Clarinet Maintenance

Maybe you played in school and wanted to get back into it again, maybe you always wanted to play but never had the time. Whatever your reason, our guide to playing the Clarinet can help.

First your clarinet, we receive instruments every week from customers who have found them in the loft, cupboards, under a bed and ask us to inspect them. Clarinets come in two basic forms, ABS or plastic and wood. Plastic instruments are much cheaper and more resilient but are limited in tone, perfect for students.

Check are the keywork, if this isn’t working correctly then you probably won’t be able to play properly. On most good quality clarinets the keywork can be adjusted or repairs but on some cheap models this is not possible. If you have a problem bring it to us where one of our experts can check it over and if necessary prepare a quote for any repairs.

Finally and most crucially, make sure you have some new reeds to play with. Older reeds may look OK but unless they’re in their original packaging or a reed case then likely they will be no good as they can crack or chip, this will sound awful and make it difficult for you to play. The general rule is to go for softer reeds, there are a number of brands available but we recommend Vandoren and Rico and there are some reeds designed specifically for students, you can read our guide to reeds here.

How to Assemble A Clarinet

There are 5 major parts to assemble the clarinet [replace with picture]

  1. The Lower Joint
  2. The Bell
  3. The Upper Joint
  4. The Barrel
  5. The Mouthpiece

The process is as follows: –

  1. Take the lower joint in one hand and the bell in the other, gently twist the bell onto the lower joint. As with all stages if you find any resistance apply a little cork grease which should be included in the case.
  2. Take the upper joint and gently twist this onto the lower joint. You need to be careful at this stage, the mechanism can easily catch and become damaged so you need to ensure they don’t.
  3. Once in place you need to ensure that the mechanism is aligned so that all the keys will work correctly.
  4. Twist on the barrel taking the same care.
  5. Finally twist on the mouthpiece and ensure it is aligned with the back key on the upper joint. You’re almost ready.

Preparing a Clarinet Reed to Play

  1. Moisten the reed with water or your saliva
  2. Place the reed on the mouthpiece and move it until you can only see a tiny bit of it behind the mouthpiece ensuring it is vertical.
  3. Slip the ligature over the mouthpiece and reed, lower it to cover the carved (bark) part of the reed and then tighten it.

Taking A Clarinet Apart (Disassembling)

The disassembly is the reverse of the assembly process. Just be very careful to twist carefully.

  1. Unscrew the ligature and place it aside, remove the reed placing it back into its case.
  2. Twist the mouthpiece, remove it from the barrel. Before putting it into the case slip the ligature back over the mouthpiece and then place the mouthpiece cap over both before putting in the case. We would also recommend a mouthpiece saver which for a very small investment can prolong the life of your instrument. This will stop them getting damaged and prevent dust getting into the ligature mechanism.
  3. You must keep the clarinet clean, after playing especially for a long duration saliva will build up and this can damage the instrument. Use a swab or … to remove moisture and we would recommend a padguard.
  4. Remove the barrel.
  5. Remove the upper joint but don’t forget, you don’t want to catch the mechanism or you might damage it.
  6. Play your hand on the bottom of the bell and twist to remove it from the lower joint.

We would always recommend keeping your clarinet in a specific clarinet case, if you don’t have one we recommend buying one. Similarly keeping your reeds in a reed case can significantly increase their life and save you money from damaged reeds.

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