Home School Clarinet Program
Why the Clarinet?
Playing Opportunities - Most scholastic and amateur playing opportunities are in concert bands. These groups have more positions for the clarinet than for any other single instrument. The popularity of the saxophone in recent years has reduced the number of capable clarinet players available for these groups, and the demand for good players is constant.
Learning Experience - The clarinet is a dream instrument for the beginner because its low register has an unusually wide range (1.5 octaves), easy blowing characteristics, and a logical set of fingerings. This opens the door for more individual exploration at earlier stages of the game. The instrument's unique difficulties are encountered in the intermediate stages of learning after the student has made strong initial gains.
Repertoire - In addition to its obvious classical and jazz heritage, the clarinet has an active and important role in various styles of Jewish, Greek, German, Eastern European and even Turkish folk music.
Gateway to the Saxophone - It's no coincidence that at least two of Chesterfield County's high school jazz ensembles have lead alto sax players who are actually clarinetists. The clarinet's fingering system and sound production are very similar to the saxophone's. Clarinet players, in fact, deal with a more complex system of fingerings, and a tighter embouchure than their colleagues on saxophone. This makes it very easy for strong clarinetists to pick up the sax and play on par with more experienced saxophonists. Many saxophone greats of the past actually received their formal training on clarinet, and at least one Chesterfield middle school starts its saxophonists on clarinet.
Professional Opportunities - Although the clarinet is not a visible solo instrument in today's popular music, it is an essential background instrument in the musical scores of movies, TV shows, and theatre productions. Most cruise ships require their saxophonists to be proficient in clarinet and flute, which means that clarinet and flute players who double on saxophone have good access to these jobs. Symphony orchestras and military bands have more positions for clarinet than for any other woodwind instrument.
Cost Effectiveness - Although it is needed in the greatest numbers, the clarinet is one of the cheapest band instruments on the market because it can be made of plastic. A new student clarinet is only half the price of an equivalent alto sax, and a student bass clarinet is about the same price as an equivalent tenor sax. The instrument's wide practical range (just over three octaves) makes it easy to have chamber groups with all parts written for the same size instrument. (Contrast this with sax groups which require larger, more expensive instruments, and flute groups which require top levels of proficiency on the bottom parts.)
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