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 Beginning doubling on clarinet from trumpet
Author: kurth83 
Date:   2023-08-26 10:04

Don't see many posts about brass players learning woodwinds.

This is my first post.

Short version: I need a physically easier instrument to play that has a rich classical repertoire with access to modern genres, by those standards clarinet is wonderful. IMHO buy a good horn and a good mouthpiece to start unless you want to suffer. If you play trumpet, a lot of the mechanics of clarinet will come easily and naturally.

Long (long, long, long, sorry) version:

I'm an aging amateur classical trumpet player who is no longer able to physically access most trumpet literature, looking for a change to remedy that.

So so why clarinet?

I wanted an expressive more physically accessible instrument with a wide range of repertoire (stressing classical but good possibility for other genres) and clarinet is my first choice. It has the possibility to be a gateway to saxophone for big band work, but saxes don't have much classical repertoire so I wouldn't start there.

Been playing a week now.

Started on a CSO (Clarinet shaped object) from Amazon, played on it for a few days until my YCL-255 arrived. Bought a Clark Fobes Debut cuz ppl said I should. And stuck a 2.5 reed into it, cuz ppl said I should.

The CSO liked the Fobes, but the Yamaha did not (my lame skills likely). After a few days of struggle I bought a Vandoren BD5 cuz a lot of self-proclaimed internet classical clarinetists seemed to like it (and Dawkes music said it is their best selling mouthpiece), follow the herd right?

What a difference the BD5 made. Most of the struggle went away, tone more even, throat tones sound better, soft is easier, and loud is nice too, more control and ease of playing everywhere as a result. Takes a little more air pressure to make it work, but as a trumpet player air is one thing I have plenty of.

So my take away is student mouthpieces are for students who want to suffer (course I know nothing so take that with a huge grain of salt). But if you can afford $1000+ for a nice student horn, the $100+ for a good mouthpiece is a no brainer. I worry the BD5 may be my first hit of an addictive drug though. Is MAS a thing (mouthpiece acquisition syndrome)?

So after a week I can offer this (I'll check back in a few years if I get to where I can actually play).

The trumpet background brings these advantages:
- I can sight read treble clef in Bb in my head, I hear the pitches that are supposed to come out before they do.
- breath control and support is easy, feels very similar to trumpet except you don't have to work anywhere near as hard. I have played lower brass too, and that takes much more air with less resistance, the clarinet come much closer to the feel of trumpet there. I imagine the lower woodwinds have a similar progression, more air, less resistance, less chop strength needed.
- embouchure uses the same muscles but much easier than trumpet. 20 min on the clarinet feels like 1 minute on trumpet, this is the accessible part I was hoping for. Clarinet feels like a good warmup, limbers up the trumpet chops nicely, but no strain whatsoever.
- voicing - on trumpet we call it tongue level - comes naturally with some practice and adaptation for tone. I watched a zillion clarinet videos on this so I was prepared and they were pretty much spot on.
- oddly, the break is quite similar to trumpet, conceptually at least. I can hit progressively higher harmonics just like on a trumpet, but easier to do it on clarinet. Maybe a bit too easy (squeak...).
- trumpet lip vibrato works perfectly on clarinet, I was able to do a decent vibrato in the first 60 seconds of playing. Too bad classical clarinet style doesn't use vibrato. I could get away with it on trumpet for lyrical solo orchestral passages (there aren't many of those though). But much of the more recent trumpet solo literature would shine when played with a tasteful classical vibrato.
- double tonguing actually seems to work on clarinet, although it isn't traditionally used. Still will be fun to see how far I can get with that, definitely easier in the lower registers so far.
- The long and short is I can make a clarinet sing beautifully after just a few days of playing (for very simple passages), and have pretty easy access to the entire range of the instrument. "just" need to work on the technique. The no-vibrato style of classical clarinet has it's own beauty too, so this instrument will be a joy to play.

The downside.
- the break.
- having to use all 10 fingers (instead of just three) and all of them have to hit those tiny gopher holes exactly right, this is going to take a while... But I have a love of practicing, and method books and etudes are my best friends, so I hope old fashioned hard work will take care of these difficulties.
- my thumb hurts, even with the lightweight plastic clarinet... The one physical thing that is bugging me, so I bought an elastic strap in case the thumb doesn't adjust and get stronger. But I am toughing it out for now.

So that's my hello.

My master plan for clarinet is to buy a YCL-CSVR sometime in the next year or so.

I am searching for a teacher too. We have a few good players in the area who teach beginners.

Aging classical trumpet player beginning to learn clarinet as a second.

