeking clarinet advice

  1. Lisa

    I started band in the middle of 6th grade – on dad’s old cornet. Played the french horn my senior year of high school and a year of college. Bought a silver trumpet for college and majored in music! Yes, I still play and teach. Didn’t we have fun in band?? Your Aunt Duck and I (as teens) pushed the car out of the garage in the middle of the night and snuck to the high school parking lot to grab the back seats on the band bus! Too bad the cops came and woke us up while we innocently slept in our parents’ car. Oh well – you’ll have to ask us for the rest of the story!

  2. Valerie

    I started playing the oboe summer before sixth grade and played all through high school. I got a second degree at college in music performance because I didn’t want to stop playing and then was able to play with the Corpus Christi Symphony for a couple concerts because of it. Haven’t really played too much in the last three years since then and really do miss it a lot. Too bad reeds and mouth muscles don’t stay in good condition forever!! It’s not exactly an instrument you can just pick up and start playing again. I also played the piano from about kindergarten to high school and DESPERATELY want to buy a piano so I can play all the time. One day!!!

  3. ginger

    Just thought I would add my 2 cents in here… My daughter has been playing clarinet for 1.5 years now & uses a Ricoh #2.5 reed. She gets them from the school for $1.25 each. Also, the beginner book she got when she began playing last year (the one they use for school) came with a play-along CD & DVD that you might find useful. It is called Essential Elements 2000.
    P.S. She still enjoys playing some songs out of that book!
    P.P.S. I can’t believe how many French horn players read your blog! I played from the end of 6th until 12th. And I was on flags corps during marching season. Total band geek! 😉

  4. whimzie

    Oh! And the main thing I wanted to say! Meredith’s comment about not being able to march and play at the same time made me laugh and love her all the more!! Me, too, Mer!!

  5. Kimberly

    My poor patient parents bought first a coronet in 5th grade and then sparkling beautiful silver trumpet I had to have in 8th grade! Thanks mom and dad 🙂 Haven’t played a note since graduation!

  6. Krista

    No clarinet advice here; just piano in elementary/middle school and voice/choir in high school/college. Neither of which is very applicable to grad school!

  7. whimzie

    I played the flute and the piano. My dad, a musician, was aggravated with me when I quit playing….”If you don’t use the talents God gives you, He’ll give them to someone else who will!” So I guess someone somewhere is playing the flute and the piano with MY talent. Sigh. Wonder if they’d give them back.

    I still have my flute. Took it in to have it worked on few years ago because I thought it would be fun to play again. Had it worked on, got it back from the store, and it still wouldn’t play. I took it back to the music store, and to my horror, the musical-instrument-fixer-man played it my open-hole Artley flute like it was brand new. So apparently the flute wasn’t broken, I just can’t play it anymore….So sad.

  8. Kim Webb

    I played clarinet and sax in middle school and high school. I loved it. A few years ago I gave both my saxes to different friends for their kids. I loved it and wish I could go back to those days – it was good times. Love you.

  9. Marla Taviano

    Oh my word, Steph. I’m the most awful sister. A couple days ago I thought to myself, “Wait a second–didn’t Stephanie play the clarinet??” Then I thought, “No, I must be imagining things.”

    I was off at college and then married while you were in band and apparently completely absorbed in myself.

    It’s really no more more mine than it is yours–Dad paid for it! When Livi’s done, your little darling can have it!

    Maybe we can come visit you in November and have a clarinet party!

  10. Stephanie your sister

    Of course your clarinet’s been out of it’s case since you graduated! I used it for eight years after you were finished with it! I hope I kept it warmed up all nice for Livi. 🙂

    Yes, there are different reed #s. They make it harder or easier to play the clarinet. I don’t remember if the lower or higher numbers are easier, but you should start Livi with the easiest. As she gets better, she’ll squeak real bad with the easy reeds and that means she needs to switch to the harder ones.

    You can buy a pack of 3 or 4 reeds, and if I remember correctly they’re pretty cheap. Like $1-2 a reed. But one reed lasts a really long time (unless you break it).

    I wish I was there to help Livi! I feel like I remember a lot about playing, although it’s possible that I could get it in my hands and draw a blank. You can buy a cheap starter book with all the easy songs in it (hot cross buns, mary had a little lamb, etc.) to get her started.

