Musical Instruments: Clarinet Accessories

Accessories for different types of instruments and levels of players, as well as how to use them.

There are several accessories you should purchase to go with your brand new clarinet. Some are dependent on your skill level or type of instrument you have. Others are simply things everyone should have.

Basics that EVERYONE should have:

*Cork grease

*Instrument swab

*Reeds

*Ligature

*Mouthpiece cap

*Metronome

*Tuner

Cork Grease

This is used to lubricate the joints so the clarinet can be put together and pulled apart smoothly, with no unnecessary pressure. It should be placed only on the cork at the places where the instrument goes together. Greasing should be done everyday for new corks, and every few days for older ones.

Instrument Swab

Clarinets must be clean and relatively dry when they are put away, in order to avoid ruining the pads and/or damaging the wood. After you finish playing (every time), remove the mouthpiece and turn the clarinet upside down. Place the end of the swab (which should have a weight) into the bell and let it run all the way through the instrument. Pull the swab all the way through the instrument once, and possibly a second time. Then, as you begin to take apart the instrument, dry all of the joints so that no water is left in them.

Reeds

These are THE most important accessory to have for your instrument. They are what creates the sound; without them you cannot play. Get recommendations about the proper brand and strength of reeds from your band director or a private teacher. Never use less than a 2.5 strength. Try to avoid poor brands (Vandoren are the best). Always make sure you have at least two good reeds in your case. Never play on a reed more often than every other day. Never keep reeds in air tight containers. Never play on a reed that is chipped, broken, warped, or moldy. It's best to buy reeds in a box of ten. You will have them when you need them, and you know you will eventually use them all.

Ligature

This is what secures your reed to your mouthpiece. Select from a traditional ligature or an inverted one. More advanced players may select from several different styles of ligatures, but beginners don't need to worry about the differences. Always have a ligature in your case, and be careful with it. They are made of light metal and are easily broken if stepped on. A Rovner (rubber) ligature might be the solution if you are likely to drop it or break it.

Mouthpiece cap

These protect your reed and mouthpiece while you are not playing. If you are going to hold your clarinet for any length of time while you are not playing, you should place the mouthpiece cap on it (this can prevent broken reeds). You should also keep the mouthpiece cap on the mouthpiece while it is in the case.

Metronome

All musicians should develop a sense of good rhythm, and the metronome will help them do this. You should always have one in order to aid your practice.

Tuner

Tuning a clarinet is not easy because you have to adjust it in several different places. Keep a tuner handy so that you can get the instrument in tune with itself (by pulling out or pushing in at different places) and then you can tune to whatever group you're in as well.

For Wooden Clarinets:

*Silk swab

*Oil

*Dampit

Silk swab

Wooden clarinets are more delicate than plastic ones are, so they require a bit more delicacy in cleaning. Buy a silk swab; they are less likely to get stuck inside the clarinet.



Oil

You will almost never need this, but on occasion, the wood on your clarinet may get dried out. Keep some oil (bought from a professional repairman) around so that you can oil your clarinet if necessary. Ask a professional to show you how to do it the first time.

Dampit

This is to protect the clarinet from drying out in the first place. These are made for string instruments, but can be placed in a case with a clarinet, too. Purchase one meant for a violin or a viola. Soak it in warm water and dry the outside of it (it must not be wet or dripping at all). Place it in your case next to your clarinet, but don't let it touch the wood! Orange peels wrapped in paper towels can do the same thing for you.

Accessories for Advanced Players:

*Screw driver

*Water cup

*Reed cases

*Sand paper

*Reed knife

*Etched glass reed adjuster

*Neck strap

*Gig bag

*Small bits of heavy paper

*Reed clipper

Screw Driver

Your clarinet has dozens of tiny screws, which may occasionally come loose. Keep a screw driver with you at all times so that you can tighten the screws if necessary. Be careful; screws can become too tight, which can mess up the key action. If that happens, loosen the appropriate screws.

Water cup

Especially in the winter, when the air is dry, soaking a reed in your mouth may not be the best idea. Instead, allow reeds (especially new ones) to soak in a water cup for a few minutes before playing them. Keep the water close by so you can either dip the reeds again or dip your finger in water and run it over the reed while you play.

Reed Cases

Not everyone agrees that you need them, but these can help keep your reeds organized. Make sure that you get cases that allow the reeds to dry. In the winter time, you may use cases that are more air-tight than in the summer. In the summer, anything remotely air tight will cause your reeds to mold. If you use a reed case, make sure it is good for all types of weather, or use different cases in different seasons.

Sand Paper

Your reed may change as the weather changes, resulting in a thicker or warped tip. If this happens, you can use sand paper (very fine) to smooth it out a little bit. Always work only a little bit at a time.

Reed knife

If you are making or adjusting your own reeds, you will need a knife. The reed knife will allow you to adjust a warped reed by shaving some cane off the sides or middle. Make sure you work slowly, scrape AWAY from your body, and choose the correct knife for which hand you prefer (only one side is sharpened). Ask a professional to show you how to use one.

Etched glass reed adjuster

These can be purchased through any major woodwind supplier, and they help make small adjustments on your reeds. Soak your reeds and then set them flat against the surface. Rub (usually the tip) in small circles in order to remove small bits of cane. This can fix a warped reed.

Neck strap

Some wooden clarinets are quite heavy for players (especially those with smaller hands). Also, the weight and the repetitive motion over long periods of time can cause carpal tunnel or tendonitis. To prevent this, use a neck strap. It will remove some of the weight, freeing any tension that was on the hands.

Gig bag

All advanced players should have one of these. A gig bag holds your instrument case as well as your music and other supplies. (The best have large side pockets on time.) You should always carry your music in them, as well as extra reeds, water, and reed adjustment equipment. You can also carry your tuner, metronome, or other musical supplies in this bag. It is a "catch all" for your musical stuff.

Small bits of heavy paper

This can fix a whole bunch of problems. If your register key is opening too far, slip a bit of paper under the bottom of the key. This will prevent it from opening as far. You can also tape it (carefully) to a leaky pad.

Reed clipper

If you are adjusting your own reeds, you will need a reed clipper. This cuts a tiny amount of cane off the end of your reed, which makes it harder and thicker at the tip. You should buy these only from a specialized dealer and only after trying them out (some are not evenly balanced).

Not all of these accessories are necessary for everyone. Many of the final group are necessary only for professional players. Some, however, like the neck strap, can be used for any player who is having trouble.

Keeping these accessories on hand will make sure that your clarinet is properly cared for and that you are set up to play at any time.

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