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Discussion Starter #1
As I've been getting back into my alto I've given some thought to doubling on clarinet, as I know from some past experience it can be a difference-maker in getting into a band or not. I've played clarinet precisely twice in my life (I learned just enough to play Basin Street Blues in a small combo at Meramec, and then The Mooche when the lab band at SIUE did a semester of Ellington, both many years ago). I feel like I'm at a time of my life where I can't just sit down with the ol' Best In Class books and get much out of them, so I'm curious how some of you other late doublers got started.

I'm primarily a jazz player, so I'm sure that will also factor into my approach. Right now for my sax I've been focusing on the Major, Minor, Natural Minor, and Blues scales in all 12 keys across the full range, (Bb1 to F3, since my horn doesn't have the F#) and shedding Patterns For Jazz to get the chords under my fingers (I'm working on the Maj 7 chords right now). Would this be a good approach to learning the clarinet? Just get out a fingering chart and start working the scales top to bottom across the full range? Add in long tones for working the embouchure, and then Patterns once I'm getting the hang of it?
 

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If you want to do it right, find a good private teacher and have him/her take you through the standard method books to build technique, tone production skills, and a concept of sound. There are no shortcuts that I know of. All of the best doublers I know personally have all paid their dues on all of the instruments they play. I started on saxophone and learned to play clarinet and (some) flute in college. To this day I wish I had built a good clarinet technique first and then moved to the saxophone.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for shortcuts, just an ideal approach for a starting point. Unfortunately the private instructor I'm working with on my sax doesn't play clarinet, either, otherwise I'd check with him.
 

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Step 1. Get a good quality clarinet that is free of issues.
Step 2. Get a clarinet specific teacher to get you started with a 'proper' embouchure and hand position. Classical training is good to start with and branching out into jazz playing as tone and technique improve.
Step 3. Practice said clarinet until it comes as naturally as your primary instrument.
The clarinet is a completely different beast and should not be approached as a black soprano sax. It will bite you in the behind. ;)
 

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Wise words, Bandmommy. :)
 

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I was what you call a late arrival to clarinet after years of playing soprano (mostly) and alto (secondarily). This was long before SOTW and the internet.

I didn't know what I was SUPPOSED to do, so after being inspired by hearing a local trad-jazz guy play his Albert clarinet, I, at about the same time, acquired a nice Buffet R-13. I set out to play it. I taught myself by playing the thing. Over time I learned to play both Albert and Boehm, acquired a slew of clarinets, and developed a style.

I never came close to a Goodman/Shaw/Pete Fountain sound or style, but came close enough to Johnny Dodds, George Lewis, and Sidney Bechet to make credible vanity recordings of tunes with bands with which I played.

I still don't see myself as a clarinetist; I wish I had more confidence on clarinet (like I do on soprano saxophone), but that ship has sailed. I suppose all of the advice in this thread is the way to go, yet I didn't do most of it. Still, I enjoyed the process and the result. DAVE
 

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I'm primarily a jazz player, so I'm sure that will also factor into my approach. Right now for my sax I've been focusing on the Major, Minor, Natural Minor, and Blues scales in all 12 keys across the full range, (Bb1 to F3, since my horn doesn't have the F#) and shedding Patterns For Jazz to get the chords under my fingers (I'm working on the Maj 7 chords right now). Would this be a good approach to learning the clarinet? Just get out a fingering chart and start working the scales top to bottom across the full range? Add in long tones for working the embouchure, and then Patterns once I'm getting the hang of it?
I feel like you can waste a lot of time with this approach. As a beginner, your main trouble is going to be tone production, and getting around the break. Sure, work with a teacher if you can, but if not, you can't go wrong with the Rubank methods. The Intermediate one should be enough of a challenge if you're as new to clarinet as you say. Work toward perfection on each page. When you get through that, the two Advanced volumes will turn you into a respectable doubler. I especially like how the Advanced method has a guided course of study. Each step has enough material for a week's worth of practice, at 30 minutes a day.

Get through that first, then tackle Patterns For Jazz.
 

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I was a late doubler on clarinet too. The main thing to get is hand position and mouthpiece angle. You must hold your fingers precisely and close to the holes. Otherwise your playing will sound sloppy and you will get squeaks. There is a lot of resistance (back pressure) on the clar, unlike the sax.
 

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I did three modifications that improved my clarinet playing by leaps and bounds.

1. Installed a "Cannonball" adjustable thumb rest with a neckstrap ring on my Buffet R-13.
2. Started using a "string" neckstrap to help support the weight of the clarinet.
3. Bought a mouthpiece specifically designed to help saxophone players play clarinet better from Lee Livingood in Salt Lake City.

Lee who plays in the Utah Symphony is a great guy and is a member of the team that developed the D'Addario Reserve line of clarinet mouthpieces. He also makes mouthpieces under his own name and does refacing for clarinet players all over the country.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
3. Bought a mouthpiece specifically designed to help saxophone players play clarinet better from Lee Livingood in Salt Lake City.
Knowing me, I'm likely going to track down a vintage Brilly (I've seen a smattering of them on eBay, and IIRC Brilhart did make clarinet pieces during the Great Neck era). I'm sold on them since I landed one for my alto, and am disappointed that they didn't make one for soprano until the 80s. :p

That reminds me, I need to find out if one of the Echobrass ligs fits clarinet...
 

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My suggestion.... start with flute before clarinet. Easier fingering transitions & is primarily learning to blow...

