This post originally appeared on the Jellynote blog. Jellynote is a great website to find sheet music, articles, and other resources for musicians. I’ve enjoyed exploring their website using Jellynote Premium (which was generously gifted to me) the past few months, and I hope you’ll check out their website!
Congratulations on beginning your journey to learn the clarinet! I might be a bit biased, but I think it’s the best instrument, and I’m so excited that you want to learn to play the clarinet.
Before you start playing clarinet, you should check to make sure that you have everything you need so you can focus on music-making (instead of struggling to find a mouthpiece or other piece of equipment). Although it might seem like a lot of equipment and accessories you need to play clarinet, each one serves a specific purpose and will help with your clarinet success.
List of equipment
Here is a complete list of equipment you will need, as well as a few recommendations to maximize your progress:
- A working clarinet. If you are purchasing a new clarinet, I recommend plastic clarinets for beginners, as they are more affordable and suitable for beginners. If you are using a used clarinet or have borrowed one from a family or friend, be sure to take your instrument to a professional musical instrument repair technician so that they may ensure it is in proper working order. (Make sure that your clarinet has all five of its pieces – mouthpiece, barrel, upper joint, lower joint, and bell.)
- Mouthpiece. If your clarinet did not come with a mouthpiece, you can purchase a separate mouthpiece at a music store or online. I recommend Vandoren mouthpieces, which work well for clarinetists of all ages and ability levels.
- Mouthpiece cap. This is used to protect your mouthpiece when you are not playing. These caps are usually made of metal or plastic, and I recommend plastic because it is less likely to chip the reed if you accidentally hit it while putting the mouthpiece cap on the mouthpiece.
- Ligature. This small circular object may be made of metal, string, plastic, or a combination of these materials, and this is what holds the reed to the mouthpiece.
- Reeds. Reeds are made from cane (although some companies use synthetic materials), and they are used to produce the sound on the clarinet. It’s always a good idea to have a few boxes of reeds just in case you unexpectedly run out. At the very least, I recommend purchasing at least two boxes when you begin learning the clarinet.
- Swab (preferably silk, cotton, or other fabric without any exposed metal). This is used to dry the interior of the clarinet after you have finished playing.
- Cork grease. Use this regularly to ensure your clarinet fits together easily without causing any damage to corks. The corks are found on the mouthpiece, upper joint (which has a cork on both the top and bottom), and the bottom of the lower joint, and you should apply cork grease when the sections of the clarinet feel difficult to assemble.
- Music stand. Make sure you have a music stand so you can practice with good posture. (Don’t practice with your music flat on another surface, as this can lead to poor posture.)
- Neck strap. This can help support the weight of your clarinet while playing to avoid fatigue or discomfort. The neck strap will attach to the thumb rest and can prevent overuse injuries in the hand, wrist, or arm.
- Tuner. This will help you improve your pitch and overall sound. You can use an analog tuner or download an app.
- Metronome. This will help you improve your rhythm and train you to play with a steady beat. You can use an analog tuner or download an app. (I like Tonal Energy, an app with a built-in tuner, metronome, and drone function.)
- Clarinet peg/stand. Instead of placing or standing your clarinet on a chair or on the floor (never do this because your keys will bend if it falls over!), you can safely place your clarinet on a peg or stand so it won’t get knocked over. Make sure you get a sturdy peg which can’t be knocked over – I like the K&M pegs.
- Cigarette or pad paper. When water gets stuck in a tone hole (a common occurrence after extended practice), this can be used to quickly remove it to prevent a gurgling sound.
- Thumb cushion. It’s normal to experience discomfort in your right thumb due to the weight of the clarinet, and you can alleviate this by using a thumb cushion. Most music stores sell inexpensive thumb cushions, and you can also craft one out of pencil grips.
- Mouthpiece patch. You can use this to cushion your upper teeth on the mouthpiece. Most music stores sell mouthpiece patches, and I like the Vandoren patches best.
Good luck with your clarinet journey, and happy practicing!