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I played clarinet all through school, 10+ years. It's been 7? since I really played the instrument seriously, and I'd like to get back into it. So I pulled the thing out of a box, and a lot of the muscle memory is still there but...it's really difficult. Embouchure is just not there anymore, and I knew very little about my equipment at the time. So I'm learning about what I last used, and finding out what tweaks I need to make to get back into the instrument.

Luckily everything feels pretty good mechanically, if not wonderfully perfect. But the strain on mouth and lungs is unreasonable. I have a Selmer CL210 wood clarinet, came with a C85 105 mouthpiece. Apparently I was last playing with Vandoren 4 reeds, which is just insane at this point. I put in an order for 3s, which I'm hoping is a more reasonable choice. Not sure what to do with the mouthpiece... apparently the piece on there is pretty good but medium closed and suited to harder reeds. I'm looking at the Hite Premiere as a decent student-focused choice that is better with lighter reeds, or possibly the medium-open C85 120 which I guess would be fairly similar to what I have now.

Anyway I don't reeeaally want to dwell on the mouthpiece as there's a separate forum for that and I'll probably just buy a couple and sort it out. My real question is, what are good tips for easing myself back into the instrument and playing regularly? I'm not in a orchestral setting these days and I've been out of college too long to show up and pretend. I also want to avoid overdoing it and generally make things easier on myself, whatever that means.
 

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I agree with Stephen - get the horn checked out. If you played the mouthpiece before, that probably isn't the problem. And a medium-closed mouthpiece should be relatively easy to play (although I don't know that mouthpiece). Softer reeds are a reasonable step - definitely try that first before switching mouthpieces.
 

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The first thing you need to do, if you haven't already, is get the clarinet in for a check up.
It's possilbe that the pads will need changing and a few adjustments made. It definately could use the cleaning and oiling.

Don't change mouthpieces! The C85-105 is perfect for that clarinet. You should be OK with the softer reeds. I can use 3's on mine with no problems when I play in a pit orchestra. Soft enough to not poop out the face and hard enough to keep the upper register from sounding thin.

To ease your chops back into playing shape I would suggest short practice sessions several times a day if possible.
Ten to 15 minutes at a time a couple/3 times a day for the first week or so, and then add ~5 minutes to each session.
Keep extending the sessions by 5 minutes every week. After a couple of months you should have your embouchure built up enough to get in an hours worth of practice time without too much discomfort/fatigue.

While you're waiting for the new reeds to show up you can take one of the 'old' ones and sand the flat side down a little on a piece of glass using a small piece of 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper.
Sand a bit and test til it gets a little easier to blow.
 

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I've recently returned to clarinet and sax after an extended (20+ year!) hiatus as well. Getting my horns serviced and ready to play was an important first step, and I also traded down to some softer reeds. I'm enjoying recapturing music, and I'm constantly amazed at how much I remember, but also how much I've forgotten. It's all coming back to me, but in some strange ways -- e.g., music I could easily sightread in the past, I struggle through now; my embouchure/tone/intonation are pretty decent, but my fingers just don't move like they used to!

In the end, it has been an enjoyable "homecoming" and I remember how much I loved it before (and am reminded how much of myself I invested in music in the past!) . I hope that you enjoy your rediscovery as much as I have.
 

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but my fingers just don't move like they used to!
I'm finding I'm having most trouble with the left hand and especially getting around the throat notes fast enough which time and patience should sort out (and both are in short supply). But what I like about clarinet is the multi-functional use of the side and trill keys which flutes and oboes don't have, so it's a luxury they're there!
 

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I'm finding I'm having most trouble with the left hand and especially getting around the throat notes fast enough which time and patience should sort out (and both are in short supply). But what I like about clarinet is the multi-functional use of the side and trill keys which flutes and oboes don't have, so it's a luxury they're there!
I agree, Chris! The throat tones have been a challenge for me as well (as well as overall speed and dexterity across the horn). I'm discovering new patience (with myself and with the horn) and finally (after all these years) understanding why all those scales and arpeggios (that I always tried to gloss over in my youth) are so important. All these years and I finally learned how to practice properly!
 
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