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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a sax player, with my primary horn the soprano and second on tenor.

Right now, I'm fairly competent on the sax, and still improving, and thought it would be fun to do something musical with my wife. She's loved the clarinet all her life and I was thinking of taking lessons with her so we would have a musical date night every week.

So, for those of you who play sax and double on clarinet, how hard is it? I know they're different animals, but just how different? Would it help my sax abilities?

I'm sorry if these questions are naive or ignorant, I really know nothing about the clarinet, but I think it would be fun to learn to play it and be a fun way to spend some time out of the house with my wife.

Any insight is greatly appreciated!
 

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I do occasional duets with my wife (her on piano, me on soprano sax or clarinet). She prefers the clarinet because it is not as loud as a soprano. I taught myself to play clarinet, but only after I heard a local guy whose tone and style I really admired. I needed a motivator to induce my efforts with clarinet and this local guy was the motivator.

In MY opinion, clarinet and saxophone are more alike than not alike. Most here will advise taking lessons and probably that would be a good thing. But I was able to play decently enough to satisfy myself and fellow band members (on both systems, Boehm and Albert). I think clarinet has greatly expanded my life. I've come to enjoy playing it.

It probably won't come to you quickly, but you'll be better off for doing it. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Dave, I appreciate the insight.

Lessons would be a must, and I'd be taking them with my wife since she also wants to learn to play the clarinet.

It's also good to hear that sax and clarinet are more similar than different, but I also think you're right about it not coming to me quickly, which is fine by me.
 

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As much as I love clarinet it has always been extremely difficult to me: fingering is a nightmare... but it has such a wonderful sound.
 

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Fingerings will feel familiar, although they differ between the octaves (low g + octave key = d in the stave etc...). If you've played a Mark VI sop, even the keywork feels familiar, which is why most sax players grumble about the Mark VI sop ergos! I'm one of (possibly?) few who actually prefers the Mark VI sop keywork, I guess because (legit) clarinet was my first instrument.

Biggest hurdle will be embouchure. Classical clarinet embouchure is much tighter than sax, with bottom lip covering bottom teeth more, and no puffing out of cheeks. Can be painful getting that back after a bit of time away... Well worth getting a teacher to work with on this a little before you hit the shed.

Clarinet is a beautiful instrument, both for jazz and legit, with a huge and varied repertoire, and it gets on very nicely with other instruments. My younger brother and I used to perform clarinet duets together all through school, and my wife and I try to find time for a bit of piano + clarinet when dogs and teenagers allow. Like Dave says, she doesn't ask to accompany the soprano quite as often....
 
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I'm a sax player, with my primary horn the soprano and second on tenor.

Right now, I'm fairly competent on the sax, and still improving, and thought it would be fun to do something musical with my wife. She's loved the clarinet all her life and I was thinking of taking lessons with her so we would have a musical date night every week.

So, for those of you who play sax and double on clarinet, how hard is it? I know they're different animals, but just how different? Would it help my sax abilities?

I'm sorry if these questions are naive or ignorant, I really know nothing about the clarinet, but I think it would be fun to learn to play it and be a fun way to spend some time out of the house with my wife.

Any insight is greatly appreciated!
Great idea, the Clarinet works great for duets, even if you just use the bottom register, you still have over an octave.
 

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While might sound obvious, it is important to remember that the clarinet is a different instrument. I have heard players that attempt to find a set up that will make it "feel like a sax". That never quite works. There certainly are similarities, but it is certainly unique. Study with a good clarinetist and learn how all of the varied keys and finger combinations are used. It will be more fun. It can help make you more flexible and versatile. I can recommend a good teacher down in your area (in McLean) if you need. Have fun!
 

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Since I started practicing clarinet again after many years of not practicing it, I feel like my Tenor and Soprano playing have really improved. My embouchure is stronger and my technique is better. I read through classical studies, try anyway and play some Charlie Parker heads and changes. So I would say go for it.
 

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I think clarinet and sax are more different than alike.

For clarinet:

- Quite a different embouchure if you want to get an appropriate one.
- Some quite nasty challenges in fingering, particularly over the break".
- A lot more challenging for breath pressure, and that breath pressure (along with embouchure support) increasing a lot more as you play higher.
- Ring keys - great for a beginner to make squeaks!
- No articulated G# on most clarinets)

You can be quite lazy in many ways and still play a saxophone in a mediocre fashion. Not so a clarinet. So yes, sax playing is likely to improve from the demands of clarinet playing.
(I'm glad I learnt clarinet before sax. l And glad I did flute before that!)

At least a decent one is cheaper to buy and requires a lot less maintenance.
 

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Learning to play clarinet was always on my "to do" list- but I've realized that, for my purposes, I'm now glad I didn't expend any more effort to learn it. It would have taken time away from my other interests- flute, tenor, alto, voice, composition, desktop recording etc. It depends on what you want to do of course- even local musical theater gigs in my small area haven't been a problem to transpose or play on a Bb horn. If it's mostly clarinet and that sound is kind of defining to the music I just pass on the gig. The only time I wish I played clarinet is when I do big band stuff where that sound is a must to make it sound authentic- it would just be kind of fun- but not worth the time to do that occasionally. There's always some guy in the section who plays clarinet! Woodwind players who do major shows and things of course have to do all that- it just depends on what you're wanting to do I think. I think I even still own a clarinet- somewhere in my house!!

 

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I think clarinet and sax are more different than alike.