Ok, way oversimplified, but still true to some extent
 

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My suggestion.... start with flute before clarinet. Easier fingering transitions & is primarily learning to blow...

Ok, way oversimplified, but still true to some extent
Yeah, I'd heard flute is very close to the sax fingerings. However I'm mainly looking at picking up clarinet because my past experience has been that it's much more in demand for big band, which has always been my biggest focus.
 

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Yes it is called for more often.
 

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Yeah, I'd heard flute is very close to the sax fingerings. However I'm mainly looking at picking up clarinet because my past experience has been that it's much more in demand for big band, which has always been my biggest focus.
For flute, fingering has more differences than one might initially think because keeping the right pinky down most of the time, and raising the 1st finger left hand for second-octave D & Eb, complicates a lot of the 1st & second octave fingering compared with sax, and the third octave, which is used a lot, has rather wacky fingerings with a heap of see-sawing fingers,

In spite of this, for flute the fingering is not the most challenging issue. The challenging issue is that for the first few notes learnt, the player can get by with, and consolidate, an embouchure and breath pressure that becomes habit and then doe not work for good tone and volume control of the third octave and bottom notes. The player then has to un-learn his embouchure and start again, which is much more difficulty. This is why it is so advisable to have at least a few lessons from an accomplished flute player/teacher in order to get the blowing right from the start.

For a sax player going to clarinet, challenges include:
1. Covering open holes with fingers without leaks.
2. Not touching "banana" keys with the sides of the fingers.
3. Achieving sufficient breath pressure and lip pressure against reed.
4. Fiddly fingering
Register key and throat key fingerings.
Operating a change for every finger when playing "over the break".
Finger gymnastics with the two pinky fingers.
5. Having a small area of lip contact against the reed - totally different from sax!
So as with flute, get away to a good start with these things by getting at least a few lessons from an accomplished player/teacher.

By comparison to flute and clarinet, a sax really is a rather easy instrument. Expect to dedicate a lot of time to flute and clarinet.
(Not withstanding, all instruments, of course, are difficult to play to a top standard.)
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I feel like you can waste a lot of time with this approach. As a beginner, your main trouble is going to be tone production, and getting around the break. Sure, work with a teacher if you can, but if not, you can't go wrong with the Rubank methods. The Intermediate one should be enough of a challenge if you're as new to clarinet as you say. Work toward perfection on each page. When you get through that, the two Advanced volumes will turn you into a respectable doubler. I especially like how the Advanced method has a guided course of study. Each step has enough material for a week's worth of practice, at 30 minutes a day.

Get through that first, then tackle Patterns For Jazz.
I went ahead and picked up the whole Rubank set, including Elementary, since that adds the fingerings on one note at a time. I've got my tuner out while I'm working through the books, and intonation is pretty good so far. I'm using my Echobrass alto lig right now; I'd read on an older post here that the Brilly alto 3-bands work on clarinet. The reed plate is a little wider than the reed, but it's all holding secure. I may have to pick up a second lig so I'm not having to swap it between the horns.

The biggest concern I'm having so far (I'm just on Lesson 5 in the Elementary book) is I worry about dropping the horn when playing F2, G2, and A2. Not having a neck strap to help support the thing (or at least as a safety net) is somewhat disconcerting. I keep feeling like I'm gonna flip the mouthpiece out of my mouth. :p
 

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A private teacher is a great place to start, try to look for one who plays saxophone and clarinet.
 

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Without a teacher for at least a couple of lessons it is very easy to pick up a habit that is very difficult to unlearn later. The habit may work just fine for you initially but be severely restricting later in your "journey". Unless of course you think you have more expertise that such teacher!

Extreme example: I once played alongside a self-taught flute player in a show. She did not use her upper lip at all. Instead she used her bared upper teeth. Her tone was utterly appalling.
 

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The biggest concern I'm having so far (I'm just on Lesson 5 in the Elementary book) is I worry about dropping the horn when playing F2, G2, and A2. Not having a neck strap to help support the thing (or at least as a safety net) is somewhat disconcerting. I keep feeling like I'm gonna flip the mouthpiece out of my mouth. :p
A little more pressure between your right thumb and top teeth should keep everything in place (and may help tone too). You should be able to rotate your torso, whilst holding the clarinet in your mouth with just the right thumb, without it wobbling.
 

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Making sure you are taking in enough mouthpiece helps too.
If you are playing too close to the tip it will feel like the mouthpiece will fall out of your mouth.
Use that right thumb to push and hold the clarinet in place. Millions of 8+ year old kids do this without the aid of a strap. There is no reason a grown-up with no physical limitations can't do it too.
 

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If you want to do it right, find a good private teacher and have him/her take you through the standard method books to build technique, tone production skills, and a concept of sound. There are no shortcuts that I know of. All of the best doublers I know personally have all paid their dues on all of the instruments they play. I started on saxophone and learned to play clarinet and (some) flute in college. To this day I wish I had built a good clarinet technique first and then moved to the saxophone.
I think there's a lot of truth in this. As a kid, I had classical clarinet lessons from a pretty good clarinettist (James Pyne), and constant attention was paid to tone production, embouchure, hand position, etc., especially for the first year. If you don't get the fundamentals down properly right out of the gate, you stand a good chance of developing bad habits that are hard to break, and there are some important differences in the fundamentals compared to the sax.

A lot of time was spent on the big, fat Klose book, which has a lot of good technical exercises.
 
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