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Taking up Clarinet aged 59...

Julietta

Julie
Hi everyone thank you for accepting me onto the forum.

I have given up the cello which I played for 7 years and got to grade 5 level. Had to quit due to cranky shoulders and neck problems but I hope to manage to learn clarinet having never played any woodwind instrument.

I have found a teacher who has found me a clarinet ...At first lesson yesterday I managed to blow 6 notes (badly of course!)
And now the hard work begins ...!!!

Any advice for a new old player ?
I would like to connect up with anyone who is also learning clarinet.
 
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Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Recognize the difference between fatigue and pain. Fatigue is OK to practice with and pain is NOT. If something hurts, stop and consult your teacher, things should not hurt.

Protect your reed, without it you cannot play! Yes, it is inexpensive, but the best instrument will not play without a working reed. Good reeds are rare. Workable reeds vary wildly, but as a beginner, if you can produce a sound from it without overly taxing yourself, consider it a good reed.

Figure out how much cork grease you need. Most beginners use too much. If you have goop on every joint that you can remove with a fingernail, you are using too much. If it is difficult to assemble, you need a bit more.

It will be easier than the cello. Not easy, but easier. Fewer variables to contend with and easier to play "in tune". Get a tuner and use it. Even though there is a button to push for each note you still need to get it in tune.

Pick out some tunes by ear and have a go at playing them. Dig in and have some fun.
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
You have a long row to hoe, but since you can read music AND you have an instructor there is a good chance you can make the transition. After six months of lessons, scales, and such, consider joining a community band to hone your concert skillz. Sounds like you've selected a fine instrument, remember the mouthpiece is an important piece of equipment. After your first few months you may want to pick a mouthpiece that works best for you. Your instructor, like mine did, can help you select one.


When I picked up clarinet, after playing sax for years I struggled with the break and the difference in embouchure and air requirements. I wouldn't let anyone hear me the first year! Be strong, enjoy the ride and do pick fav melodies to memorize as you go along. I keep my clarinet on a peg stand next to my desk so that I put more time on the instrument. And often I will pick it up to play against music from my playlists on the computer.

If you like jazz, do give Eddie Daniels a listen. I had my wife play some of his stuff as she had never played jazz in high school and was transitioning into playing sax and clarinet in my bands.

 

Julietta

Julie
Thank you so much for your reply Gandalfe. I was interested in the Eddie Daniels videos (what a cool guy !) about the reed resonance and getting it so it is vibrating just right ... also I do love to hear a jazzy sounding clarinet with some vibrato and playfulness as well as the classical style too. My teacher says she teaches classical style and she plays in a formal City orchestra but she said she also plays in a swing band so I recon she will be open to me trying out variations of style ... but first .....the long hard road to getting a decent sound out if it at all !!!! I do realise the dedication needed to learn a new instrument ... I must be mad really I aim to practice for 10-15mins about 6 times a day to begin with ... hoping to increase that... I am also buying a cheaper second hand plastic B12 from my teacher to take on trips and caravan holidays as the vintage wooden one is too precious for those trips with heat changes and humidity . Then I won’t lose practice days when away.
My husband is a proficient oboe player ... maybe some duets could be played in the future ... ? (he has not played a clarinet for 50 years but picked mine up and played it straight away! )
My right thumb aches a bit so I will try a neck sling ..
My husband plays in an orchestra and also in a community band and the band are very keen to give beginners a chance and need more clarinets so I have that to work towards ... I hope the clarinet is easier on my painful right shoulder than the cello.... does it put any strain on the shoulders and neck ?
 

Julietta

Julie
Recognize the difference between fatigue and pain. Fatigue is OK to practice with and pain is NOT. If something hurts, stop and consult your teacher, things should not hurt.

Protect your reed, without it you cannot play! Yes, it is inexpensive, but the best instrument will not play without a working reed. Good reeds are rare. Workable reeds vary wildly, but as a beginner, if you can produce a sound from it without overly taxing yourself, consider it a good reed.

Figure out how much cork grease you need. Most beginners use too much. If you have goop on every joint that you can remove with a fingernail, you are using too much. If it is difficult to assemble, you need a bit more.

It will be easier than the cello. Not easy, but easier. Fewer variables to contend with and easier to play "in tune". Get a tuner and use it. Even though there is a button to push for each note you still need to get it in tune.

Pick out some tunes by ear and have a go at playing them. Dig in and have some fun.
 

Julietta

Julie
Thank you so much Carl H., I do drive myself hard so good advice I must listen to my body especially as my right shoulder is quite painful right now .. (seeing pain Consultant/sports physio soon though) ....clarinet holding seems OK but neck strap maybe needed? Is that a good idea? Get a good reed ..ah yes.. good idea ... I have started with just 1 1/2 very soft and just £2.50 each, I will get better ones soon and try to move to a 2 . Cork grease advice thanks ... I have a tuner... but yes I need to ask teacher what you do to adjust the tuning as you play - thanks everso for the advice.
 
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saxhound

Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
I always found using a neck strap to be difficult while maintaining the proper angle of horn to mouth. I have some arthritis in my thumb and gets painful after a long practice session. I bought a Ridenhour thumb saddle, and it helps a lot. The only problem is your lower joint probably won't fit in your case with it on, so you will need to store it separately.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
The Ridenour saddle does a good job, if you can fit the clarinet in the case with it on as Saxhound mentioned. If not, it tends to move around in the case and eventually disappears. I used one for a while and liked what it did, but ended up going with the Yamaha clarinet thumb rest cushion. It sounds like a line as there are other things of similar shape and materials, but it is different from the others. I have one on each of my clarinets - A, Bb, C, & Eb and it makes a significant different in comfort. Not just where the thumb makes contact, but the wrist seems less stressed too. I have the others around here somewhere, but they were too hard and only moved the contact point without alleviating the pressure point.

I tried a neckstrap and never got along too well with one. They just seem to get in the way and cause other issues.

As you get more advanced in your playing your instructor may have you go to a harder reed as your embouchure gets more developed. 1 1/2 is on the soft side for most standard clarinet mouthpieces. DON'T think that better players use harder reeds as that is NOT SO.
Find the reed that meets your needs and keep on playing that strength until you are able to define a specific reason to change reed strength. Reed strength only indicates the strength of the reed and has nothing to do with the ability of the player.


 

TMHeimer

Tom Heimer
It's good you have a teacher and apparently a well functioning instrument. Agree that you may need a harder reed (2, 2.5) sometime soon. Keep fingers close to keys/holes, and somewhat curved. Good clarinet angle and embouchure. Try not to get frustrated with reeds.......?
The first 5-6 notes are the easiest, but you are not a 6th grade beginner, so should have little problem with the lower notes then getting into the upper register. Good luck and keep us posted with your progress.
 
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