Each clarinet is a piece of history. While its roots lie in the single-reed "pastoral instruments" played by the Greeks, the modern clarinet took shape in Europe in the 18th century. As a larger and more complex version of the recorder, this is an instrument of woodwind with a light and sweet tone, which is common to classical music and jazz. If you join the ranks of clarinetists, the first thing you should do is learn how to assemble and maintain your instrument. Go to step 1 to learn how to assemble the body, order the mouthpiece, and keep your instrument in good condition.
Part 1 of 3: Assembling the Body
Step 1. Identify and examine the individual pieces of the clarinet
Open its case and make sure that all the parts are working well and that they are clean and ready to use. A basic clarinet consists of four main parts that connect with cork-covered joints, as well as a mouthpiece that is made up of several smaller elements.
- The bell refers to the bell or cone-shaped part of the bottom of the clarinet.
- Lower body it is the largest part of the instrument. You have to have metal keys on the right side when they are in the correct orientation with a bridge key pointing towards the upper body. The best way to distinguish between the two bodies is that the upper one will have two cork connections called spikes; while the lower one will have only a lower cork spike and a metal ring around the upper spike, marking the center part of the instrument.
- Upper body It has the keys on the left side of the instrument and it should be slightly smaller than the bottom. If it is in the correct orientation, there must be a jumper over the connection point at the bottom and a gap between the end of the taps and the top of the upper body where it attaches to the nozzle. In other words, you will know that the pieces are lined up correctly if there are no keys on the top or bottom edge of either section.
- The keg it is a small section of the instrument that basically connects the upper body with the mouthpiece. There are no keys in this section and generally the clarinet brand stamp will be here.
- Nozzle It consists of the black coating and a metal ligature that is used to hold the reed in place. Many clarinets also come with a metal mouthpiece cover that is used to protect the mouthpiece inside the case.
Step 2. Start from the hood and work your way up as you assemble
Attach the hood to the lower body first. Hold it carefully but firmly and rotate the bell from front to back while holding it securely in your other hand.
- Generally, clarinetists assemble their clarinet starting with the bell, then attach the lower body, upper body, barrel, and mouthpiece, in that order. However, there is no wrong way to assemble. The clarinet won't sound better or worse if you start assembling it from the barrel and upper body or if you start at the bottom and jump to other sections.
- Regardless of the order in which you assemble the clarinet, you will probably want to place the mouthpiece last because the reed or reed takes a little time to get wet before playing. For this reason, it makes more sense to start at the bottom.
Step 3. Grease any cork that is sturdy
This will make your clarinet easier to assemble and disassemble. Most of the time, cork grease comes in a tube that looks like a lip balm. If you do not have this material, you can use petroleum jelly to replace it, although it is advisable to use real cork grease.
Step 4. Hold the bridge braces down and join the upper body to the lower body
Hold both pieces parallel to the ground, with the long spanners facing you, and align them. Make sure the bridge braces, two small pieces of metal underneath the large braces on the side of the upper body, are lined up perfectly, then gently pushing and turning the two sections together. The bridging braces need to be lined up and you have to push the top ring over the bottom so that the sections come together securely.
- Grab the lower body with your right hand at the top of the piece, just below the keys in the center and over the two large keys that face the bottom. These are relatively flat and can be easily pressed down when you hold the instrument without danger of bending something.
- Grab the upper body with your left hand underneath the piece, wrapping your fingers around the bottom of the instrument and around the ring key ring, which should lift the bridge key when you release it. This procedure will be necessary to get the two parts to come together well. Carefully align the bridge keys and attach the instrument.
- To make sure you have aligned the instrument properlyLook at the metal bar that runs the length of each section of the instrument and on which the keys rest. Both sections of said bar must match perfectly. This means that the keys will also be aligned.
Step 5. Attach the keg
Now comes the easy part! Place it on top of the acoustic tube. The lower end, which attaches to the upper body of the clarinet, should be slightly larger than the upper end, which attaches to the mouthpiece. Push this small piece down until it enters the upper body, twisting gently, and make sure it sinks in all the way and fits snugly.
