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Parent's Guide to children playing the Clarinet


The clarinet is an instrument in the woodwind family. It  is a terrific starting point in music for a child. The size and weight is perfect for a child's small hands.  In addition, it can be easily transported. 

What age should my child start Clarinet lessons?

The clarinet is a popular instrument in school programs so your child will have the opportunity to participate in band or orchestra with their friends.  The recommended age to start a child in clarinet lessons is 8 years. The lessons will teach your child the proper position for holding the instrument.  They will focus on embouchure (the way you shape your mouth while playing), sound repertoire, finger placement,  and music reading.   The theory taught to play the clarinet is also very similar to the saxophone and the flute.  Many times young players will learn on the clarinet and then switch over to one or both of the others to broaden their musical talents.


Registration for music can be done at anytime, as long as space is available, and your session will be prorated.  Registration can be done in person, by phone, by mail or fax.  In addition, some organizations will allow you to register on line.   Normally these programs are very popular and space can be limited so don't delay registration or you may miss out! Music programs are usually 16 -20 week sessions.


How much practice is necessary?

As with anything, improving in music takes practice.  One of the major problems with children and music is the drudgery of practicing.  There is no set time, however your child must spend quality time each day reviewing what they were taught.  Practice must be concentrated and focused.  Set the same time every day to practice so that it becomes part of a routine or habit. For young children 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity and they spend more time watching the clock then practicing.  Instead of setting a time frame, use repetition as your gauge.  For example have your child play each piece 3  - 5 times per day.  The child does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing but knows that they are on the third time and almost finished.   Ideally, your child should have a place to practice without distractions and it should not disrupt the household.  If the home is small then you should consider the instrument chosen.  A very large instrument or a noisy instrument could be very disruptive and you may not have the room for it.

How long are sessions?

Depending on the instrument and the skill level of the child lessons will run either 30, 45 or 60 minutes per week. Lessons are scheduled on an individual basis.  Your registration reserves you a time slot for the duration of your instruction period.  It is imperative that you arrive promptly for your lesson.  They will normally give you only one make-up lesson per session and any other that the child misses will be a forfeiture of that lesson.


Formal and informal recitals are an important part of the music program. They will offer your child the opportunity to perform, listen and learn proper recital etiquette.  These recitals are not mandatory but it is to your child's advantage for them to participate



Cost of lessons?

The cost of music lessons has four components:

  • music lessons
  • cost of the instrument
  • cost of materials
  • competition or recital fees. 
Music Lessons..

The cost for clarinet lessons would depend on whether your child is taking private or group lessons, the length of the class and the qualifications of the instructor.

Music sessions will run for 16 -20 weeks.   As a general indication, most instruments will be $25 - $40 for a 30 minute lesson,  $35 -$50 for a 45 minute lesson and $50 - $60 for a 60 minute lesson.  Some organizations offer family discounts and group rates.  Many students enjoy taking lessons with their family or friends.

The Cost of the Clarinet...

The cost of the instrument would depend on whether you rent or purchase the instrument.  If you rent the instrument it is usually done on a three month trial basis that will automatically turn into a year contract if the instrument is not returned.  You can pay the cost all once at the beginning or they will automatically bill your credit card on a monthly basis.  If you choose to purchase the instrument you have the option of purchasing a new or used instrument.  A used instrument will be substantially cheaper and many times are like new.  Cost information for purchasing or renting a clarinet is provided below in the equipment category.


Initially, the materials required will be a method book. Some music stores will include the book with the rental of the instrument. In addition, some musical accessories could be recommended depending on the instructor.  For instance, music stands, portable CD players, microphones or instrument stands may be required. 

Recital cost....

Competitions and recitals are a wonderful way for your child to show their abilities to the world and it is extremely exciting for them.  However, many recitals and competitions often have entry fees.  You will need to discuss with child's instructor their philosophy on this subject.



Do clarinets come in sizes?

There are several different types of clarinets.  They range from the tiny E-flat clarinet, which is about 14 inches long to the giant contrabass clarinet. which is larger than an adult that is seated. The B-flat is the clarinet of choice for young children.  This is most often used in school band programs and is the most popular of all clarinets even in the professional field.

What should I do rent or buy a Clarinet?

Initially, your best option is to rent a clarinet from your local music store.  If you rent the instrument it is usually done on a three month trial basis that will automatically turn into a year contract if the instrument is not returned.  It will cost you approximately $150.00 for the year. 

Long-term, dedicated students should purchase a clarinet at some point in their development.  A good quality, brand new student clarinet may be purchased at about $400. An intermediate instrument will cost approximately $700 and an professional clarinet will run about $1000.   There are two types of clarinets available for students, plastic and wood.  Usually, you will be able to purchase the plastic for substantially cheaper.  You can tell a wood clarinet, by the grain in the wood.  A wood clarinet is what professionals use and they provide a warmer sound.  The plastic however are more durable for young children.

If you plan to purchase a used instrument, which will cost substantially less, seriously consider buying one from a reputable dealer that will stand behind the purchase.

In addition, you will need to purchase clarinet reeds, a music stand, cleaning swab, cork grease and the method book.  You can expect these items to cost approximately $20 to $30 dollars.

A beginner will normally use a number 2 Ricoh reed.   You should purchase several reeds at a time.  Reeds need to be replaced often, they will last about 2-3 weeks.  To help increase the life span of the reed your child should rotate it so that it has time to dry.  Once the child's Embouchure improves the reed that they need will change to a higher number.  A higher number will make it easier for them to reach more difficult notes.



Did you know....

That the instrument that your child begins with may not necessarily be the one that they stay with forever.  They are however,  learning the basics of music theory and harmony that can be easily converted to another instrument.

You will know when your child is ready to enter competition when he/she feels extremely confident and is willing to play in front of people. This is the best sign that your child is ready to go out and be judged for their performance.

Rewards work very well for children. Be sure to grant an occasional simple reward to help encourage practice.  Stickers are a great way to show approval.  Praise also tends to be a great reward; there is no substitution for a pat on the back for a job well done.

Instruments are very delicate and should always be protected from heat, cold and quick changes in temperature.

It is important to properly maintain your instrument at all times.

The main body of the clarinet is divided into the upper joint whose holes and most keys are operated by the left hand, and the lower joint with holes and joints used by the right hand. The weight of the instrument is supported by the right thumb using the thumb rest.  Looking at the clarinet makes it appear to be a difficult instrument to learn.  However, learning one key at a time makes the process understandable.

The clarinet is stored in the case in five pieces: the lower joint, the upper joint, the barrel, the bell and the mouthpiece.  It is important that your child knows how to properly put it together and take it apart for storage.

Harmony Two or more different pitches sounding at the same time
EVERY GOOD BOY DOES FINE A rule to remember the lines of a staff by using the first letter of each word (EGBDF).
Duet A composition for two players.
FACE A rule to remember, from bottom to top, the spaces on a musical staff.
Practices Time set aside for your child to review what the teacher has taught them during their normal lessons.
Solo A composition written for one player, often with a piano accompaniment.
Staff The five lines and four spaces used for writing music
Musical Alphabet The letters A through G.  These are used to name the notes on the staff in a LINE - SPACE - LINE - SPACE order.
Clarinetist A person who plays the clarinet.
Reed A small piece of shaved cane that is the actual tone generator for the instrument
Embouchure The formation of the mouth around the mouthpiece and the reed.
Woodwind Instrument A musical instrument in which sound is produced by blowing through a mouthpiece against an edge or by a vibrating reed, in which pitch is varied by opening or closing the holes on the instrument.