How to play the clarinet (basics)

Hello, I’m Alexandra, I’m from Orono high school and I will be teaching you how to play the clarinet today, like a basic understanding of it.

Assemble the Clarinet

So, first I’m going to go through how you assemble the clarinet, and I will talk about the different pieces of clarinet Carl okay. So, first of all, what you need to play the clarinet is a reed. I have that here you can see. This is what a reed looks like this is for b-flat clarinet, there are different types, and I will get to that later on.

When you assemble your clarinet, you should always be sucking on the reed. That’s the first thing that you could have you need to put it in your mouth to wet it, because that’s what causes the sound to come out so put it in your mouth. This is going to sound, really weird, but just make sure you get the whole part wet get this part wet up to the halfway line and then on the back. You can get it up to like, where the words start um I’ll, take it out. So I can talk easier to look on okay, so you should have that in your mouth, the entire time, while you’re putting your instrument together this top piece.

All this can come off its cap. This is called the mouthpiece and this is a ligature. This is a ligature and it’s what holds your reading, and sometimes they have it facing backward. It just depends on what type of clarinet you have mine is facing front, and so you put this on to the barrel, which is this flat thing now flat is round, so you connect those there’s a wider part at the bottom and a thinner part at the Top as you can see it kind of flares out, so you put the top piece into the thinner part and you kind of just twist it in there.

Middle Section

Then you put this on to the first middle section because there’s two middle sections just called the middle joint. So you put it on so this part, this flat part is where you’re going to put the Reed – and you put this flat part facing this back key button because you will end up putting your thumb here. I’ll talk about fingerings and how you put the fingers there.

Second, so you make sure this flat part is lined up with this key in the back so facing you guys. Its like should be around that, so the flat part is in line with this. After that, you put this whole part onto another middle section. This is the front where all the keys are. This is the front of the clarinet, and then you rest, your other thumb here and so there’s a key right here. You can really save your one. This key that’s moving right here. You connect that onto this part, this part that’s moving right here right there. You put this part of the top part onto this, so it overlaps when you can join it, it’s like, so you can’t, so you can kind of see it.

So then, once you move the top, this top is moving, but if you move the bottom now the whole thing moves, so it’s just overlapping. So then, looking at the back of all of this, the flat piece through this key down to here should all be lined up. And then you put on the bell of the clarinet, which looks like this, and you can just put this on anyway, but it just connects to the bottom of it, and then once you’re done, you put the read that you should have been sucking on this entire Time onto the flat part of the clarinet, which looks like this, and then you want to leave about like a fingertip of fingernails with between it so like, as you can see, you can kind of see the top of the black up here.

You should leave about a little bit that you can see, so the reed is a little bit lower than the back of the clarinet, and then you put the ligature on like that, and then you twist the screws, so it’s tightened, but not all the way tightened. It’s just tightened enough: you can twist it still, but it should be. It should hold the reed on.


I briefly said earlier that there are different types of reeds um. When you’re starting off, you usually play one or one and a half size, read the more advanced players go to like a four or four and a half along with and there are different types of, there are different brands of reeds. So it just depends on which type or brand you like best, but beginners should start off with a one or one and a half size, and I recommend either the Ricoh Reed’s or Van Doren Mandarin yea Mandarin, because those end up with the best sound

Types of Clarinets

There’s also Different types of clarinets, the main one that beginners use, is a b-flat. That’s what I have here, there’s so an e-flat that has a different size, Reed and I think it’s it just looks slightly different, there’s also a bass, clarinet, and a contra clarinet and a few others that you don’t need to know but the bass clarinet in the Contra planer net are big longer instruments and they look more like a bassoon, so um and then there’s also a plastic versus a wood clarinet. The plastic clarinets are what beginners to use and the wood clarinets are for more advanced players and they generally come soon but own.


