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 Clarinet harder for young players than the flute?
Author: Bartmann 
Date:   2006-03-30 19:22

Hello all.

I've been a clarinet player for many years (over 20) and I started playing the flute about 6 months ago and have made astounding progress.

Over the years I've noticed at competitions that the young flute players are always much better than the young clarinetists of equal age. And having just gone through the process of learning flute I can offer some reasons why.

In the beginning, a young clarinetist can't play for more than 5 minutes because of the pain of having the reed on the teeth. Also the embouchure needs to be strengthened to play longer.

With the flute there is no such mouth pain, it's much more about control than strength. So a young flute player can practice much longer than any young clarinetist because there is no mouth pain associated with playing.

Also the fingerings are easier because the same fingerings are used for two octaves. Even the third and fourth octaves have some fingering relationship to their fundamental tones. This of course contrasts with the clarinet fingerings where Chalumeau E becomes Clarion B.

Because the flute overblows the octave, there is a much greater relationship between the octaves, both sonically and intellectually. Because the clarinet overblows a twelfth, the tuning between the octaves is not as precise. So sonically the student doesn't hear the relationship as much.

Little things such as set up time affects playing as well. The flute has three pieces to assemble. The clarinet has six pieces plus a capricious piece of vegetable matter to be moistened and cajoled.

The flute is pitched in C, the clarinet in Bb. The whole topic of transposion can be ignored.

The flute is cheaper to maintain over the long haul. There is much less "Gear" associated with the flute. There's the rod, polishing cloth, and flute. The clarinet has ligatures. mouthpieces, humidifiers, and REEDS.

Once you've bought the flute that's it until you get a better flute or upgrade the head joint. With the clarinet you can always try new barrel, reed, and mouthpiece combinations. BUT there is the ongoing expense of reeds that makes the clarinet more expensive over the long haul.

It is easier to choose a good flute. A teacher can recommend a brand and model and know pretty well what to expect. When choosing a clarinet I ask the question how many R13s did you try before you selected the one you play?

There are some things that make the flute more difficult than the clarinet.

The development of flute vibrato is difficult. This takes a lot of stomach control.

With the clarinet you can rely or change your equipment to get a better sound. With the flute it's all embouchure and breath control.

Breath control is the MOST difficult aspect of flute playing. The flute player really must get a good handle on how to control the air stream or they will run out of air.

I suggest that these are some concrete reasons why young flute players excel more often than clarinet players.

Now before you comment, ask yourself this question: is the oboe harder for young people to play than flute? Most people would say yes. So think about it in this way, the clarinet is kind of like an easier oboe. Which still makes it harder than a flute.

Of course we're talking about musical instruments here. And as such, a LOT of hard work must go into any instrument to play it well.

Are there any other things you've noticed about the flute or clarinet that makes one or the other difficult in specific ways?

Bart



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 Re: Clarinet harder for young players than the flute?
Author: sylvangale 
Date:   2006-03-30 20:13

I just happened to read through a similar topic on flute vs clarinet section growth the other day. Interesting subject.

http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/BBoard/read.html?f=1&i=142490&t=142490


Regards,
Stephen
Los Angeles, CA

edit: clicky link.


♫ Stephen K.


Post Edited (2006-03-30 20:14)

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 Re: Clarinet harder for young players than the flute?
Author: Pam H. 
Date:   2006-03-30 23:28

Just some observations. Not quite as organized as your thoughts. I've played the clarinet for a long time, flute about 3-4 years now, sax maybe 2-3.

My clarinet/sax teacher is convinced from his own experience and that of teaching others that your conclusion that the clarinet is the most difficult of the three for the same reason. He would much rather teach the clarinet first if a student is interested in learning more than one instrument. From what he has seen it is easier for a clarinetist to switch to the flute and sax than flute and sax players to learn the clarinet later.

An observation of my own is that it seems harder to keep the flute embochure in shape when I'm playing the clarinet a lot and maybe not keeping up with the flute like I should. I can't slack off for too long on the flute or it really shows.

The flute can be "different" to learn to hold after playing clarinet. It's a very natural body position when playing the clarinet. Not as much with the flute plus there is no thumb rest! I used the bo-pep things for a while until I got used to a better hand position and just shoving it into my chin.

The sax has been pretty easy to learn with a slight embochure change. I wish I would have known that in high school!

