Clarinet Odds and Ends

Other Hardware

Besides the clarinet, reed, ligature and such, there is an assortment of other items that are useful even if not necessary for the clarinetist. Listed below are some of said items with links to purchase them. I am an Amazon associate, so using these links will help Musix4me out.

Reed clipper—Use Légère reeds and you will not need one! The purpose of the reed clipper is to clip away the tip of the reed, creating an even edge and, consequently, a firmer reed. Unless you are making your own reeds, you will likely only ever use a reed clipper in emergencies (or what “feel like” emergencies).

Swab—Essential. A swab usually refers to the cloth and string you pull through your instrument to get the moisture out. You should have a swab that both completely dries out your instrument and moves easily through it. Silk swabs pull through the easiest but may not be as efficient at drying out the instrument. I would recommend a swab made of a material closer to soft cotton over silk. Here are some I would NOT recommend:

Do not try to force a swab through if it appears stuck—you will likely only make it “more stuck”. Pull it back out the way it went in or, if needed, take it to a repair person. You should be able to disassemble the clarinet and put it back in the case even with the swab stuck in the upper joint.

It is widely believed that pulling the swab through your mouthpiece is a no-no over the long run. Many believe it slowly wears out the baffle and affects the sound. What that means is that you will want to regularly wash and clean your mouthpiece. It makes no sense to me, though, to argue that a silk swab wears out a hard rubber mouthpiece but a stick swab or brush does not, but call me ignorant and naïve.

I would tend to avoid leaving “pad saver”-type swabs in your clarinet when it is stored in your case. This basically captures the moisture in the instrument and holds it there, like a humid day, against the pads. Not a good recipe for a long pad life.

Cork grease—Mandatory. Use as needed…but sparingly. What I mean is that if the clarinet is difficult to put together, apply a little cork grease, using your fingertip, until is assembles comfortably. The only time I would recommend running the stick (if using the stick type) on the cork is when you have brand new cork installed. Other than that, use the fingertip to transfer small amounts until an effective amount is applied.

Metronome—You consider yourself a musician, don’t you? Then of course you need one of these! A metronome is important for two things: defining a tempo and helping to drill steady, even technique. I would posit that the latter is more important than the former.

The metronome should be loud enough to be heard during any passage you are practicing. Having one that can change volume is a plus but not necessary. Mechanical ones work fine but lack flexibility and sometimes range. Digital metronomes come in a wide variety features and functions. Besides checking tempi, I would avoid using the smaller “credit card” type metronomes as they are rarely loud enough for effective practicing. Dr. Beat is a very popular brand metronome that usually has both earphone jacks and a high volume capability. It is worth investing in a good practice partner like this.

Tuner—Essential. While you are in school, a tuner helps to get in the right ballpark with the band/orchestra. When you decide to become a professional clarinetist, the tuner will become a tool for discovering your instrument. Professional players are required to play in tune with everyone else and that means understanding the tendencies of your instrument. There are basic tendencies for the clarinet in general, but each instrument has its own unique tuning issues that you must discover and master. The tuner is essential to becoming a successful performer. One that can play drone tones are particularly helpful.

Reed case—Mandatory. These come in all different shapes, sizes, styles and features. Their purpose is to keep the reed flat, prevent warping and allow for drying. They also protect the reeds when not being used. Many clarinetists are sold on glass as the end-all surface for top level reed cases. One drawback of glass plate reed holders is that they do not allow the reed to dry well on bottom. Reeds tend to mold easier on flat plate reed holders. I currently favor those with canals that allow air to flow under the reed. Whatever you choose, you must make sure the plate the reed lies on is flat. If it gives you even a hint of not being perfectly flat, move on to another. Until you are really obsessing about adjusting reeds, you likely will not need anything more than a five-reed holder. Since I use plastic reeds now, I simply carry a four-reed holder that allows me to have a back-up reed and one in slightly softer and slightly firmer strengths. One last thing to consider when purchasing a reed case…will it fit in your case? Reed cases come in a variety of sizes. If you opt for a larger reed case, you may have to carry it in the pouch on the outside of the clarinet case or in your bookbag or purse.