So yeah, you just begin. If you start off with a plastic clarinet um next is making sounds so your embouchure is what your mouth like the form your mouth should take, and when you play the clarinet, you want to have a flat chin um. So when you put it in your mouth, you should have your chin is like flat, but it shouldn’t be really loose. It should just be. Your mouth should be tight around the clarinet and around the reed here, so you want to have a firm mouth.

So you want to have your flat chin when you play you wanna hear one you want to have it. It looks weird when you look in the mirror, but I suggest looking in a mirror when you first start out. You want to look like this. So from the side of a look like this, so as you can see, I have a flashing and my cheeks are not puffed out um, and then you want to blow like down. Also, when you put your clarinet in your mouth that your bottom lip should be. Tucked over your bottom teeth, so the bottom teeth are not touching the reed at all. Its just your bottom lip and then your top teeth should be touching the top of the clarinet over here just very lightly just enough, so you can hold it in place.

You should also when you play, should have, rather than having your clarinet just like completely flat, so it is resting against your chin. You should have it out at a slight angle. So, as you can see when I play there’s like a little bit of an angle between like my neck, my collarbone, to hear, rather than having it completely flat, um along with that um, if you don’t have your clarinet in the right spot in your mouth, you Will end up squeaking, so I can show you what you squeak.


So this is like this is what it should sound like. Hmm, that’s just an open G I’ll talk about keys in a minute and then if you squeak it’s this really high-pitched noise and it happens when your embouchure is not tight enough. It’S not in the right spot or if your fingerings are wrong. So this is what a squeak sounds like um yeah.

As you can see. I also blew on my cheeks, which you’re not supposed to do you’re supposed to like. Have the air just come from your mouth, so you don’t want your cheeks to blow either, and when I did that my rather than having my teeth up here, my teeth were way down here, so I had most of it again my mouth um.

Oh, I also forgot to mention when you play, you want the tip of your tongue to be like at right at the top, rather than like really far down on the reed. You want it to be up here where my finger is rather than all way down. Here, because it makes it lighter, and it’s easier to play, it’s faster to play that way, because you don’t have to have as much distance between the lead and your tongue and when you play you should rather than just. If you say to to to to to to to to to that’s how you should be playing, so your tongue should be moving fast rather than Tata Tata, like that, as you can hear, on the lap or the leg and my tongue, and it sounds really heavy. Rather than to to to to to to to to to it sounds um light, so when you play just make sure you’re doing that to to to to sound um on the top of your reed, because that will make the best sound.

So, when you’re practicing to make sound just make sure your teeth are taking it about a half a centimeter of the clarinet and your lip is resting about two centimeters, like your top. Lip is resting about two centimeters down on the clarinet um, and your teeth are on your top. Teeth are resting on top of clarinet lightly, and your bottom teeth are covered by your bottom lip, which is placed on your Reed.


As you can see, I keep licking my Reed because you reach always be wet when you play um. Another thing is also there’s from playing the clarinet. You get spit. That goes down the whole thing and um it’s just from when you blow, and you just have a lot of stuff running through your mouth and spit, and it just like collects on your Reed. Because that’s what you need to keep, what you need your spit and your saliva to keep the reed wet. So it can make vibrations and move to make sound and so that access drips through the clarinet.

And sometimes you can feel it like through the keys, because it’ll drip out through the holes of your keys, um so, and that affects your sound because it makes your sound more spitty and you can hear the spit in it because the spit is like vibrating. So when you to avoid that you want to either this is going to sound gross, you wanna either suck up the spit back into your clarinet or you want to like shake it out.

But you don’t want to be shaking it out in the middle of a performance, so I suggest that you suck it up when you play it so like that you can that’s gross, but you can suck it up and but yeah you get used to it later.

To get sound, you want to blow with enough air, but you don’t want your cheeks to pop out, so you don’t want to play because then no sound will come out or it will squeak like.

Clarinet Fingering Positions

I talked about early now on to the fingering positions. So I’ll hold it up here, so you can see um probably closer, so you should have your left hand on the upper part of the clarinet and your right hand on the lower part of the clarinet.

