Haven't played in over 16 years! Where to start?

by Debra

I recently decided to join a local community band to utilize my clarinet skills that I learned many years ago. Following the very first practice session, however, I am beyond flabbergasted at how my once quite adept abilities have completely disappeared. I played clarinet for 7 consecutive years, but I have now been away from my instrument for over (Gasp!) 16 years!

Obviously, my lung capacity and playing muscles have pretty much atrophied over the years from lack of use. When I played, I was always assigned a 1st Clarinet piece, but because it has been so long since playing, I requested a 3rd Clarinet part. However, I am even a bit sketchy on the lower notes that I did not master as well as I should have when I did play.

Any and all tips and recommendations you may be able to provide to help me gradually rediscover those old skills I am convinced are in there somewhere would be greatly appreciated.


Hello Debora,

I’m glad you have returned to the clarinet. I’m sure it is very frustrating to ‘try to get going on it’ again. Here are some tips to get back up to speed.

1. Give yourself regular time on the instrument. Even if it is 15 minutes a day. Practice basics like scales and long tones. Also, to keep up with the band, pick some excerpts from the band music to practice. Also that short 15 minutes will help your embouchure and tongue muscles build up. Consistent practice over a long period of time is the best way forward.

2. Look at Free Clarinet Lessons Online page. It details embouchure, articulation, hand position, air, etc… If something is frustrating you, hopefully basic information is here for you. I ask you to read through it, and then sit in front of a mirror and try the concepts of embouchure and hand position especially. If is come to a dead end or have questions, please write back.

3. Do a search for clarinet videos. I’ve only made one so far about crossing the break. Hopefully I’ll get around to making more videos one day.

4. Listen to great clarinet players. This gives you a concept of sound. Here is a place to start.

5. On lower notes, spend some time on the F major and G major scales and get them as full and smooth as possible. Also, starting on the chromatic scale from low E up an octave and playing it back down is a great exercise. Then, F to F, F# to F#, G to G, etc…

6. Start looking into some method books. Even if they are too easy at first, take them from the beginning and read to the end. Here are Beginning Clarinet Book suggestions. This should help with low notes as well.

Good luck to you and again, please write back and let me know about your progress.


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