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 Re: Beginning doubling on clarinet from trumpet
Author: kurth83 
Date:   2023-09-04 00:46

Now it's been just over two weeks. My first big mistake of playing, I was trying to force sound out, caused headaches, just because I can blow like a trumpet player doesn't mean I should. I read about older clarinet players who lost their ability to play by using too much air pressure (heard tales of older trumpet players too).

I now aim for as stress-free playing as possible. Mostly a matter of eating more mouthpiece and relaxing, and I switched to a softer reed (2.0 for now). So it's still working well or at least as hoped for.

I bought another mouthpiece intended for when I want to play LOUD. The Vandoren 5JB (jazz mpc), yeah, it's a lot louder (thank you internet for having so much useful information about equipment, the BD5 is also a great recommendation). :-)

As my skills improve, playing is getting easier so the 2.5's may make a comeback at some point. So far everything is going as hoped for. But I bought an FSO (flute shaped object) just in case. :-)

Aging classical trumpet player beginning to learn clarinet as a second.

Post Edited (2023-09-04 00:50)

Reply To Message
 Re: Beginning doubling on clarinet from trumpet
Author: Jaysne 
Date:   2024-04-19 19:53

I didn't see you mentioning having a teacher.

A good clarinet teacher will fix all your problems quickly.

Reply To Message
 Re: Beginning doubling on clarinet from trumpet
Author: kurth83 
Date:   2024-05-13 07:33

Didn't find a teacher until Feb 2024 (about 3 months back). She was principal of a smaller symphony for over 20 years. I got lucky finding a teacher like that. And she's been amazingly helpful. Had to relearn a lot of things, and replace bad habits with good ones. She is also 1st chair in the symphonic band I play 2nd trumpet in. :-)

I have been avoiding posting mostly because I am practicing a lot and getting good on an instrument takes time. A glowing report after 6 months doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. In a few years we'll see if I've developed into a decent intermediate player.

The physical mechanics are looking promising but developing strength to play on an adequately stiff reed has been more challenging than I had hoped for. The mechanics of clarinet fingerings are also significantly harder than I expected.

At this point I have a decent A above high C, and enough endurance to play a few hours a day. I am playing on an M13 Lyre, with a 2.5 or 3.0 reed (still developing adequate endurance on the 3), and my newish CSVR. I bought every Vandoren mpc from the BD5 and M30 and smaller gap sizes down to the M13. Spent some time on all of them before landing on the M13 lyre, my teacher says I sound and articulate best on that one for now.

Once I switched to the M13 lyre (which was quite recent) I actually make a sound that to me sounds like a real clarinet, which greatly adds to the enjoyment of playing. The previous mouthpiece/reed combos always had some kind of tonal problem for me. It lacks a little volume compared to say the 5RV lyre (my teacher's preferred mpc), but the sound it makes is very nice.

So lot of the enthusiasm I wrote with earlier has mellowed into dedication at this point, with the realization that clarinet playing is a bit harder than I expected it would be. But much of my earlier impressions have held true, coming from trumpet brought a lot of good foundational skills and a few bad habits that had to be overcome. I am still very much enjoying clarinet and I always expected it to be a multi-year project.

We are basically going through the Rubank intermediate method page by page. With me struggling to learn all the alternate fingerings for the key signatures. At this rate it will be a few years to complete those method books (Rubank has 3 in that series). We also mix in a few musical pieces from other books to keeps things interesting.

Just getting the basics of fingering, tone production, tonguing, and style feels like a project that will go on for a while. She plays with wonderful style which I strive to emulate and it has some key differences from classical trumpet style. Two examples are that trumpet tends to use a bell-tone by default approach and clarinet uses a more sustained (legato) by default style, which is the best I can describe it. Tongue-stopped staccato is a no-no in classical trumpet style (although tongue stops are heavily used in jazz trumpet), but is part of the accepted repertoire for classical clarinet technique.

I can tell some typical student stories, she held a ruler over my fingers to get me to keep them down, "no flying fingers" she says. We did many studies to eliminate "blips", the pseudo grace notes when the fingers don't go up and down evenly. She watches me play and calls out bad finger technique when she sees it, and listens and calls out anything that doesn't sound right too. She basically holds my feet to the fire to play things right and get them to sound good. Exactly the kind of teacher I wanted.

In a few years I hope to start looking at some of the local amateur bands and orchestras, we have a variety of proficiency levels in my area to choose from. I'll start with the easier ones of course. :-)

And at some point I have to buy a saxophone or two...

Aging classical trumpet player beginning to learn clarinet as a second.

Reply To Message
 Re: Beginning doubling on clarinet from trumpet
Author: Jaysne 
Date:   2024-05-13 16:28

As I said, a good teacher is a godsend.

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