When you have your hand, you should have your pointer finger on this first hole, your middle finger on the second hole, and your ring finger on this third hole and your pinky is just resting on this key. This won’t actually be played for a lot unless you get two sharps and flats, and then your thumb, your back thumb, should be resting on this key back here. So it just looks like this when you play, and then your right hand should have your pointer finger on the first hole middle finger on the second hole ring finger on the third hole and your pinky resting on these four keys, because these are used later for Alternate fingerings, which I’ll get to in a second and your thumb should be resting underneath this.

Sometimes these finger pads look a little different and you can vote for this clarinet. You can move it up and down with the screwdriver and so that just depends on how your thumb works, a tip for holding the clarinet. When you have your hand placed on here, you should have your hand at a resting position.

So this is what my hand looks like at a resting position just like. If you hold it shake your hand out and then just put your hand back. Mine looks like this, and so then you should just put it right on here and put and your finger should just right overlap the holes and that’s the way you should hold your fingers. You want the pads of your fingers, so you can see there’s some hole marks on my fingers. You want them to be resting right over the hole, so you don’t have any spaces, because if you play like this, where there’s a bunch of space on this hole, you’re going to squeak – and you don’t want squeaky – sounds so make sure the pads of your fingers Are covering the holes at all times.

As I said earlier a few minutes ago, there are some extra keys down here, such as these, these over here these side ones, these keys. All of these extra keys are for alternate fingerings. So once you become more of an advanced player, you get into more advanced rhythms and skills that it would be easier to use these rather than the original fingerings just for fast purposes. So you don’t really need to worry about all of those just the main scale um now on to the notes.


So, the woodwinds, there are two different types: there are wood ones that play in the treble clef and the brass which play in the bass clef. So you want to make sure that you’re playing at all times, if you’re clinic you want to play in the treble pop or else the notes won’t make sense if you’re in the bass, clef um the classic scale that beginners start on is called the b-flat scale. For clarinets that starts on a C which is weird clarinets are if you’re, looking at a pattern of scales, clarinets start to nose down.

So a b-flat on the scale. The pattern is two notes above a C, and our B-flat scale starts on a C, which is this note right here, so the whole left hand is down from this thumb all the way. Through these three keys, your pinkie is not doing anything because that’s just resting there and then your whole right hand is left open on these keys.

So that’s how you play a C I’ll just play the sound for you. So that’s what a C sounds like and your B flat scale is. You will fur clear? Not you generally just go up the clarinet as you play so this and the scale goes from an a to a G.

So if you’re like the alphabet abcdefg, so if we start on a CH, the next note would be and, then an E and for all of this right here you keep your thumb down. So there’s a sea, and which you lift this one up and E with the second one up and F, which you’re only holding that thumb down and then a G is all of your hands. Are no keys are being held down and that’s the middle note and then the middle note of the clarinet, because, as you can see, when you have that from that middle note, down is called the lower register and then there’s a key back here. That’S for it’s called the register key.

Switch Octaves

So when you switch octaves, which I will talk about octaves in a second so after the G, which is this open note, you go to an a just this key up here and a and then a B. You have to hold down this register key here with the thumb, so these two all three of these and then this key right here is the top one and then this one here so there’s one-two: three: you want to play this third Key right here and then that’s the B, so so far, it’s CD, F G, a B and then the C which is the next.

No, you just lift up this third key here this pinkie key and then you have everything down and that’s a C. So that’s the scale from C all the way up to C um. I can just play through it, so you can have here. It sounds like so starting on the C going up to the F. I see for the mill C, so I went up and then back down. So that’s what it should sound like when you play it’ll take a while to get the sound right but you’ll catch on pretty quickly from four scales it’s from nope. No, so just from like that one with C, the other notes can be from like D to D or G to G with different flats and sharps in there, and that’s just depending on how advanced you are you getting two more scales, um for when you’re Practicing you’re learning you’re showing off learning.

