Clarinet Quartet


If you have a chance to play in or organize clarinet quartet, do it?   It is really a lot of fun.  There is no easier time to do this if you are in middle school, high school, or college.   You are member of a band with numerous clarinet playing colleagues around you.   Also, if you are an adult and member of a local community band, you have plenty of opportunity.


Chamber ensemble performance improves your musicianship.   Having your own independent musical line in a group is probably foreign to you.   You share your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd clarinet part with several stand members.   Having any self expression in this ensemble is nearly impossible unless you are playing first clarinet.    Don’t get me wrong, playing in band is awesome!   If you are willing to ‘go the distance’ and improve your musicianship, try playing in a quartet.


As a body of music, the Clarinet Quartet is not as respected as the Woodwind Quintet or Brass Quintet.  Many serious composers have written for those instrumentations while ignoring the Clarinet Quartet.   This clarinet ensemble most closely associated with the String Quartet and many are transcribed or arranged for the clarinet.  


Organizing a Clarinet Quartet

1.       Ask other clarinetists if they are interested in playing in a quartet for fun.   For “fun” is very important, if you cannot get into this wishing to have a fun time, put on the brakes.

2. Start collecting music. Ask if the band library owns any quartets or books. If your band is involved in solo and ensemble competitions, it probably has a few pieces available. Or, visit Clarinet Quartet Sheet Music.

3.       Get together and have fun.   Don’t forget chairs and stands.

4.       Learn how to start together, tune, get cues from different members of the group, and play to your heart’s content or until the music runs out.

5.       Start thinking about actual goals for the group.   Could you pick one piece of music and ask your band director if you can prepare it and feature it on a band concert?   If you can enter a “solo and ensemble” contest, do it.    Can you try to get on a local chamber music concert?   If you are willing to open the group up for business, would you play at a mall or street corner to get business?    Explore pay opportunities in your area:  weddings, church services, private chamber music concerts, charity events, etc…


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Human Interaction

While I write about organizing a clarinet quartet, it is important to note just getting together and playing one piece of music is great.   Talking about opening up for business might be too much for some of your friends in the group.   This is the true beginning of really figuring out human interaction in this small ensemble setting.   Some people will be willing to play a piece or two, and get on their way.   Others will be so excited and start printing and buying more music than the new group can handle.  Some will want to play the hardest music available, and others just to blow through some simple tunes.

I’ve played in quartets for long parts of my career.   A unified, excited group willing to challenge themselves and search out jobs is the best combination.    Getting musical satisfaction from the ensemble and playing a great performance also enhances the human spirit in great reward.  However, once true adult life of families and jobs come into the scene, true personnel challenges of ‘who’s watching my baby?,’ ‘do I have time for this?,’ is this worth my time?’, and ‘do I like these people?’ all become eternal questions.   If the quartet members value your contributions, setting times most convenient to all is a priority.

I liken the Clarinet Quartet to one of the most famous quartets of all time:  The Beatles.   Yes, I know they didn’t play clarinet.   But, just think of all of the books that are written on the relationships and challenges that group went through during their career as a group.  Even upon splitting, each of those gentlemen, dead or alive, are most defined as members of a quartet.  And the interest is not just the music, but the human relationships.

What I’m trying to get at is this, a small chamber ensemble group like a quartet will have the challenges of human interaction, but it will also give you a depth of friendship and professionalism that will never be covered with Facebook friends.

Now, it is time to go hunting for some Quartet Sheet Music.

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