For clarinet:

- Quite a different embouchure if you want to get an appropriate one.
- Some quite nasty challenges in fingering, particularly over the break".
- A lot more challenging for breath pressure, and that breath pressure (along with embouchure support) increasing a lot more as you play higher.
- Ring keys - great for a beginner to make squeaks!
- No articulated G# on most clarinets)

You can be quite lazy in many ways and still play a saxophone in a mediocre fashion. Not so a clarinet. So yes, sax playing is likely to improve from the demands of clarinet playing.
(I'm glad I learnt clarinet before sax. l And glad I did flute before that!)

At least a decent one is cheaper to buy and requires a lot less maintenance.
Maybe that's why I suck at flute then. =P
To try to expand on two points:
The ring keys as you mentioned are great opportunities for a beginner to squeak on- basically you're going to have to be a lot more accurate than on a sax, you can't just plop your fingers down on a key, it has to be a lot more accurate than that.
Also, the lack of an articulated G# doesn't really seem that major of an issue to me, especially as I play Clarinets with and without an articulated G# in orchestra, but that's just me and it may be different for you. (My A has an art. G#)
 

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I'm a sax player, with my primary horn the soprano and second on tenor.

Right now, I'm fairly competent on the sax, and still improving, and thought it would be fun to do something musical with my wife. She's loved the clarinet all her life and I was thinking of taking lessons with her so we would have a musical date night every week.

So, for those of you who play sax and double on clarinet, how hard is it? I know they're different animals, but just how different? Would it help my sax abilities?

I'm sorry if these questions are naive or ignorant, I really know nothing about the clarinet, but I think it would be fun to learn to play it and be a fun way to spend some time out of the house with my wife.

Any insight is greatly appreciated!
"How hard is it?" - Consider that it is one of the most common woodwinds for elementary school music students, and don't overthink it beyond that. It is easy enough to learn, difficult as any other to master. I think you have a great idea. Enjoy the path, and, most of all, enjoy sharing the time with your wife.
 

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Hey Mona is learning it and she's normally an old tenor player...


If you like the sound of clarinet give it a shot, it doesn't matter what the hell we think. It's a good double and there are not that many good jazz players. Yeah there are lots of guys who read big band parts for 2 minutes but not many improvisers. I can't even remember a time when I didn't play it, it was during the Eisenhower administration I believe. Good luck.
 

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Must do - it will takes some time but don't give up.
 

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Since I started practicing clarinet again after many years of not practicing it, I feel like my Tenor and Soprano playing have really improved. My embouchure is stronger and my technique is better. I read through classical studies, try anyway and play some Charlie Parker heads and changes. So I would say go for it.
I started on clarinet, so I never had to make the decision now facing the OP. Usually, when people ask whether playing clarinet will improve their saxophone playing, I say, "Not really." Practicing an instrument directly is the best way to improve on that specific instrument. But I have to admit that last year I did a lot of clarinet playing in a relatively short time to prepare for a rare (for me these days) concert use of the instrument, and afterward playing soprano sax seemed easier. The mouthpieces are similarly sized, but the clarinet provides much more back pressure, so going back to the soprano made that normally rather truculent horn seem almost relaxed and easy-blowing.

To the OP, I would say give it a try. The clarinet offers a different set of challenges that you may enjoy. The worst that can happen is that you don't like it.
 

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I am a beginner on both, however I started on the clarinet, two months before I decided to try tenor. I was actually making pretty decent headway on the clarinet, usually hitting all my fingerings, and learning tunes by ear.
After reading that the clarinet was an excellent precursor to playing sax (A life-long secret desire), I decided to buy a sax and see what happened.
All I can say is I did not just take off on the sax and start blowing beautiful notes right away! I don't think I blew any notes the first time I picked one up! But by then, I was all in, so I stuck with the tenor, and al coming along on it. The break will frustrate you to no end, but it's not impossible to conquer, fingering comes pretty quickly. I think you'll do just fine.
Should be fun to share the experience with your wife. Good tooting to you both!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks for all the responses, I appreciate them all!

I'm not looking to go out and gig on clarinet, but that also doesn't mean that I may not try to way down the line when I can comfortably improvise and have a real good handle on the instrument. I don't want to be one of those ******** that plays for a year, is mediocre at best, and then tries to take people's money playing a show. I'd rather go slow and e joy it than rush it and ultimately give it up.

I see the point you guys have made about the relationship to soprano, and while picking up the clarinet isn't to replace shed time with my sax, it's nice to know that there might be some benefit when switching back to soprano--seems to be that is based on an individual level, which is cool.

I'm going to go for it and find a good teacher for my wife and I. We both like the music of clarinets and this will give us the chance to do something fun and musical together.

Thanks again for all your insight!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
While might sound obvious, it is important to remember that the clarinet is a different instrument. I have heard players that attempt to find a set up that will make it "feel like a sax". That never quite works. There certainly are similarities, but it is certainly unique. Study with a good clarinetist and learn how all of the varied keys and finger combinations are used. It will be more fun. It can help make you more flexible and versatile. I can recommend a good teacher down in your area (in McLean) if you need. Have fun!
Please, I'd love a recommendation!
 

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Most of the differences have been covered and from varying perspectives. Embouchure is just something that you will come to terms with and a teacher will help. The fingerings get stuck in the muscle memory fairly quickly as does the register key shifting up a 12 rather than an octave.

I think a helpful thing would be a focus on your fingers and hands early in the piece. Not having covered toneholes can cause problems for people sometimes. I would recommend the Paul Jeanjean trill exercises in his Vade-mecum (don't have the proper title with me, sorry but your teacher should know what they are, s/he would have used them in college). They are terrific for getting your fingers over the holes in a secure way and for getting good hand position. I don't know why more teachers don't teach them earlier. Good luck. It's a really good move. I just bought a trombone this week and I don't know if I need help or medication.
 
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