    I’ve had the desire many times since high school to try to play the clarinet again. But since it’s not mine, I’ll have to live my dream through Livi. 🙂

  11. Mary

    ooh yes, i did! i played french horn for about 9 years. i bet i could still play it…but i never had my own because they are $$$$$.

    i hope livi does get to play the clarinet! that would be so cute. i just don’t know anything about reeds really…sorry 🙂

  12. Liz

    WOW!!! We are twins… I never knew that you played the clarinet! I did too.. you might know that though because I played in college too! I actually just got mine out the other day to play in our church orchestra and then never did! 🙂
    However, I took it to the music store to have it “tuned” up – however I haven’t picked it up yet because it’s too expensive – I don’t have the money to pay for the services that they did… so I’ll get it some other time! 🙂
    YES about the reeds — I need to start at a lower number… now that I haven’t played in AGES!

    My boys have been asking about playing my clarinet too… funny!!
    Also Aidan wants to invite Nina to his birthday party on the 29th — if you are dying to make a trip to Dayton to play at BounceU you are welcome to come.. however, I’m not expecting that you would make the drive! 🙂
    But you are invited! 🙂

    Talk to you soon….

  13. mary kate

    started violin at 2 and quit at 6 (because we moved). started taking piano lessons at 8 and quit at 13 (because I had mono for a year…and its hard to play piano while sleeping). Still play the piano whenever I can (we don’t own one, so this means hijacking them at peoples homes). It’s one of the best ways for me to calm down and relax. and i can still play “twinkle twinkle” on the violin. which never came in handy until i felt like showing off for elisabeth eisel this weekend. 🙂

  14. Rachele

    wow, never played the clarinet, in fact, I’m not even sure I’d be able to pick it out of a crowd……did play the piano for a few years in elementary school, but got bored with it….no music since then, so sad.
    Good luck!

  15. Crissy

    I was praying for you today, and hope it went well.

    I started out on Trumpet in 5th grade and switched to Flute in 6th. Then in high school I played Trumpet for marching band, and Flute and Piccolo for concert band. I also played around with my sisters Saxophone. I still have my flute and pull it out for fun once in a while. But now I stick to singing.

    As far as clarinet advise…I know there are a few very good music stores around town. However, I would direct you to a couple that attend Vista: the Bosh’s. Shad plays saxophone on the music team and Stacy place the keyboard/guitar. They would be a very good resource for you to reach out to. Let me know if you would like their email and I can get that to you! {{{Hugs}}}

  16. amanda

    no clarinet advice…but THANKS for speaking to our MOPS group this morning. i read your previous post where you mentioned being empty…i must say, the Lord filled you and spoke through you. my table had fabulous discussion…and i personally was so encouraged, as it is a topic i am particularly passionate about. why can’t we all just get along as moms and stop comparing and judging! 🙂 so thank you thank you thank you!

  17. Jamie

    Thanks for making the drive this morning. Really loved your talk! BTW- Indiana is a huge marching band state. It is almost as big(maybe bigger) than football here. At least we have that going for us! I played the trumpet myself, but don’t remember a thing:)

  18. Denise N.

    I played the clarinet too – from 7th – 12th grade – played my last note at my high school graduation…don’t miss it at all. I was in marching band and concert band and I was in color guard for 1 year (hated that too!).

    I think someone already answered this, but yes reeds you have different sizes and I think for Livi you’d want like the size 1 – I don’t remember. I’d get a beginners book and if nothing else work on finger placements. That will be good for you too especially since you don’t remember how to do it yourself. I think she could start at 9…but that’s just me!

    I love that we have stuff like this in common.

  19. Jennifer

    You two are going to have so much fun! Everyone else has already suggested it, but a clarinet beginner’s book might help jog your memory. You probably remember more than you think!

    I played the French horn in middle school and high school. Our school rented out brass instruments, which saved my parents a good chunk of change. Unfortunately, it also meant that after graduation, I wouldn’t have a whole lot of opportunities to play again. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted!

  20. clarinet val

    I don’t know if this helps, but the basic notes on the clarinet mirror the notes on those plastic recorders. Thanks to thus commonality, I can still play hot cross buns, the scale song, and other basic “hits” on either instrument. Now when you start adding sharps and flats, I can be of no assistance!

    Maybe for starters you could get a dollar store recorder that comes with instructions on which holes are which notes and then parlay that into clarinet playing?

  21. Rachel Lipsey

    This post was so funny to me! See, good think you didn’t sell the clarinet! I would just go to a local music supply store. They should get you all set up.

    Started playing the flute in 7th grade, and still play today in the church orchestra. I love to play, and never seem to be able to give it up even when I feel like I am overwhelmed with lots of other things at church. Love to play, and love it when girls come up and say that “want to play the flute like me.”

  22. Cheryl Pickett

    Musical husband just popped in to say go for a #2 and #2.5 Rico Royal reed for a beginner, they are less expensive and last a while. He recommends two of each.

    In addition, he says if you can’t find a clarinet player to help initially, any woodwind player should be able to help you out as the fingerings are the same except for one.

