Books Every Clarinetist Should Have on Their Bookshelf – Part 2

There’s something about these cold, dreary days that makes curling up with a good book extra appealing. I’ve always been an avid bookworm, and I especially love reading books about clarinet or music in general. There’s only so much you can learn in a practice room, and these books are great supplements to your music education.

Longtime readers will remember one of my first articles, Books Every Clarinetist Should Have on Their Bookshelf (Or Kindle). This list has only grown over the years, hence the need for part 2! As before, this is not a comprehensive list. Some of these books are currently out of print, but many used copies can be found online. I’ve included several books from my own reading list, and it would be great to to hear your recommendations!

Lives and legends of famous clarinetists

There’s much to be learned from reading about other people’s lives. Become inspired by some of history’s greatest clarinetists!

  • From Where I Sit by Jack Brymer. An autobiography from one of England’s renowned clarinetists. (Brymer also wrote another autobiographical book, In the Orchestra.)
  • L’Ascèse et la flamme by Guy Deplus and Bruno Martinez. Martinez interviews famed French clarinetist Guy Deplus about his life, music, and teaching. Available in French and English.
  • Treat It Gentle by Sidney Bechet. For any fans of clarinet, saxophone, and jazz, this book accounts Bechet’s life as a jazz legend.
  • The Trouble With Cinderella by Artie Shaw. Read about the rise of Arthur Arshawsky, including his thoughts on music and entertainment.
  • The Kingdom of Swing by Benny Goodman. The life and legend of Benny Goodman, with a section written by Irving Kolodin. (There is also a film: Benny Goodman – Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing, directed by Oren Jacoby.)

Clarinet History & Overview

These books provide historical insight on the development of the clarinet and are great reference materials to have in your personal library.

  • The Cambridge Companion to the Clarinet by Colin Lawson. This book offers a comprehensive overview of the clarinet, from its history, repertoire, teaching, and performing.
  • The Early Clarinet: A Practical Guide by Colin Lawson. A must-read for anyone interested in learning about historical, stylistic, and interpretive elements of early clarinets and their music.
  • The Baroque Clarinet by Albert Rice. A guide to Baroque clarinet history, style, and interpretation.
  • The Clarinet in the Classical Period by Albert Rice. A guide to Classical clarinet history, style, and interpretation (from 1760-1830).
  • The Bass Clarinet: A Personal History by Harry Sparnaay. The clarinet world is still mourning the loss of esteemed Dutch clarinetist Sparnaay. His book delves into all things bass clarinet, from traditional technical details to contemporary extended techniques. This book includes a CD with audio examples.
  • From the Clarinet D’Amour to the Contra Bass: A History of Large Size Clarinets, 1740-1860 by Albert Rice. Learn about the larger members of the clarinet family with this comprehensive guide by acclaimed clarinet scholar Albert Rice.
  • Heroes & Heroines of Clarinettistry by Pamela Weston. A hodgepodge of writings by preeminent clarinet scholar Pamela Weston.
  • Clarinet Secrets: 52 Performance Strategies for the Advanced Clarinetist by Michele GingrasGingras offers 52 secrets – one for every week of the year – to improve your musical, technical, and mental abilities. (She also has a sequel – More Clarinet Secrets: 100 Quick Tips for the Advanced Clarinetist.)
  • Repertory of the Clarinet by Kalmen Opperman. This is a must-have reference for clarinetists of all ages to discover new, lost, or forgotten gems of clarinet repertoire.

Clarinet Repertoire

Learn more about the masterworks of clarinet repertoire for both pedagogical and interpretative inspiration.

  • For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet by Rebecca Rischin. For clarinetists and history enthusiasts alike, this book describes the conception, development, and premiere of Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps during the horrors of World War II.
  • Notes for Clarinetists: A Guide to the Repertoire by Albert Rice. Rice provides insight to 35 of the most standard works for clarinet, including biographical information on composers and stylistic suggestions.
  • Brahms: Clarinet Quintet by Colin Lawson. This book includes a thorough analysis of Brahms’ beloved clarinet quintet and outlines its impact on other composers.

I am always looking for recommendations to add to my reading list, so please leave a comment below with your favorite clarinet books!


  • Dan

    Do any of the history books discuss the issue of upside down (reed on top) mouthpieces?
    It keeps puzzling me ever since I’ve heard of it: with direct tonguing being impossible, they must have been using all the fake tonguing techniques that are now considered “not even wrong” and, from our perspective, for good reasons.

    • jennymaclay

      I think a few of these do. I forget which ones specifically, but I would read any of the strictly clarinet books which discuss clarinet history and development.

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