New to the clarinet, New to music

by Fred

Hi Mr Jones,
I really do not know where to start this. First let me thank you for having a site like this, it is really great for you to take the time to help other clarinet players.I have a SML clarinet that I purchased 20yrs ago at a flee market with the idea of learning to play when I retired.

My question is, is it possible to play the clarinet with any chance of being able to play with others in an ensemble some day?

I am missing my front teeth do to health problems and can't afford to get dentures. I really want to learn to play the clarinet. I have this big desire to learn. I am totally new to music and the clarinet so I have two problems ahead of me. I am 65 yrs old retired and on a fixed income and I cannot afford a teacher at the present time so I have been practicing on my own now for about 2 months and I seem to be doing ok, The method book I am using has a CD that you can use to play along with the exercises and my notes sound the same as the notes played on the CD so I am at least playing the correct notes in the exercises. My Embouchure seems to be working ok I am getting the notes, My reeds seem ok to,(Rico #2 orange box) I am using the book Essential Elements 2000 and what I have learned so far is A on the staff, open G- F-E-D-C -I could not get the lower notes to play and my next new note was a B first line below the staff and I figured that my learning was over I can not go any farther, then I decided to buy a new Rovner Ligature and now I can go down and play the other notes B-A- G AND E. I am not up to those notes yet but I can play them. when the time comes.

When I started this 2 months ago I had a very hard time trying to play a C. I feel pretty good about my progress since I started, I am actually playing the clarinet, other then my mistakes it doesn't sound bad at all.

Now I am having a problem and not sure what to do, I think not having my front teeth I seem to have alot of saliva build up that I can't seem to control when I play,When I am done w/ an exercise I have to wipe the mouthpiece and the reed and my mouth from excessive saliva, so if I had to play for any length of time it could be a problem I think. Is there any way to stop this from happing since I can not afford a teacher now that would maybe find a solution to this problem if there is one, I am hoping you have run across this in your many years of teaching and can help me. I do not want to give up playing the clarinet because of this problem.

I am very sorry for such a long email, but since finding your site I have no one else to ask these questions. I thank you for reading this.


PS I have signed up for your news letter.


Hello Fred,

Thanks for writing and I’m sorry it has taken me such a long time to respond. I have been thinking about your issue with your front teeth. I have to say, from your description, it sounds like you are doing very well without the front teeth. Much better than I would expect, matter of fact. I would also say the saliva issue is very related to not having the teeth. Your lip and mouth muscles, as well as your tongue and other teeth, are working so hard to get a sound out on clarinet, I believe your saliva glands are working overtime.

The way I teach clarinet, it is very important for the clarinetist to be able to push up with the right thumb under the thumbrest toward the upper lip and front teeth resting on the top of the mouthpiece. I would say, if there were any way you could make a goal of affording dentures, it is worthwhile in your pursuit of playing clarinet. If not a full mouth of dentures in teeth, I would say at least some kind of bridge much exist where normally the front teeth would be in your mouth.

If you were to get dentures or a bridge, it would take you some more time to get used to that clarinet embouchure. Being able to bite down enough on the mouthpiece as well as pushing pressure against the upper lip and teeth with the right thumb is also important to playing higher notes on clarinet. One way it will relieve you is this, the rest of your mouth will not have to work so hard to get a sound on clarinet (therefore kicking the glands into overdrive). Hopefully, the good side-effect of getting the bridge or denture will be the glands act normal. (I have a mouth full of teeth and have this issue sometimes as well, so it will not rid the water issue entirely).

So, about your question about playing with others, do this for me, in your local area, do a search on community bands. Maybe the community band is attached to a college, university, or jr. college or perhaps the local band directors or county music educators association. Attend one of their concerts and see what they are about and if you like the music they are programming. It is good for you to have an active goal. Also look for a New Horizons Band in the area, this is basically a beginner band for adults.

These groups will not only be your goal to perform in one day, but perhaps a networking tool to find some much needed equipment either free or very cheap. Maybe there is a dentist or orthodontist in the very same group learning any instrument for the first time. Maybe this person will be able to fashion a bridge for you that would simulate front teeth.

You have to understand, your motivation to learn the clarinet is very attractive to someone who might have a solution for you. Also, you might find a local teacher who could give you lessons once a month or once every two months. Even a lesson twice a year might help you improve on your own. All you have to do is ask, if someone charges $40 for an hour lesson, figure out if you can save that in a few months or so.

I wish you well and hope this leads you into a path of fruitful clarinet playing and music making. Please keep me up-to-date on your status. Thanks.


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