Listen to Clarinet

It is important for you to Listen to Clarinet. The internet and current technology allows you more access to any clarinet recordings than any other time in history. (You used to go to a specialty music store or find a specialty music catalogue to buy clarinet music). Now, it is everywhere.

However, figuring out what to listen for, who to listen to, and what fits your musical palate is the new challenge.

How much clarinet is in the mainstream media? Well, if you try to count clarinet contributions in the pop and rock industry, that percentage would be low compared to rhythm instruments like guitar, piano and drums.

Listen to clarinet -- Two styles are prominent: orchestral and jazz

In mainstream media, movie scores probably offer you the most clarinet exposure. You’ll find a good deal of clarinet in movie scores. It is a usually little melody here and there at a touching moment in the film.

This page is written for beginners, parents of clarinetists, amateurs and anyone who has not developed a listening palate for clarinet. You will understand WHAT to listen for and then I’ll provide lists of clarinetists and music to listen to.

Listen to clarinet – A Parent’s guide

1. Listen to the clarinet. Seems really simple but many, many, many, many young clarinetists go long amounts of time before they hear a real professional clarinetist on a recording or in a live concert.

2. I’ve made a couple of short lists of clarinetists that you should listen to:


Jon Manasse

Sabine Meyer

Julian Bliss

Ricardo Moralis

Mark Nuccio


Benny Goodman

Eddie Daniels

Buddy DeFranco

Pete Fountain


Andy Statman

Type any of these into the Itunes link below or sample more at Famous Clarinet Players on

3. Add these to your Ipod and Shuffle them with the songs you love. Play the clarinet compositions at dinner for your young clarinetist. You don’t have to go into a full analysis of the tune at dinner, just enjoy the music. Listen to clarinet, and eat. Listen to clarinet, and sleep. Listen to clarinet, and drive. 

Listen to clarinet – Sound or tone

Understanding sound is one of the hardest concepts to teach anyone learning any instrument if they do not hear good models. As a clarinetist, you must listen to clarinetists. Otherwise, your sound concept is empty and you do not know what sound “goal” you have to improve on your instrument.

NUMBER ONE: Now, what do you listen for when listening to clarinetists? What does the clarinetist sound like? Warm or bright. Dark or brittle. Is the sound clear or fuzzy? Is the sound harsh or gorgeous? Usually, if you are just starting out listening to clarinet, it is hard to figure this out on the first try. You might have to get another recording of clarinet to hear the differences. Often, it is best to get two recordings of the same piece of music but with difference clarinetists playing it. Then, you can make a comparison which clarinetist is darker or brighter in sound.

Listening for and analyzing sound on recordings is your first step to improving your own clarinet sound. You have to get a mental picture or auditory picture of a clarinet sound in your head. Even though analyzing is a good idea, but that just sounds too “mental” doesn’t it?

Well, I’m going to give you a few lists of clarinetists and compositions to listen to as either fun, pretty or cool music: Music that you hopefully will enjoy listening to. Then, you can start making comparisons between clarinet players. Your own musical ideas will start coming out.

“I think I like this player better because it sounds so smooth, warm and flawless. This other player had some quirks in their sound that just turned me off,” your brain developing critical listening skills.

With the glory of the internet, you can find webpages like and others and get a good idea of who the greatest clarinetists in the world are. These are the folks you should start listening to. However, you should try to find local professional clarinetists in your area to see and hear perform live.

I will not give an entire list here, but if you go to the Private Clarinet Teacher page, I’ve offered a number of places to look for private clarinet teachers. Even if you are not interested in lessons, use this source to find local clarinet recitals, community or professional bands and/or orchestras or jazz venues that offer clarinet trios, quartets or Dixieland music.

Watching and hearing a live clarinetist is a true education for you. Seeing them perform live will show you that they have to swab out their instrument between tunes or movements, fool with the reed and mouthpiece during the performance, and maybe you’ll hear an occasional squeak.

Not that you are listening for flaws or squeaks, but remember this: In a live performance, you are listening a real, live, true, human-being playing clarinet. They have had to overcome the same clarinet challenges that you are dealing with on a daily basis. So, every once in a while, a live clarinetist will squeak - we edit those out on the recordings, you know.

Listen to clarinet - Musicality/Phrasing/Breaths - How does the clarinetist interpret the music? For a young clarinetist, this starts with listening for the best places to take a breath. Often, young people will take a breath smack in the middle of a musical phrase or even after each word.

If “breath” you “breath” take “breath” a “breath” breath “breath” after “breath” every “breath” word, “breath” the “breath” sentence “breath” sounds “breath” choppy, “breath” doesn’t it? “Breath.”

That’s hard to read and read out loud right? You wouldn’t believe how many young musicians play this way. When you listen to clarinet music, listen for musical phrasing. Also, listening for how the clarinetist interprets the dynamics of the phrase is very important.