Pencils—Essential. Not only should you have a couple/few in your case at all times, they need to be sharpened and have erasers. Besides needing them for your own practicing and rehearsals (and you will need them), someone else may need one and then you can be the hero. If you ever need to share a pencil with a stand partner or a second stand, I recommend making it a practice to lay it with the eraser end slightly off the edge of the stand. It makes it much easier (and quieter) to grab and replace during a busy rehearsal. If you want to be “all that”, there are pencil holders that clip on to various parts of the music stand as well.

Clarinet Stand—Helpful. These give you a convenient place to put your clarinet so you can grab it quickly. Most of the time, they are safer than laying the clarinet on a chair (either whole or taken apart at the middle). They also come in a variety of brands and kinds. There are a couple things to consider when purchasing a clarinet stand. 1.Is the base wide enough to keep it stable in case someone bumps it? 2.Can it be easily stored in your case or do you have to have a separate bag or way of carrying it? Some will disassemble and fit in the bell while in the case. I use a basic K&M stand for travel and a heavy Blayman stand for my home studio.

Earplugs—Useful. I’m not talking about the ear plugs you get at Walmart. I’m talking about those made to allow you to hear clearly while blocking out extreme volume. You know, like when the trumpets or trombones are trying to make a point that they can play louder than the director really wants. But seriously, your hearing is one of those things that do not repair themselves. If you damage your hearing, it is damaged for life—all you can do is find aids to help with what is left.

Bore oil and swab—Kind of essential, maybe. I would say it is important to at least occasionally, run a special swab (the furry kind, not the flat material kind) with bore oil through your wood clarinet. If you only have a plastic clarinet, well…I would recommend you not run bore oil through it. It does not cost much to have the swab and oil on hand so go ahead and get some. Make sure it is clarinet bore oil not some other kind of oil. I would also not experiment will any natural solutions promoted on someone’s personal YouTube video. The clarinet is pretty resilient, but you are messing with something that once damaged really makes the clarinet useless. They say every month the first 6 months the first year of a brand-new clarinet and then once a year after that. You will not need much if at all. I do not believe it will hurt the bore but it can be messy and damage the pads if you use too much. (To be completely honest, I have seen respected players demonstrate that bore oil is hardly absorbed, if at all.)

Key oil—Some use. Again, not very expensive and so why not have a bottle on-hand? “A little dab will do ya” is the saying and it is appropriate here. Just a tiny drop where the key mechanism meets the post, maybe once a year, is the most you’ll need. Too much and it will leak out on the key and be messy and unsightly. I would say that if there are issues with your keywork seeming sluggish it is likely not something to do with needing key oil. Check to make sure the screws are in all the way but not too tight. Anything more than that and you should have a qualified repair person look at it.

Sand Paper and Reed rush—Last time…if you use Légère reeds, you will not need either. Nevertheless, if you use cane reeds, these are the safest ways to adjust your reeds outside of simply moving them up or down on the mouthpiece to adjust resistance. Reed rush is a water plant that has been cut and dried out. Soak it first (whether with water or in your mouth) until it becomes pliable (bendy). Use it to scrape areas that are unbalanced on your reed. Err on the side of too little scraping and test and repeat until adjusted. As for sandpaper, make sure you use 600-grit or higher. Tear off a little piece to keep in your “reed kit” in your case. Again, err on the side of removing too little reed and then testing and removing more.

Clarinet case/bag—Pretty Important. You’re going to be carrying your best friend around with you everywhere you go. You might as well invest a little here. And if you are going to become a professional clarinetist, you will be purchasing an A clarinet at some point. So you can even go ahead and get that double case now. Not only must the case adequately protect the clarinet, it should be significant enough to hold the things you need when you travel. Make sure there is room for your reed kit, pencils and other items that you’d rather not regret leaving at home on concert night. For me, it has always been essential to have a significant music pouch on the outside. Some have a flap on the inside, but I’d recommend against that choice. And never place music onto a clarinet and close the case on it. Bad habit that could easily lead to clarinet maladjustment bad news.