You want to use practice books and fingering charts um to help you learn the practice books, teach you rhythms and other types of keys and notes. The fingering charts teach you the fingers on the clarinet, so it’ll teach you where to place your fingers for each of the keys. It takes a little bit to learn, but once you got it once you learn it, then you just remember it forever.

So um also there um there will be another video other than this one. That will teach you how to do it’ll be another video that teaches you how to play the notes and the rhythms, and it will go through all of the different types of notes. There are on the scale on the treble clef and the different types of rhythms that you can have in you live, so I talked earlier about the register key in the octaves, so for clarinets, there’s well, beginners, usually play in the first register, which I showed you. The first register is from all the way down here, but not holding this key down. So all of your keys, except for this one are down. So you want to hold all those down from there all the way up to that open middle G and that’s called the lower register. So you just go off this clarinet for the lower register.

The middle register is for slightly more advanced and that’s holding down this register key, but the same scale except the notes are slightly different, which you will learn about in the notes, video, because the fingers are playing the same, but the note search is called different notes. So in the lower register not holding down this key, this is a C but no higher register. If you put that jump down, that’s a G, so it just depends on where you are in the scale and then the third octave or register is for really advanced players. So I’m not going to get into that um.


Moving on to the posture, when you play, you want to have your back straight rather than slouching, because you’re not going to get good air support through it. So your clarinet will sound bad and your sound quality won’t be as good as it should be. So from Santa sit up straight, have your shoulders rolled back slightly? Have your head up a little bit and you have your clarinet at an angle like I’ve talked about that’s how you want to sit when you play so you have the best um, sound and best air support for breathing.

You always want to breathe before you play like when you start it’s going to take a while to, actually be able to hold your breath. While your Bible, you shouldn’t, hold your breath, you were just blowing up your air through the clarinet but it’ll. Take you a while to be able to blow more air for a longer period of time. So when I first started, I was able to take one breath for every two measures: um. But now I’m able to take depending on the music one breath for like every eight measures. So it gets you as you go along, but it just takes a while to learn.

So, whenever you start a piece make sure you take a deep breath and then like so so you just start and then you blow through just depending on the dynamics um and it just takes a little bit to learn. But when you actually get sound from your sound to be coming from your air and you just blow through and blow hard, but not too hard. If you blow too hard you’re going to squeak so find a medium, and if you blow too soft, no sound will come out so find a happy medium between the two.

So also when you’re playing um, you want to breathe from your belly, not your shoulders. So if I’m breathing through my shoulders, it just looks like, whereas, if you’re breathing through your belly, your shoulders, don’t move as much so as you can see, my shoulders did not move up as much. So when you play your instrument, you want to breathe through your stomach, because you have better air support and you’re able to play your clarinet with better sound um.


Another thing is to do with breathing, there are different types of you can have faster breaths or slower breaths. When you’re actually breathing through the clarinet, also warm air Borgias versus cold air, but it just depends on how well your dynamics come out and the different types of dynamics. So that’s the general video for the overview just remember to have good posture back straight shoulders. Slightly back head up a little bit and clarinet at an angle, you want to have your embouchure right, which is your mouth remember. So that’s, you want to have a tight mouth, a flat, chin, um and then also your fingers.

Just remember, your left-hand goes on top. Your right-hand goes on the bottom. Your left thumb is resting on this key back here and your right thumb is resting under this um. So that was it now, I’m going to show you how to clean and put away your instrument um. I probably should have said this earlier, but when you hold the instrument you put it together, you don’t want to hold it super tight and squeeze it because that’s going to break so you just want to have like a light hole on it, but hard enough That you can take it apart, but just not hard enough that you can break it up. So the first thing you take off is your read: you don’t need to suck on it at all, so you just have you.

