The clarinet is a lovely instrument for children to learn, and in time they can play the clarinet in an orchestra, concert band or jazz group.

What is the Clarinet?

The clarinet is a musical instrument in the woodwind family, which also includes the saxophone and oboe.

Woodwind instruments produce notes by blowing through a mouthpiece containing a vibrating reed. The reed is a thinly sliced piece of cane or plastic.

The clarinet is long and cylindrical in shape and usually made of African hardwood or plastic (the difference of which is reflected in the price). The mouthpiece is made out of plastic, hard rubber or metal.

The clarinet is a B flat transposing instrument. This means that when a clarinet player reads and plays a middle C on their music sheet, it will sound as a B flat note on a piano.

Where do you learn the Clarinet?

Most primary and secondary schools offer music tuition as an extracurricular activity. Your child would have the opportunity to hire a clarinet for a minimal cost, which includes tuition plus the opportunity to perform in the school’s orchestra or music group. The tutors are usually of a high calibre and experienced. This is a great platform to get your child started on clarinet in an environment which fosters their creativity.

The other options are private and academy tuition. Unfortunately not every place around the country has access to private clarinet teachers and such tuition is usually, though not always, restricted to the larger centres.

Music schools and academies usually offer both group and individual tuition, the difference being reflected in the cost. Many families start their children in a class environment, then move on to individual sessions as their child progresses and would benefit from one-on-one tuition.

What age can your child start learning the Clarinet?

Most tutors suggest 10 years of age. The main reason for this is a younger child’s fingers are not long enough to span the clarinet’s keys. Most would suggest that younger children start with the recorder and move on to the clarinet as they grow.

How do you progress over time?

Most young clarinet players choose to follow a formal examination method of progression. Examinations start at beginner level through eight grades then a diploma. Such a course of study provides the opportunity for students to naturally develop all the necessary skills and techniques, which will encourage several years of clarinet playing and study.

Your child will therefore be encouraged to pursue either Trinity College of Music or the Royal School of Music (ABRSM) examinations. Their tutor will advise them as to the best examination process for them.

In addition to practical examinations, your child will be encouraged to undertake theory study, usually through one of the above music schools as well. The combination of theory and practical provides a solid base for a life-long interest in music.

What equipment do you need to learn the Clarinet?

In addition to the clarinet itself, you will need a supply of reeds. These usually come in boxes of 10 (your child will tend to use a lot of reeds in their first few months of playing as their technique is developing. A chipped reed will make the instrument difficult to play, so replace their reeds regularly).

There are different strengths of clarinet reed indicated by a number (or designation) printed directly on the reed. Typical strengths are 21/2, 3 or 31/2 (or a designation such as medium or medium hard). The strength needed depends on the individual player and the player’s mouthpiece. Your tutor will help decide which reed strength is best for your child.

Separate mouthpieces are available which produce different tones and clarity depending on the type. At this stage, while your child is still learning, you won’t need to consider an additional mouthpiece.

How much does it cost to learn the Clarinet?

For new models, clarinets retail from around $495 and go into the thousands. Mid priced instruments range from $1100 – $1800. Student clarinets range from $495 – $1000.

When considering your child’s first clarinet, it pays to look at a second hand model – there is usually a selection available for sale at any one time. You could pick up a good quality mid-priced instrument for the cost of a student model.

You may want to consider hiring your child a clarinet in the first instance. This will allow them the opportunity to consider if the clarinet is the instrument best suited to them without the outlay for a full-priced instrument in the initial stages of learning.

There are several hire options available – monthly, six and twelve-monthly. The six and twelve monthly options work with the school year and may not be available in the latter half of the year.

Minimum hire is usually three months and you can expect to pay around $30 per month hire fee.

Most music stores around the country offer such a hire-to-buy scheme. Should your child choose to continue with the instrument, a portion of your hire fee is deducted from the retail price.

Depending on the teacher and age of the student, private tuition is around $18 – $35 per 30 minutes. Most beginning students can expect $18 – $20 per 30 minutes.

How much time does it take to learn the Clarinet?

Lessons are normally 30 minutes in duration for beginners. There are usually 10 lessons per term, four terms each year, coinciding with the school terms.

Then there is additional practice required by the pupil, with most teachers advocating a further 30 minutes practice daily.

Should your child decide to head down the examination path, they will be looking at a commitment of several years playing.

Great Clarinet Websites

Website of the International Clarinet Association, includes articles, mailing lists and links to other clarinet sites around the world.

The Clarinet pages of the excellent International Woodwind website. Includes music, midi, chat on-line and a young peoples’ section.


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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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