Music stand—Essential. I would recommend two stands, at least. One wire-stand for travel and backup. One quality stand (Manhasset pictured) for home and special occasions where you are going to perform solo and there is no stand for you. If you find yourself coming up on a performance that will be outside where the wind blows, you may want to consider clothes pins or some other way of clipping the music to the stand. Learn to tape music that was printed onto single pages together and practice page turns so you can see how things are going to work on the stand during performance—particularly with more than two pages taped together or multi-pages that must be flipped.

Stand light—Not essential, but useful. Okay, most situations that have you playing in the dark (like the orchestra pit for a musical) will provide a stand light. But once you become a professional and take gigs playing background music, you will undoubtedly find yourself in a dark corner leaning all up on your stand to see the music. Don’t be one of those people. A stand light is probably around $30 and very convenient at times. If you decide to carry an extension cord in the car, just in case, make sure it is one of those inconspicuous kinds like for Christmas lights. Don’t take one of those thick, orange industrial cords to a gig. Again, do not be one of those people.

Reed water cup—Did I say, “last time”. Get a Légère European Cut Reed and stop buying all these unnecessary things! Personally, I could not stand a dry reed during a performance and would keep the reed water cup on my stand in a clip made just for it. It would be connected to the stand post. Sometimes I had to put it under my seat. Yes, it has been knocked over on more than one occasion. Be sure to clean it out with soap and water regularly to prevent algae and other things from growing. If you leave your reeds in the water for a long time (more than 15 minutes), be sure to lay them out to dry sufficiently afterwards. Taking a completely soaked reed and hiding it in an enclosed reed case (especially one with glass) is an invitation to a mold party the likes of which make great band director Facebook meme pics.

Pad Drying Paper—Useful! Growing up, we had to use cigarette paper or some substitute. Now you are fortunate to have material specifically made to get water off a gurgling pad; also useful for removing sugar off a pad that is sticky (though preventing is better than fixing—always try to rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking soda or juice before playing your clarinet).

Screw driver—Essential. Your screws will loosen and start to come out. Period. Maybe not all of them and likely one or two will do it enough for the whole clarinet. But it will happen and you need a screwdriver to effectively put them back in place properly. Besides, it’s another chance to be a hero! Guaranteed that some of your “lesser” clarinet friends will be shoving their fingernails in there trying to tighten a screw and you can sing the hero melody as you hand them the correct tool for the job. What you need are called precision screwdrivers. You only need one but try to make sure it is only small enough to barely fit the smallest screw (i.e. the one in the E-flat “sliver” key [left-hand ring finger between C/G and D/A on the upper joint]). Too small and it might have too much play in the largest screws. You might as well buy a full set anyway. They are good for battery removal in toys and for cleaning out the gunk in those spaces where everything meets together in your car. Oh, and btw, all of your screws are on your clarinet are flathead—no need for a Philips precision screwdriver with your clarinet.

Neckstrap—Helpful. I, personally, do not use one, but I can definitely see its usefulness. There are many professionals who use a neckstrap to relieve some of the weight on the right thumb. Apparently there are different kinds with some having an elastic band while others do not.

Thumbrest Cushion—Helpful. Again, I personally do not use one but can see how they would be useful if you were enduring thumb pain while playing. I have built up digit deforming callus on my thumb that puts me past any hope of relief from a cushy thumbrest.

Reed Flavor—No "real" clarinet player would use this atrocity. Ah, the taste of new, raw bamboo on the lip should not be messed with. It is a right of passage to become addicted to the new reed flavor. And if you have come to your senses and purchased Legere reeds, well...the beautiful taste of tasteless plastic. Still. No reed flavoring! Abomination, I say.

Well I hope that helps. All of these things would make a great Christmas gift for that clarinet player you love. And purchasing through these links will help this clarinet player we all love. :-)

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