They generally come with cases like this they’re clear, but I can put it against so it depends on the type of reed company you buy, but that’s where they have them um one of the types you can buy at a store and they come in packages of This this is a size. Three read remember you want to start on a size, one or two or a one or one and a half, and they go up by halves. Um, oh, oh yeah, so you want to start to want to have parently because that’s the softest read and as you get more advanced, you switch to harder reads and it just helps you play better.

Taking Your Clarinet Apart

So you take off that read and then you take this off and just set it aside. That will go on later. So then, what I do is I take off the barrel and the head joint together and set the other thing down and then the rest of it down, and then I just separate those two and when you’re taking apart, you want to twist it. You don’t want to just pull it apart, so that’s going to take the cork off because the cork right here is what keeps the clarinet together. So we want to twist off lightly and then take it apart on the ligature, which is the silver thing, goes back onto the mouthpiece the way it is the way you had it when it was the Reba’s on, but about three. Sometimes they come with a cap. Like this, so that can just go on over the whole thing, and so the ligature is just right into that hole.

Sometimes they don’t. It just depends on what type of clarinet you have um. So then the barrel just sits. When you get your clarinet, it will come already broken apart um into the different pieces, so you can see where it goes, and you can put it back so the barrel just sits in the clarinet case by itself, and then you want to twist these apart. Remember and you’re going to not be able to twist this all the way these two pieces because there will be other keys in the way. So just twist it half like slightly apart, and this just comes off and goes in the case. And then this comes off. The bottom comes up and goes the case um.

So that was how you take it apart, but then, once you’re done playing you want to clean it because there’s a whole bunch of spit nasty stuff that goes through your clarinet. So you want to make sure it’s clean every time you play so you can either well there are different tools. So this is what the cases usually come with. This is called a spit, swab, or spit rag. You can either put this all the way through the clarinet, to begin with. Before you take it apart, you will have your Reed off, but you can put it through the mouth, from the mouthpiece all the way down to the belt or you can take it apart and then put it through. So I already took mine apart earlier.

So you want to take it apart, so this is one of the middle joints and you just put there’s usually a weight at the end of it, so you just put that weight through the UM instrument case, there’s a hole that goes all the way through the Instrument, you put it all the way down and then you can see it come out at the bottom and then you just pull it through and then it just comes out and that’s just how it cleans the spit out of the instrument.

So you can do that for every piece or you can just do it as one piece for the whole instrument. If you have the instruments together and then there’s this, which is just called a cleaning rag – and this is just to wipe down the keys on the outside so using the middle joint again, you can see like the silver and sometimes they get gross with your fingers And the oils on your finger, so you just want to wipe it down with the rag just to clean off the fingerprints and stuff just to make it look shiny and new um. Another quick housekeeping thing for it is the clarinets usually come with cork grease. Sometimes they come in bottles that look like chapstick, and sometimes they come in bottles that look like this. You just twist the top off and there’s like gel inside. That’s called cork grease and you put that on the core part of your clarinet, which I talked about. It that’s what keeps your clarinet together when you first get your clarinet.

These won’t be. These will be like hard um, so it’ll be hard to put your instrument together and to take apart, because the corks won’t be soft in what the cork grease does. Is it softens and adds moisture to the corks, so it like loosens it enough that um, it’s easy to twist the clarinet together. But if you like, you don’t want to soak the quarks in water or else the quarks will fall off so um. That’s what the cork grease does it just helps make the clarinet easy to put together.

If you put on the course and not every piece’s course is the UM, as you can see when you get it so this middle joint upper middle joint as two one and two, the lower middle joint, only has one on the bottom. So it looks on the bottom and then the head joint has one to connect to the barrel. So then you just put the core piece on there um another thing: the last thing is you don’t want to bring mostly.

This is for wood clarinets, but you don’t want to bring your clarinet outside into a rainy environment or humid environment, because that also makes the corpse fall off, so your clarinet will be able to stay together so just make sure when you’re playing you have your instrument, Not outside, or else your client will be ruined, that’s all I have for you and so good luck with your playing

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