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Adult beginner books?

I've been playing alto sax for around 2 years and I've come into possession of a fine Yamaha 34II which is currently awaiting my pickup from a friend's in few weeks (and probably a little tune up by my tech).

Besides obviously learning the fingering and a new embouchure - can anyone recommend a good beginner book for an adult?

I've picked up Stein's 'Art of Playing Clarinet' but I need some more practical exercises, fingering charts, good starter music etc.

I'll be looking at finding a teacher in June when my work settles down a bit more.

Thanks :)


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I began with Peter Wastall's "Learn as you play Clarinet". There's even a companion CD (sold separately) for it. I found the examples easy to learn and play, with not too steep a learning curve. I'd recommend it.

(I don't know if it qualifies as an "Adult" book, but at least it doesn't have pictures of funny animals pointing at notes and other kiddie stuff in it.)

Edit: I see you're already playing sax - in theory you can go through your old sax books, at the expense of not using the clarinet's full range, but with the advantage that you already have the pieces in your ear and can concentrate on the clarinet proper.


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
In the U.S. the Rubank series has been used successfully for many years as a method of study for private lessons. It contains four books in the series: Elementary, Intermediate, Advanced Book I, and Advanced Book II. An adult who already knows how to read music and has some background in music should be able to go through the first two books rather quickly.


Staff member
+1 on Rubank. After you work through those four books, you will be ready to tackle some of the serious clarinet stuff like the Klose etudes, Cavallini Caprices, and the Mozart and Von Weber concertos.
tictactux: Thanks for this suggestion. I have the Westall saxophone book and it made an excellent adult beginner book I thought and have recommended it for any new adult sax player - I'll definitely hunt around for the clarinet version.

jbtsax & saxhound: Again I have the sax versions of the Rubank series. They have proved (and still prove!) to be exceptional for exercises and etudes. Knowing now they are also excellent for clarinet I'll hunt those down also.

Overall I plan on using a lot of material I already have but I want to approach the range of the instrument properly in the best manner possible - I don't want to limit myself to my alto sax's range!

Thanks guys I'm very excited to be started the clarinet soon! :D


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
FWIW, I've trained with the Rubank stuff and I trained my students with it. I don't necessarily think it's the best, but just something I was comfortable with -- because I had it around for so long, for both clarinet and sax.

One of the things I've always done is also have a piece of some kind to practice in addition to the Rubank or whatever. Generally, I've picked something I heard and liked then got the music for it. Of course, I wouldn't recommend picking something that sounds soul-crushingly difficult. It could even just be a part of a larger piece: I've known folks that picked up the clarinet just because they wanted to play the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue. Just don't forget putting in time with long tones and arpeggios.

I'm glad you're looking for a teacher. I definitely recommend finding one whose main instrument is the clarinet or one that doubles on clarinet and sax.


Old King Log
Staff member
I would second the Rubank series as well

However, there is one big pitfall awaiting the user of the Rubank Elementary Method, that being the fingering chart.

The large printed charts provided in the Elementary Method is a two sided affair. One side shows a "normal looking" clarinet, along with the long string of notes and appended fingerings. The other side shows a sickly looking horn, again with the notes and fingerings.

Many a student of the clarinet has been tripped up by this simple and obvious looking piece of material. If you use the Rubank, make sure to use the fingering chart with the anorexic looking instrument. Ignore the "normal looking" instrument version, as what is listed there are the fingerings for an Albert system horn.

The two instruments and note fingerings are similar enough to get things working, but working very wrong. The "first finger holes" are essentially reversed between the Albert and the Boehm (which is what you possess).

The "sickly looking" horn is a metal clarinet, a common enough instrument back in the day when the method was written by the wonderfully named Nilo Hovey, but relatively rare now. Sickly or not, metal Boehm horns finger the same as wooden (fat looking) ones. In the 1920's-1930's when he put his methods together, both metal clarinets (and Albert system instruments) would have been common enough for him not to omit either type from his work.

(And, it's not just the students that have had the problem. I've had parents intent upon helping their children take a look at the chart, seeing the similarities between the appearance of the Albert horn on the chart and the instrument in their child's hands, and get all insistent that they use that one for reference. I even went so far as to mark the chart for the Albert horn "Do Not Use", once I caught on to what was happening.)

And, when looking for a clarinet (or a saxophone, or (to a lesser extent) a bass clarinet) teacher, find one who is (ab initio) a clarinet (or a saxophone, or a bass clarinet) player. Many of us have been taught (by a proper teacher) one of the instruments, and then later picked up the other on our own. Better you should learn from someone who learned the tricks of the trade from someone who was taught them, rather than who picked them up on their own, since the self-taught approach very often misses out on the occasional nuance here and there.

(Clarinet and bass clarinet are obviously very similar, but there are differences in embouchure and the upper register that might escape some clarinet players who only "dabble" on bass.)

This is nothing against those who double (as a doubler myself, I can't cut my own throat) - it's just good advice.
Thanks SOTSDO very sage advice. I'd always wondered the differences between Boehm and Albert.

I plan to dabble,mostly but also put in the time for long tones and arpeggios. :)
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