- To tune the clarinet, the barrel is pressed or pulled, making the instrument slightly longer or shorter. However, when first starting out, press the barrel all the way until you are familiar with your instrument and how it should be tuned.
- Usually the mouthpiece is prepared and attached to the barrel, then screwed onto the upper body of the clarinet before attaching the barrel alone. One way is not better or worse than the other. It generally depends on the size of the clarinetist's hands, as some find that the mouthpiece is too small to handle and they prefer to have the barrel as a support when placing the reed or reed.
Part 2 of 3: assembling the mouthpiece
Step 1. Prepare the reed or reed by moistening it.
The thickest half of the reed is called the heel and to moisten it you have to immerse this part in 1.3 to 2.5 cm of water. It's generally best to start the assembly process by soaking it so it works while you do the rest of the work.
- The capillary action of the reed will absorb the water from the bottom to the top. When the water reaches the middle of the reed, where the division begins, take it out and moisten the end through which you will blow quickly.
- Experiment with the degree of saturation you let your reed reach and see which one produces the best resonance for you. Two minutes before band practice begins is not the best time to do this experiment.
- Many musicians who use reed moisten it by sucking on it. For many it is a problem to prepare a small glass of water to soak it in the practice room. Although this is a common way to moisten reeds, you run the risk of deforming them with your teeth. Also, other musicians are not attracted to the idea of sucking on a piece of bitter cane. Soaking it in water is a more even way to moisten it.
Step 2. Place the reed over the mouthpiece hole
Align the tip of the reed vertically with the tip of the mouthpiece. Ideally, you should see a piece of the mouthpiece the size of the width of a fingernail above the shaft so that it is in an optimal position. Hold the reed in place with one finger and wiggle it around a bit with another until you've lined it up perfectly.
- Different reeds have different "nice places". Perfect alignment with the nozzle board (hole) is not always the best. Some clarinet players like to hold it in place with their thumb and blow through it to check the action before engaging the ligature.
- Never hit the top end of the reed which is thin and never try to touch the front because the sensitive pores can get dirty and make it unplayable. In general, handle the rod as little as possible.
Step 3. Secure the reed in place with a tie
Place the metal ligature over the top of the mouthpiece; be careful not to chip the reed. There should be two lines or two groups of lines etched on your mouthpiece, align the ligature between them evenly. Fit it over the middle of the base, which is the half of the shank that has not been sanded.
- If you have a metal ligature, the screws go on the same side of the clarinet where the reed is. If you have a leather one, these will go in the back with the leather on the base of the shaft. Tighten the screws but leave them a little loose for the best possible vibration and tone. You want them tight enough so that the rod is secure, but not so that it will dent or deform it.
- Some clarinets, instead of metal ligatures, have cloth or leather bands that are used to hold the reed in place. Sometimes these will be attached to the back of the instrument, on the opposite side of the reed.
Step 4. Gently attach the nozzle to the keg
If it is in the correct orientation, the reed should be facing the opposite direction of the instrument keys. Gently but firmly rotate the mouthpiece inside the clarinet, completing the instrument.
- Again, some musicians have different ideas about when the mouthpiece is attached to the barrel. If you want the final step to be to attach the mouthpiece to the barrel and then screw it onto the instrument; There will not be any problem.
- Similarly, some clarinetists like to attach the bridge of the mouthpiece and barrel to the instrument before placing the reed. It's your choice.
Part 3 of 3: Maintaining Your Clarinet
Step 1. Always handle the body carefully so that the keys do not bend
When removing each piece of the clarinet from the case, it is important to grasp each one with the tips of your fingers, touching the spikes of the instrument to remove each section without grabbing the entire body and thus deforming the keys. Hold it like a vinyl record, by the edges.
Step 2. Clean the outside of the clarinet regularly
Keep your instrument in good condition and shiny by using a soft cloth and rubbing it lightly after handling. Move the clean cloth gently over the metal braces and between them, around the body.
- Even if your hands are clean, the natural oils in your skin can leak out and stain the instrument over time. It is very important that you always clean the clarinet after each use if you want to extend its life as long as possible.
- Use a clean, dry cloth to clean your instrument. Never use any type of polish or metal liquid on the clarinet, you could damage the finish and ruin the tube.
