Hi everyone. This is Rheuben. Today I’m going to introduce you to the clarinet.

The clarinet is a member of the woodwind family and is unique among the woodwinds. Most woodwinds over blow what we call an octave. When you finger a “d” and push the register key, you get a “d.” The clarinet is unique. It over blows a 12th. So when you finger a low “g” and push the register key, you get a “d.”

So on the clarinet, you never use the same fingering twice for a note. That makes it completely unique amongst the woodwind instruments.

Now the clarinet comes in a case, and when you open the case, you’ll see there’s a lot of pieces in it. So we’ll start with the bottom of the clarinet, it’s called the bell. This is the bell section [shows piece]. The next piece is called the lower joint. Now when the instrument is new, they come with corks underneath some of the keys to keep the keys down to keep them safe in travel. So you take a pair of tweezers and pull out the little corks. Now all the keys on this joint wiggle.

The next piece is called the upper joint. This is the top part of the clarinet. Again, it has a bunch of little corks in it we have to take out so it will play.

The next piece is the barrel. Now the barrel of the clarinet is very important and it comes in many different lengths. And the reason for the different lengths are because when a person plays, everyone has their own embouchure (that’s the shape of your mouth when you play) and has their own mouthpiece and the barrels come in short, about 62 mm to 67 mm in length. And so different barrels will produce different sounds, but that’s for another talk.

Then we go to the mouthpiece. Now this clarinet comes with a mouthpiece reed and everything all put together, so we’ll take it apart and show you all the different pieces.

We have the cap which is used to protect the reed and mouthpiece when you’re not playing the instrument. We have the ligature which is what hold the reed on the clarinet mouthpiece. We have the actual mouthpiece and, of course, the reed.

Now the first thing I’m going to do, is I’m going to put the instrument together and while I’m doing that, I’m going to soak the reed so that you can play the reed. You must soak it and get it wet. Just put it in your mouth and soak it.

While I’m doing that I’m going to open this. It’s cork grease. Now to put the instrument together, the clarinet has a lot of course between the connecting pieces. So you have to put a little grease on your finger, run it around the cork and make sure the cork is greased. Then you put the pieces together.

Now when you put the barrel on the lower joint, you wrap your hand gently around the bottom two keys so that you don’t bend them and you put on the bell section.

Then for the upper joint, the side where the keys extend beyond the cork, that goes into the lower joint so you have to put a little cork grease on the cork. When you put this piece on, it’s very important that your fingers go around and close the key that lifts the bridge key (demonstrates) so that you can’t bend it when you put it together. Close this down, hold it, and then you attach it to the lower joint so you don’t bump into the bridge key. You line it up so that this part (demonstrates) is even in the middle.

The next thing you put on would be the barrel (puts cork grease on top of upper joint and then places barrel on clarinet). Then, the next thing you put on will be the mouthpiece (puts cork grease on cork on mouthpiece).

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Now, as you look down the back of the clarinet, you will see that the thumb rest, the octave key and the mouthpiece need to be straight in line.

Okay, now that you have the reed wet, you put the ligature on the mouthpiece. You take the reed and you slip it underneath the ligature and line it up even with the mouthpiece. The tip should be lined up with the top of the mouthpiece. You pull the ligature down and tighten the screws. Once that’s done, you’re ready to play.

The clarinet, like I said, over blows a 12th, so when you finger a note, like you finger a “c” (the first three fingers on your left hand pressed down), when you push this register key, it becomes a “g.” It’s not a “c” any longer, it’s a “g.” So this makes it completely unique.

Now this works the same as any woodwind instrument (other than flute), it has a reed. You put your bottom lip over your bottom teeth. (Points to mouth) This is called your embouchure. The top of your mouthpiece goes in your mouth (demonstrates and plays) and that’s how you produce a note.

When you get ready to quit playing, you put the cap back on the mouthpiece and that way the mouthpiece and reed are protected.

Now to take the instrument apart, you remove the cap, take off the ligature and reed. Then you remove the mouthpiece. Essentially you do the same thing you did to set up but backwards. Take off the barrel, put it in the case.

Make sure that when you take it apart, you press down those same keys so you don’t bend the bridge key. Remove the upper joint. Lay it in the case. Close the bottom two keys with your hand and remove the bell. Put that in the case. Put the bottom joint back in the case.

Put the cap back on the ligature and mouthpiece and put that back in the case. Usually you have something to put the reed in to protect it in the case, I don’t have that at the moment, so you don’t just lay it in the case like I’m doing right now, but that’s that. You close up your cork grease and put it in the case. Close the case and you’re ready to travel.

The clarinet is very light, very small and very easy to get around with. And that’s the introduction to the clarinet. Thank you so much.

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Published by Rheuben Allen

Rheuben has been recognized worldwide as one of the premier saxophone and clarinet repairmen for many years. With over 40 years as a repairman Rheuben has turned his talents to the manufacturing of quality woodwinds and brass instruments. Rheuben's current project is the Rheuben Allen Education Foundation, Inc., set up to provide musical instruments to young students that cannot afford instruments and would otherwise not be able to play an instrument.