If you have some clarinet playing years behind you but have never really listened to clarinetists or downloaded any clarinet songs on iTunes or other sites, look up the latest contest piece you are learning to play and do a search on that song with the composer’s name. You will find multiple players playing that composition. Now, order it, get your music and follow along. This is the best way to learn correct Musicality/Phrasing/Breaths.

Listen to clarinet - Dynamics

Dynamics – Dynamics are how soft or loud a musician is playing and how they travel in between loud and soft: A gradual crescendo from soft to loud or loud to soft, accents, great control at soft dynamics, etc…

Is the clarinet player your are listening to exciting? If you have to try listen a little extra during the soft dynamics and duck for the loud dynamics, that is actually a good sign. Also, how much control of sound and pitch does this clarinetist have? If they play really loud, are they blowing really flat, too? If soft, are they able to keep the pitch down? What does the clarinetist do with the long notes? Are the long notes interesting or boring? They are probably interesting if the move into a louder or softer dynamic.

For instance, if you have a long note at the beginning of a phrase, you are more than likely growing the dynamic of the note. If the long note is toward the end of a phrase, you probably are tapering off the dynamic of the note.

Listen to clarinet - technique Technique – Is your clarinetist executing flawless technique? Well, as a young player, hearing about any clarinetist two grades past you sounds like flawless technique. This is why it is important for you to listen to professionals in recording or live concert. Technique is the easiest way for you to tell someone is really an accomplished musician.

How fast are they playing? Does it sound like they are getting all the notes? Or does it seem like something is missing like when the pistons of a car are misfiring? This is also the place where you can figure out the unlimited potential of exciting clarinet.

When you start learning scales, arpeggios and thirds, you are starting your technique. You then learn that a certain amount of speed is needed. Then, with each band or orchestra piece you try, you will get pushed to play faster and faster. Well, let me tell you the greatest tip about technique ever: Practice technique SLOWLY. Practice slow. Slowly practice. Slow. Slow. Tortoise it! Yes, the key to playing fast is playing correctly slowly. If you cannot play your clarinet correctly, smoothly and flawlessly slowly, you’ll never play fast correctly, smoothly and flawlessly. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Listen to clarinet - Articulation

The way your clarinetist articulates is an extremely important element to listen for on recordings or in person. The best clarinetists in the world can start the clarinet sound with just a SOUND.

Do you understand what I’m saying, start with sound? SOUND. Get the picture. Well, Mr. Clarinet-Now, what in the world are you talking about, what could a clarinetist start with that is different than SOUND. Here are a few examples:






See and hear, the tongue is just too hard when starting the sound. Again, if you listen to a true professional clarinetist, they start a note and the sound comes out beautifully without a violent start. It is just SOUND, and hopefully a gorgeous sound at that.

Listen to clarinet – range

Range – Well, you know a clarinet can play with a very large range. Low, low notes and high, high notes. Here, you listen for ease of range. Can your clarinetist on the recordings play at various ranges with large intervals here and there and make it sound easy?

Is it so smooth that you cannot tell transitions between ranges? And, it is in tune? Well, that is a sign of a great clarinet player and this is yet another goal for you. When you practice those scales, you are practicing range. Range between the lower and upper ends of the clarinet.

When most people talk or write about range, it is probably about how well the person plays the high notes, also known as altissimo notes on clarinet. Again, how much control does the performer have? Are they in tune? Does it sound right, or wrong?

Listen to clarinet - style

Style – Well, now you are listening for different types of music. However, with style, you can hear many times what the clarinetists’ style strength is. Let’s say you hear a jazz clarinetist play an exciting tune that is your favorite clarinet tune on the earth. They perform it in a way that no other clarinetist could exceed. Then, you hear the same clarinetist play a classical piece of music and even though it is great, it just sounds like a jazz player playing a classical piece.

This is also true vice versa, you know.

Many times classical clarinetists have very little experience in jazz. Also, a klezmer player might try to add too much vibrato and hard articulation to a piece of classical music. Here, you will understand that many clarinetists have their music style strengths. It is often a truly versatile musician that can play many styles well in all styles.

This is something for you to consider at a young age. Many clarinetists pigeon-hole themselves into one style, “I’m a legit player and can’t play jazz,” says some. Well, you are selling yourself short and making yourself less marketable.

Marketability is not really that important if you do not wish to have a career in music, but losing the experience of playing another style is just a shame. Sound or tone, articulation, musicality or phrasing or when they take breathes, technique, ranges.

So, I started listening to clarinet way too late in life: both recordings and live clarinet playing. I went to a clarinet festival and actually was embarrassed to play any clarinet during the convention (you know, not try out equipment in front of other players or take lessons with anyone at the event).

However, after that three day event, when I arrived at home and started playing, MY SOUND WAS BETTER. Yes, just the fact that I listened to numerous players playing great music helped my SOUND CONCEPT. I’ve since purchased many clarinet recordings that continued my growth and improvement in sound concept.

Listen to Clarinet. How about learning about some Famous Clarinet Players.