    With regard to the clarinet itself, to see if it’s still working well, try to slip a dollar bill underneath each of the pads. If it moves under too easily, the pads may be too dry and may have to be replaced. A full re-pad may cost more than just renting for a few months from a store to again see if she likes it or not, but if only a few need to be done, it wouldn’t be so bad. See told ya, music guy 🙂

  23. Cheryl Pickett

    I don’t/have never played a thing, but I married Mr music guy who has 3 very musical kids-marching band is the big deal for us in the fall. I’ve learned a lot by osmosis over the last few years.

    I agree with those who’ve said check out a music store for some beginner stuff but the easiest route to go might be a high school/college student who wants pizza money, who might be willing to give a few beginner lessons to see if she really enjoys it or not.

    I’ve not homeschooled, nor was I homeschooled, but with all the options I understand are available, I’m sure you’d be able to find a style that suits you and your family.

  24. Tarah

    It seems like #2 was the one I always bought. I never bought less than two because inevitably you will chip one almost immediately and then be annoyed that you have no extras. The key to having a good, easy reed was soaking it forever before playing. In your mouth is best, but I think I even soaked a new one in water beforehand sometimes.

    I’m sure if you have some kind of beginners book, the notes will start to come back to you.

    If your daughter asks you to homeschool her? Don’t worry, you could do it. It’s not as scary as it sounds. 🙂

  25. Lacey

    I have played the flute for 17 years…though the last five have been pretty sporadic. You’d think I’d be practically a professional after all that time, but I’m not. Oh, well! 🙂

  26. Risha

    I started playing alto sax in 8th grade. Loved it. Loved being in band. (All my good friends were in band.) My junior year, we had a gazillion alto sax players and no oboe players, so my teacher asked me to learn the oboe. It was much harder than the sax because of the double reed. I didn’t like that much and begged to go back to the sax for my senior year. I always rented my instruments from the school, so I haven’t really played much since graduation. However, when I was teaching (at the same school I had attended), I joined the pep band on alumni night for a basketball game. I was definitely out of shape and out of practice, but it all came back to me, and I had a lot of fun. I also took piano lessons from 6th grade through graduation. I don’t own a piano, so I’m really out of practice on it, too, but I often sit down at my mom’s and try to play something on her piano. I love music and singing/playing instruments! My family is very musical.

    I don’t know that I can really answer a lot of your questions, but I do know that some reeds are soft and others are harder, and the number tells you which. But I don’t remember the numbers. You’ll probably have to buy a box, but I’m pretty sure there some reeds that are cheap and other brands that are much more expensive. I would definitely get a softer one for a beginner. If you can find a local music instrument store, I’m sure they can help you a lot. They’ll probably even have beginning books to play from that teach note names, values and clarinet fingering.

  27. Mel

    I played flute and still do once in awhile for church. Since I play so seldom, I have to dig out the old fingering chart once in awhile to remember how to play the high notes. You can get a beginning book at a music store that has fingering charts in it, or maybe find them on the internet. You can teach them to your daughter as you’re remembering them yourself. And my music teacher friend says that it generally takes about 6 weeks of remembering to be back to where you were when you stopped playing.

    My daughters wanted me to teach them to play the flute and I never did. Now they’re all grown up and I missed the opportunity. Don’t do what I did. And 9 is not too young, because that’s how old I was when I started.

    Have fun!

  28. Bethany

    I played the alto saxophone 5th-12th grade. I was in marching, concert AND pep band 9th-12th grade. I sold my saxophone before I got married and made a little over $100. I was starting to think I made the wrong choice by selling it after reading about everyone’s children starting to play instruments, but I still think I made the right decision. If Isabelle wants to play an instrument, she can choose something lighter. And my sax was refurbished and I could not play the low C (or low D–not sure which note it was) on it (I could play it on other saxes).

    And remember that Stephanie played your clarinet for 8 years! Dad definitely got his $400 worth!

  29. Laura

    I played clarinet too! As far as I can remember, the reed sizes started at (I think) a size 2, and then went to 2 1/2, 3, and 3 1/2? I think I usually ended up with a 3 by the end of my high school days. The higher the number, the harder the reed. And you can buy them in boxes, although we’d buy them one at a time from our band director usually. 🙂

    Good times…

  30. Betsy

    I played French Horn from 6th grade through 12th grade, marching band and all and always, always wanted to play a flute! French Horns are so heavy to tote back and forth to school. We didn’t play them for marching band but played what was called an E-flat Alto, which looks like a small baritone, but much smaller. I quit playing it when I went to college. My daughter, Megan, also played Fr.Horn (mine) and then we found much lighter cases, but they are still heavy in that! She cheered in HS so didn’t do marching band. Her sister played my sister’s cornet. We kept those puppies in the family.

