Invented around 1700, the clarinet has been a popular instrument from the very start. From beginners to advanced musicians, you can find people playing clarinet as a solo instrument, in small chamber groups and large ensembles. Why is it so popular?
The clarinet has a beautiful sound, is relatively easy to learn and is affordable. The instrument is needed for both bands and orchestras and is versatile. Many choose the clarinet because it’s so much fun to play and a good way to make friends.
In beginning bands, a larger number of people start on the clarinet than on most of the other instruments. Let’s look at nine good reasons why the clarinet is so popular.
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#1: The clarinet sounds beautiful
Since the time it was invented, people have been attracted to the sound of the clarinet. One of the best things about it is its warm and full tone.
As a player improves on the instrument, strengthening their embouchure and learning how to breathe correctly, they’re able to produce a sound which is beautiful from the low register to the high register.
Also, the clarinet blends well with other instruments like the flute, bassoon or piano. For this reason, the clarinet is used in a good deal of music for small ensembles.
#2: The clarinet is easy for beginners to learn
When you’re just starting out
Starting out on any new instrument can be a big challenge, but the clarinet is one of the easier instruments for a beginner. You learn how to hold the mouthpiece with your mouth (embouchure) and blow into the instrument.
Most beginners are able to make a relatively good sound right from the start.
Squeaks occasionally happen, but as your embouchure strengthens and your fingers gain confidence, squeaks become less of a problem.
The fingerings for the clarinet make sense. In general, when you lift a finger up, the pitch goes up. When you press a finger down, the pitch goes down.
The clarinet plays one note at a time, so you don’t have to learn to play chords. In contrast, with instruments like the guitar and the piano, you must learn to play multiple notes at the same time.
Strength in numbers
In a beginning band, there are usually a larger number of students starting on the clarinet than on some of the other instruments. This can help you feel less self-conscious while learning.
Not only can the teacher help several students at the same, the students can also help each other. You can also make new friends who like the clarinet, too.
See also: Which is easier, flute or clarinet?
#3: Clarinet players are in demand
Clarinets are a must for a successful band. They are like the violin section of the orchestra, often providing the melody and fast-moving notes.
If you start out on clarinet in middle school, you can be sure the high school and college bands will need you when you get there.
Bands generally need a good number of clarinet players in the ensemble, unlike instruments like piccolo or oboe, which often have only one person playing.
Because the section functions like a violin section, more people are needed to project the melody.
But clarinets aren’t only used in concert bands. They’re an important component of marching bands and military bands, too. So you know you’ll be in high demand for as long as you want to play.
A smaller number of clarinets play in an orchestra. Here, you get the challenge of learning to play your own part by yourself. You also get to play some of the best music ever written.
#4: The Clarinet is an affordable instrument
Playing any instrument requires an initial investment for the instrument, the needed equipment (like reeds) and possibly printed music. Compared to many other instruments, getting everything you need to play clarinet is relatively inexpensive.
An example of an affordable clarinet for a beginner is the Buffet B12 is a standard plastic model. A used B12 can be found for around $200.
You may want to ask your band director or music teacher to look over any used instrument to be sure it’s in good condition.
As long as you treat a clarinet with care, it’s quite durable. Plastic instruments can withstand weather and temperature conditions.
Occasionally, a pad or cork may fall out, or a key may get bent, but this is usually fairly inexpensive to have fixed at a music repair shop..
#5: The Clarinet is versatile and prestigious
There is a wide range of music written for the clarinet, because the instrument is so versatile.
Whether you’re looking for something from the Classical Period by a composer like Mozart, or a great jazz solo to play, it’s easy to find good music for the clarinet.
It’s also incredibly flexible. It can sound melancholic and sombre. It can sound happy and fun. It can also sound exciting and aggressive, with many fast-moving notes.
The clarinet sounds good playing a solo in church, or with the clarinet section in a marching band. There are so many different styles to try.
The pitch range of the clarinet is much wider than most of the other band instruments. Its standard range is concert D3-Bb7. That’s nearly four octaves!
Add to that the fact that there are many other clarinets in the clarinet family, and you see that clarinets have a range that rivals the piano.
Other clarinets that are commonly used are the Eb, which is smaller and pitched higher than the standard Bb clarinet, the lower alto clarinet, which is also pitched in Eb, and the Bb bass clarinet.
There are even contra alto and contrabass clarinets, pitched in Eb and Bb.
Because it’s capable of so much, the clarinet is highly regarded in nearly every style of music. It’s at home playing Classical style, orchestral and band music, polkas, klezmer, Dixieland, Swing and even rock music.
#6: The Clarinet is highly portable
Contrary to larger instruments like the piano, the tuba, or the double bass, the clarinet is compact and easy to transport.
A Bb clarinet is around 26 inches long. It weighs about two pounds, which means it’s not too heavy when you’re playing in a marching band.
It’s easy to disassemble a clarinet and put each piece into its case, and it’s even possible to get a case which can be worn like a backpack for easy carrying.
Because you can take your instrument anywhere, it’s easy to pick up your clarinet and play anytime. Assembly is easier than an electronic instrument which needs power.
#7: The Clarinet is not too noisy
For beginners on many band instruments, it’s easiest to play loud. Trumpet, saxophone and drums are harder to control when trying to play medium soft (mp) or soft (p).
After playing the clarinet a short while, most beginners are able to output a sound which isn’t too loud. They learn quickly how to produce different dynamic levels. The clarinet is able to play very softly.
#8: The Clarinet makes a great second instrument
If you already play another instrument, the clarinet is a fun second instrument to learn. This is true especially if you started out on a different woodwind instrument like flute or saxophone, because many of the fingerings are the same.
It’s very common for woodwind players to double on another woodwind instrument. A flutist who also plays clarinet, or a clarinetist who also plays saxophone are more likely to be in high demand.
#9: The Clarinet is gender neutral
Everyone can enjoy playing the clarinet. It isn’t seen as just a boy’s instrument or just a girl’s instrument. There are many different professional male and female clarinetists around the world.
Paquito D’Rivera is a famous male clarinetist who is amazing at everything from Classical music to Latin jazz. Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr is known for being an outstanding musician and an early famous female clarinetist in the US.
Playing clarinet is fun because you learn to play a fantastic instrument. It can become challenging, but it’s fairly easy for a beginner to get started. It’s also more affordable than some instruments.
Because it’s so flexible, there is a lot of music available for the instrument. It’s needed in both bands and orchestras, and it’s also a great way to make new friends.