How to assemble a clarinet

The clarinet certainly does have its fair share of pieces, equipment, and accessories. Here’s everything you need to know to properly assemble your clarinet:

Parts of a clarinet from top to bottom

  • Mouthpiece (with ligature and reed)
  • Barrel
  • Upper joint
  • Lower joint
  • Bell

Steps to assembling a clarinet

  1. Lay the case on a stable, flat surface and ensure that the case is not upside down before opening
  2. Attach the bell to the lower joint, being careful not to press any keys (silver parts)
  3. Attach the upper joint to the lower joint, being careful to not press any keys with excess pressure
  4. Make sure the bridge key is aligned (this connects the upper and lower joints and is on the right side)
  5. Attach the barrel to the upper joint (the wider opening attaches to the upper joint); make sure the logo is in alignment with other logos
  6. Attach the mouthpiece (without reed or ligature)
  7. Carefully loosen the screw(s) of the ligature and lower it over the mouthpiece, taking care to not chip the mouthpiece
  8. Slide the reed between the mouthpiece and ligature (avoid touching the fragile tip of the reed). Use your thumbs adjust it to its proper placement
  9. Cover the mouthpiece with a mouthpiece cap until you are ready to play
  10. Disassemble your clarinet: After swabbing, remove these pieces in reverse. Carefully remove the pieces, beginning with the reed, ligature, and mouthpiece and working down to the bell.
Proper reed placement: the reed is not too high or low
and should sit symmetrically on the mouthpiece

Tips

  • When assembling a clarinet, use gentle back-and-forth twisting motions. Do not push the pieces together.
  • Don’t be afraid to use gentle pressure (you won’t break the wood or plastic), but do not force the pieces together. Use cork grease if you are having difficulty assembling any pieces.
  • You can bend keys during assembly if you’re not careful. The keyboard is the most fragile part of the clarinet, which is why you should avoid pressing or holding it as you assemble your clarinet.
  • Put the reed in your mouth while you assemble the rest of the instrument to save time. Be sure to wet the entire reed.
  • Make sure the logos are aligned on the front of the clarinet

Clarinet care & maintenance

  • Wash your hands and brush your teeth before each time you play the clarinet.
  • ALWAYS swab your clarinet after every use. If you are playing for a long time, swab it at least every 30 minutes.
  • Change your reeds regularly to avoid fungus and mold. Reeds can last anywhere from a day to a few weeks if cared for properly.
  • Use cork grease as often as necessary (at least once a week).
  • NEVER leave your assembled clarinet resting across a chair – always disassemble it or leave it on a clarinet stand (with the mouthpiece cap on)
  • NEVER leave the mouthpiece on a music stand
  • Clarinets are not toys! Don’t spin, fight, throw, or juggle your clarinet.

Equipment recommendations

  • Use a plastic mouthpiece cap instead of a metal one (plastic is less likely to break the mouthpiece or chip the reed)
  • Don’t use a swab with exposed metal (it will scratch the interior of the clarinet)
  • Don’t play on broken or chipped reeds (replace damaged reeds immediately). Here are more ways you can avoid chipped reeds.
  • Don’t use key oil yourself – leave it to a professional repair technician

Optional accessories that make a big difference

  • Reed case to hold multiple reeds
  • Clarinet stand so your clarinet is protected when you’re not playing
  • Thumb cushion (you can DIY with pencil grips)
  • Teeth guards (I like EZO denture cushions)
  • Mouthpiece patch
  • Tuner
  • Metronome

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