Step 3. Clean the inside of the clarinet as well
Most come with a brush swab that you can use to clean the inside of the instrument. Another option is to easily make one. The brush is basically a wire with a small weight (you could use a paper clip) at one end that is dropped down the acoustic tube. Similarly, at the other end is a clean piece of microfiber cloth.
- After removing the bell and mouthpiece from the acoustic tube, drop the weighted side inside. Grab the end and pull it gently. Repeat 3-4 times until the inside is dry.
- Cleaning a clarinet is more of a drying process than an actual cleaning. Moisture feeds bacteria, odors, and can cause instrument pads or slippers to break down over time. Clarinets do not like the moisture that stays in them after a long session of use, which makes it important that you clean the inside of them completely after playing.
- Every so often, leave the clarinet case open overnight to allow it to dry better. It is probably best to do it at home, in a safe place, and not in your school's practice room.
Step 4. Clean the mouthpiece
Some clarinet players like to use the brush, while others prefer swabs to clean it more carefully. After removing the reed, completely dry the mouthpiece. Then let it air dry for five to ten minutes before putting it in the case. This is one piece that you particularly don't want to smell unpleasant when you take it out to play again.
Step 5. Support the acoustic tube properly
What is the biggest threat to clarinet duration? Human error! It is important to be very careful with the instrument when it is assembled to ensure that you do not accidentally damage the body.
- When you hold the clarinet, grasp the bottom of the bell with one hand and hold the keg with the other. Never carry it with one hand like a baseball bat, or shoulder it like a rifle. If the pins are loose, the instrument could come apart and cause serious damage.
- When you put down the instrumentNever stop it on a chair, the floor, or anywhere else unless you put it on a clarinet stand. Never stop it on its bell as it could easily tip over and you would risk damaging your instrument.
Step 6. Play your instrument regularly to keep it active
The clarinet has to be used to ensure that it works properly. If you leave it in the case for a long time, especially if it is not dry, the keys may start to stick, mildew may appear, or an unpleasant odor may arise. Even if you don't plan on playing for several hours, open the case and let the instrument breathe every so often. Assemble it, make sure everything is in order and clean it to preserve the life of the clarinet.
- It is recommended that there is always a little fat on the corks. This will make it easier to assemble the clarinet. In addition, the chances of damage to the instrument or corks are reduced.
- For beginners, choosing a reed or reed can be overwhelming as there are several brands. Although there are many to choose from, Rico and Vandoren are two very well known. Rico makes them with pressed cane; while Vandoren uses solid cane. Most beginners start with 2 or 2 1/2 strength rods (these come in different strengths: 1 is the thinnest and 5 is the thickest). Neither is really "better"; both will be fine for a beginner. When you get more experience playing, you will probably want to experiment with different reeds.
- You will realize that it is time to increase the size of your reed when a new one wears out in less than ten hours of use or when you try to play and it does not respond immediately: "the indecisive reed syndrome". Reeds # 3 or lower strength generally do not hold the higher registers well (natural third line B and higher). When trying different cane forces, go up half a point each time.
- An alternative to cleaning with a stick brush is to buy a brush that looks like a large, kinky tube cleaner. You just have to insert it into your clarinet and close the case. However, we warn you that there are many different points of view regarding these brushes; some people think they are wonderful and convenient, while others think they are not effective. If you have a wooden clarinet, it is recommended not to use them.
- All sound comes from the vibration of the reed. Rushed or careless setup can cause poor resonance, difficulty playing some registers, and could cause you to modify your embouchure (the shape of your mouth and your muscle control) in a weird way, just to get to a tone.
- Try not to drop your clarinet or its case as the instrument can be easily damaged even when it is inside its case. You must carry the clarinet with both hands, with the bottom one in the place where the bell joins the lower body to prevent the instrument from being disarmed by the spikes! If you have to carry it with one hand, put it on the bell (fingers, not the big toe) and shoulder it like a rifle.
- Never stand your clarinet on one end unless you have a stand for this instrument.
- You don't have to use cork grease every time you put your clarinet together, as it can build up and become a mess.
- The reeds or reeds are very thin. Be very careful with them as they crack easily.