Returning to the clarinet after a long hiatus

Returning to learning the clarinet

It has been an unforgivably looooong time since I last wrote for this blog and the only explanation I have is: life happened.

The details of how life and everything in my life changed dramatically may well make it into the pages of a best-selling autobiography one day.  But in the meantime, I’m back!  And I will attempt to revive both my clarinet learning and this blog.

So, what’s been happening to me musically in the intervening years?

Well, not an awful lot. 

I’ve listened to music of course (many different genres) – recorded and live.  And I’ve listened to other people playing the clarinet, so maybe that counts as ‘practising by loose association’. 

And I did do some real-life practice a handful of times.

Seafront sessions

Last year I moved to the coast and during my many walks along the seafront each week, I encounter, at irregular intervals, a guy propped up against the sea wall, playing the clarinet. 

He doesn’t perform for money.  His sessions sound like practice sessions; more for his benefit than anyone else’s.

But I have benefitted.  Because each time I walk past him, and in particular one day when he was having trouble and squeaking badly (reminding me of my own struggles with squeaking), I have thought wistfully of my own clarinet languishing at the back of a cupboard, much loved but sadly neglected.    

Getting myself ready to play again

And slowly but surely I have moved closer to re-starting my clarinet learning.

I’m convinced that I’ve forgotten everything, and I have a feeling that I’ll need to start at the very beginning.

My clarinet is no longer secreted in a cupboard; it is proudly on display on my bookcase (albeit in its case). 

I’ve opened the case a few times to look at it.  I’ve bought a fresh supply of reeds, a reed storage case (the one I used previously having been discontinued and along with it, the integrated humidity control unit), humidity control sachets, and cork grease.

I contacted ABRSM to get my clarinet exam certificates (I have Grade 1 and Grade 2) changed to my maiden name.  ABRSM were very obliging and for a small fee per certificate, they made the changes and sent me my new certificates.

Today I visited this blog and read through my old posts.  Reading them again has rekindled the joy I felt when I was learning the clarinet from scratch.  I really have missed it and want to get back to playing it again as soon as I possibly can!

I still have all my written notes and every single one of my clarinet learning books, so I’m good to go.

But I need one more thing to seal the deal: a good clarinet teacher.

Looking for a clarinet teacher (again)

Having moved far away from where I used to live, re-starting classes with my last clarinet teacher is no longer an option.

But where to find a good teacher?  My last one was recommended and did not disappoint. 

So, to start with, I’ll be using my own pearls of wisdom about clarinet teachers.

I may try to reach out to my last couple of clarinet teachers to see whether they can recommend anyone in my area.

Three saxophone teachers put to the test

But if the last point on my action plan fails, I’ll resort to a process I made up when my daughter expressed a wish to learn the saxophone some years ago. 

I lined up four saxophone teachers over a 7-day period and booked my daughter in for a half-hour lesson with each one. 

The idea was that after four lessons with four different teachers, she would be able to tell me which one she liked best and which one she wanted to continue to have lessons with. 

She was used to music lessons, having had piano and violin classes in the past – plus her ongoing weekly flute classes.

The first class was ok.  It was with a male teacher and he had a soundproof room near his front door that he used for classes.  It was windowless and crammed with music paraphernalia.  Both my daughter and I came away from the session feeling he wasn’t the right teacher for her.

I had high hopes for the second teacher.  She had experience of teaching children with Asperger’s and I thought, if nothing else, she would be patient. 

High hopes and reality don’t always converge, and part way through the class, my daughter turned to me and asked, ‘Can we leave now please, mummy?’. 

My daughter was very young at the time and yet to learn about social mores.  On the way home, I taught her about being kind and saving things she wanted to tell me about people for when the people in question weren’t present.

The third teacher seemed good.  She came to our home for the class.  But after she left our home my daughter informed me that she didn’t want to learn the saxophone any more.  She admitted that the only reason she wanted to learn it was in order to drown out the sound of my clarinet playing.  She had wanted to play a louder instrument than me.

I hope that one or more of these approaches will help me to find the right clarinet teacher for me.

 Vibrating Reed – for adult learners of the clarinet