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 Re: Clarinet harder for young players than the flute?
Author: Hiroshi 
Date:   2006-03-31 00:22

Flute gives better conditions to players than clarinet:
1.Made of metal.
2.Modern scale system:Albert Cooper
3.Synthetic pad system:Muramatsu
4.No reed

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 Re: Clarinet harder for young players than the flute?
Author: BobD 
Date:   2006-03-31 12:29

So....maybe there's a future for the metal clarinet.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Clarinet harder for young players than the flute?
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2006-03-31 13:28

I remember my 6th grade band director telling us the flute was the easiest instrument to learn and the clarinet was a bit harder. The clarinet section always seemed to lag behind a bit.

Metal clarinets still have the same mouthpiece/reed set-up. That seems to be what gives young players fits. The embouchure is difficult to master for them.

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 Re: Clarinet harder for young players than the flute?
Author: Bartmann 
Date:   2006-03-31 14:12

The reason I mention my findings is because it took me about 6 years to get to a level advanced amateur proficiency.

Granted, because I know music theory, breath control, rhythm, have finger dexterity, and strong mouth muscles, learning another wind instrment was easier for me. With flute all I really am concentrating on is tone quality and fingerings.

I've worked through two beginner books in about a month, and now I'm working through the Voxman duet book.

But I am still amazed at how quickly I'm progressing.

Bartmann

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 Re: Clarinet harder for young players than the flute?
Author: allencole 
Date:   2006-03-31 19:54

I clarinet, flute and sax privately and have heavy experience with beginners. I would concur that clarinet is more difficult. Several things to think about.

1. Having to properly handle and adjust the reed is a matter if difficulty.
2. Having to seal the tone holes, rather than simply press plateau keys. The other two instruments are more forgiving of sloppy habits in the early stages.
3. Multi-key use of fingers, such as the left index finger and the two pinkies. Neither of the other instruments have enough notes in the tube itself to make this necessary.
4. Cultural status of the instruments can affect motivation. Flute is a big one for girls, and sax is a big one for guys. Many folks seem to see the clarinet as being somewhere in between...the hermaphrodite of the woodwind family? Also, lots of pop-culture visibility for flute and sax, while almost NONE for clarinet.

By far, I find that my flute beginners are the best and fastest. Sax players generally kick in once they can blow the low notes, although they are also the most likely to quit once they actually have to get down to work. Clarinet players always seem to be whining or finding excuses. It is very difficult to get them outside the box, and--in line with the lack of pop-culture visibility--many seem to descend into the 'I'm this chair, what chair are you?' mentality. Needless to say it's one of the least lasting avenues of motivation.

I've had a number of flute and sax players make extraordinary strides in the first year of instruction. With the clarinet, I find these kinds of go-getters to be very rare.

Perhaps some instrument-vs-personality study (or a thread on the subject) is in order. I can't help but think there's a connection.

Allen Cole

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 Re: Clarinet harder for young players than the flute?
Author: Bartmann 
Date:   2006-03-31 20:25

I read Sylvangale's link and it sparked a line of thought. An earlier poster metioned the relationship of SATB. Since the flute is considered a melodic instrument it often plays melodies that a child can grasp better than harmonic material.

I agree and would further suggest that since flute is pitched in C a young student can play their favorite show tunes, or popular songs with piano accompaniment very easily. And that is a VERY important aspect of learning music: playing music that you already know.

So in many ways flute has a much larger repertoire: both music that can be userped, like soprano vocal music, or music written specifically for it.

And another thing: teeth. Kids teeth come in at different ages and can be very irregular at times. Of course this wreaks havoc on the clarinet embouchure and comfort level. And braces only add to the misery of the young clarinetist.

Bartmann

PS. I still love the clarinet.



Post Edited (2006-03-31 20:28)

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 Re: Clarinet harder for young players than the flute?
Author: GBK 
Date:   2006-03-31 22:44

Bartmann wrote:

> And braces
> only add to the misery of the young clarinetist.



It's also no picnic for young flutists, especially the ones who had a nice sound before they got braces...GBK

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 Re: Clarinet harder for young players than the flute?
Author: Tom A 
Date:   2006-04-01 07:08

So let's have some opinions about band methods which are based on the concert B flat scale. Going C to D and E flat to F on the flute ain't easy for the little kids, at least in the early stages. All the clarinets have to do is lift one up or put one down.

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