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Beginning Clarinet Milestones Checklist

Whether you’re just starting out on your clarinet journey or are teaching someone who is, there are many milestones you will encounter during the first year of playing!

Although the clarinet is quite a popular instrument, there certainly are quite a few fundamentals, pieces of equipment, and countless other details to consider!

This is why I created this checklist – to help both beginning clarinetists and their teachers stay organized and make sure you’re not missing any important musical milestones.

Note: I have organized each category in a progressive sequence, but you should customize your learning/teaching strategy for each student to ensure they have optimal progress.

(Want a downloadable version of this list? I’ve created a FREE printable download for you to use!)

Pre-Playing Lessons

Fundamentals

Once the student has familiarized themselves with music notation and can correctly identify all pieces of clarinet equipment, here are some important fundamentals to learn. (Remember, these are listed sequentially, but feel free to adapt the order to best help you or your student. It may take several lessons to adequately cover all of these fundamentals, and these essential elements should be reviewed and improved during every lesson.)

  • Posture
  • Breathing/air support
  • Embouchure
  • Hand/finger position
  • Articulation

Clarinet Milestones

  • forming a proper embouchure
  • first notes
  • low F and E – This can be tricky at first as students gain dexterity of their pinky fingers
  • crossing the break – This is another important milestone, and I’ve written a complete guide to crossing the break.
  • learning flats, sharps, and chromatic fingerings – be sure to review enharmonics and related music theory
  • learning different meters/time signatures
  • left hand clarion/reaching high C – Here’s my guide to help you and your students reach new heights!
  • successfully playing major scales – you might not be able to play all 12 major scales in your first year, but you should develop a solid foundation and understanding of basic major scales like C, F, and G

Productive Practicing

As a teacher, I plan the lesson sequence to cover a certain amount of material in each lesson. That’s why I believe it’s essential to instill proper practicing techniques in my students – I may not be able to teach each student how to play all of the repertoire, but I can teach them productive practicing tips that will help them be able to learn any new piece outside of lessons. When students develop productive practicing habits, teachers can spend more time working on interpretation and other musical elements during lessons instead of learning the piece. Here are some practicing guidelines I use for my students:

  • create a dedicated practice space
  • set goals for each practice session
  • troubleshoot and problem solve when you encounter an issue
  • use the 3-I approach to identify, isolate, and integrate problem spots
  • try to do 1 thing 1% better than last time
  • use metronomes, microphones, and mirrors to track your progress
  • keep a practice log or journal to stay organized

I hope these checklists help you and your students stay organized and motivated during your first year of playing clarinet!