Learning... Improving... Broadening.... Wondering......

by Kelsey

Hi there! I absolutely love this site. I currently play Bb clarinet in my HS marching and concert band. I'm trying to make myself a better musician (my career is anything music related =D ) overall by learning other reed instruments. The next instrument I plan on challenging is the Eb (soprano) clarinet. I haven't attempted to play one yet but I want to prepare myself before hand. Do you know if it may be difficult to switch to from a Bb (besides the key its in... that I can handle...) but embouchure and fingering wise? Just wondering if I could get some help on that. And do you have any other advice you can give to a young musician like me, or my friends? Just wondering...


Hello Kelsey,

I’m glad you are finding Clarinet-Now.com useful. Many of my tips and suggestions are all over the site. However, I’ll give you some highlights below starting with Eb soprano clarinet thoughts.

One tip is that it is great for you to explore several instruments, and clarinetists should have experience on Eb soprano and low clarinets to broaden their experience. Make sure you take care of your primary instrument, and that you are practicing the Bb soprano clarinet consistently. If you try a bunch of instruments and do not excel at any particular one, you will fall victim to “Jack of all trades; master of none.”

On the subject of learning Eb clarinet, I cannot give you a good deal of personal experience. I’ve played alto, bass, and contra-alto clarinet numerous times, but not really the Eb clarinet. It is a hole I wish to fill one of these days.

With all that said, here are some thoughts on trying the Eb clarinet:

1. Find a good instrument. Since Eb clarinets are not used often, they tend to gather dust and fall out of repair. If you are trying a school instrument, it is probably not in the best shape. A poor instrument could cause you to have a poor experience with it. Believe it or not, even a brand new clarinet could be way out of adjustment. If you ever buy, try it first and consult with a quality instrument repair-person.

2. Eb clarinets are known to sound high, squeaky, and out of tune. Have the goal of making this instrument as dark sounding as possible. Spend plenty of time with the tuner. Practice all the exercises you would on soprano clarinet as you do Eb (all scales, etc…)

3. While it is a smaller instrument, the fingerings will take a little time to get used to. Once you get onto the Eb clarinet some, practice the Eb clarinet and the Bb clarinet by trading every couple of minutes. If you are ever in the position to have to double Eb and Bb clarinet, you will have trained yourself to move to the different embouchure and key feel of each instrument.

4. Yes, on Eb, the embouchure will form more firmly and on a smaller scale than Bb.

5. If you find it intriguing, look for a clarinet teacher that has some Eb clarinet experience. Take some lessons on it as well as Bb clarinet. He/she will give you tips on going between instruments.

One of the highly successful Eb clarinet players I’ve worked with plays on an Hawkins Regular Eb clarinet mouthpiece. If you are to a point to buy Eb clarinet equipment, that is a good place to start. I recommend you try mouthpieces before buying (read here Rule of Threes).

About advice to you and other young musicians like yourself, much of it is written in the pages of Clarinet-Now.com. Below are pages I’d like to point out:

Twelve Benefits of Private Clarinet Lessons * Clarinet Scales, learn about getting free points here * Clarinet Embouchure * Practice and Hope * Clarinet Articulation * Clarinet Hand Position * Kalmen Opperman * Crossing the Break

Best of luck to you and have a great time practicing clarinet.


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