Just Facts: Choosing A New Clarinet For A Student



Creating a nice sound with your instrument doesn’t only come from using good equipment.

If you are the kind of teacher who likes helping students choose the most suitable instrument for their playing this fact may sound familiar to you.

What is it that makes it so difficult to choose a new clarinet for a student?

When I hear pupils trying new clarinets, despite the fact that they are playing different models and brands, I find it inevitable to hear the essence of their own sound. I always like trying the clarinets first to make sure that the mechanism functions properly, so in that way we can just concentrate on the kinds of sounds that those instruments produce.

The fact is that the production of sound doesn’t originate on the clarinet or the mouthpiece but in our own body. There are many factors such as breath control, our way of blowing, position of the oral cavity (jaw, lips, teeth, tongue, soft palate), that can directly impact the tonal quality and intonation before the air even reaches the clarinet. On top of that each player will always be used to hearing their own sound, which means that, even if only unconsciously, they will always try to replicate what they are used to.

Then, how can I possibly make the right choice for them? From my years of experience, my advise would be to focus on the student’s needs such as response needed or resistance required. Are they a strong or weak blower? Do they require a clarinet that makes their sound stand out? Considering some of these factors helps us to find the right balance. And as teachers we shouldn’t forget to bear in mind the future expectations of each particular student (like what genres of music and repertoire they would like to play in the future).

Once a student gets new equipment there is a time for adaptation. They already have the proper tools, so now they can start to look for the sound they want to achieve. I strongly believe that the ear tunes in with the sound that has surrounded us throughout the years, and that is the sound your ear will be unconsciously searching for. In that sense, if you feel like your sound needs to be different, I would very much recommend you to listen to many different recordings of well-known clarinettists and consciously focus on the sound they create. Now, do you like that sound? Is that what you would like to sound like? According to your technical skills, would you be able to reproduce that sound?

Thanks for taking the time to read this new article. Please don’t hesitate to share your ideas or queries in the comments below.

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