  31. Kelli

    I played the flute for 10 years. I haven’t pulled it out in a while but last Sunday at church, I found myself pretending with my fingers. It makes me want to bust it out! I have NO clarinet advice. But how FUN that your sweet girl want to play the clarinet like her mama!

  32. Laura

    I played clarinet also! I thought when I opted out of Symphonic Band after Marching my senior year, it was over. Oh no! They have an alumni band at my HS. My mom thought that since I had given my clarinet to my cousin….yipee….that I would need another (she just happened to find one at an auction that she got for an AWESOME price). For my birthday…did I get a nice sweater or giftcard…oh no…she had this alien clarinet cleaned and serviced so that I could play in the alumni band. I thought ” Oh great MOM….like I want to revisit that” But I just smiled and thanked her and REMINDED her that I have a terrible case of TMJ and blowing on a clarinet is not “what the doctor ordered!!!!!” I was in the attic the other day looking for a book I once owned ( I found it too!) and what did I spy…..the dreaded birthday clarinet. Do you think it has been long enough that my mom won’t ask me again what I did with the auction clarimet??? I think not!

  33. Laura

    Oh how fun! I have my violin, which I played 4th grade until graduation, with a lot of the same stories as you….being made fun of for being in the “dorkestra”, first chair, (thankfully never last chair though, although there were never more than 10 or so of us at any given time)…and, well, I graduated 11 years ago and it’s been dragged from Ohio to Tennessee, back to Ohio, and then on to NY…all the while being stored under my bed. I can’t get rid of it. I haven’t played it. At all. My daughter has showed some interest (she’s almost 18, I mean 8), but they don’t offer violin at her school. And I don’t know the first thing about a clarinet. So, I am no help to you–but look on the bright side! At least YOU won’t have to pay $400 for one for her. And neither will I! Thanks mom and dad 🙂

  34. Valerie

    We have two music stores here, and I have some left on a gift card to I think Martin, if you’d like to drive out here…. we’ll go get them…my treat 🙂

    I played flute and trumpet each for a year, once I hit middle and high school I started in choir..general for 7th and 8th, women’s chorale in 9th, and in 10th I was lead soprano in concert choir and also in swing choir (top 10 male/female) vocals 🙂

  35. Gail

    Why did I never know this about you? Seriously? You played clarinet all through high school? Well, I’ll be.

    I took 12 (twelve!) years of piano lessons. I didn’t practice enough. I’m an embarrassment. I remember quite a bit, and I’m helping the twins as they are taking lessons now.

    I started trumpet in 5th grade. I played at church less than a year ago, so yes, I still play. Band was an integral part of my growing up and college.

  36. Tonia

    I played clarinet as well. Started in 7th grade and lasted till around my junior year of high school. I just lost desire. The band director expected you to eat, sleep, drink band and screamed and yelled every single day. Seriously, he threw these major hissie fits. I quit just into 2nd sem of 11th grade. I couldn’t play one now. Don’t remember a thing. I never regretted quitting either.

  37. Lacey

    I played the clarinet all through middle schoola until my junior year when I quit the band. And I don’t remember anything either. The reeds are different numbers but I don’t remember what is the easiest. Go to a band instrument store or call them to find out the cost etc of reeds. They weren’t really that expensive but it has been like 12 or 13 years since I picked the evil thing up so I’m sure inflation has had a bit to do since then!!! 🙂 I recommend calling an instrument store… Good luck! Let us know what you find out!

  38. Jason Dixon

    I found myself asking very similar questions recently as Allison, my oldest, began playing sax this year in the 5th grade band. I can answer some of your questions though, only because I had to reask them all also.

    Yes, the reeds have numbers. Yes you can buy them one at a time or by the box. I have a buddy whose parents own a music store similar to “The Band-Aid Shop” in Cambridge, Ohio called Pavlov Music Center. They are great people and I’m sure would help you out with any answered questions at 740-432-2515.

  39. Meredith

    I played clarinet too and can’t remember A THING. Same with piano. I’m not very musically inclined.

    I quit band in high school because I couldn’t march and play at the same time. I decided it was better to march. Plus, I just really wanted to be able to sit with my friends at football games and not the band. Can you say shallow? 😉

    BTW, my husband played trumpet. And of course he remembers how to play. His mom even kept his trumpet and we saved a BUNDLE last year when our oldest decided to play the trumpet in his middle school band.

    So yeah, I pretty much remember nothing about the clarinet except that your reed needed to be wet before you started playing it.

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