The clarinet report (edited)

Edited the next morning to clarify a few points.

I did it again. Bought a clarinet on eBay. I can’t possibly pretend I need another one — I have three soprano clarinets already, and I’ve only used one of them the past several months. This one I bought pretty much out of curiosity. It’s a Mazzeo system clarinet; I’ve never seen one in the flesh. I figure buying one for $17 (plus equal postage) is a pretty good way to get a good look at one. After which, who knows, maybe I’ll resell it. I might even be able to make a tiny profit.

We’re coming up on our last band concert of the year, in two weeks. The next week there’s a pot luck dinner, and then we’re off until March, the anniversary of my joining. I’ve had a good time, and my playing’s improved. Not that I’m not still a tyro, but I’ve made a little progress.

I’m enjoying being in the third clarinet section a lot more than I ever expected. I started playing clarinet in the fifth grade, and partway through sixth grade my teacher switched me to bass clarinet. I played alto clarinet in seventh and eighth grades, and then bass clarinet again in ninth through twelfth.

I really enjoyed that. Most of the band parts were rather dull, a lot of oom-pah oom-pah and not much else, but I just really liked the big, fat sound of the instrument, particularly in the bottom octave, and though it takes more air than the soprano it accepts a looser embouchure, so I found it more fun to play.

I was back on soprano clarinet for a year or two in college, but by then I was thinking of myself as a bass clarinetist in exile. The bass was always my favorite clarinet, and I got much less enjoyment out of the soprano.

When I got interested in playing again a couple years ago, I started looking for a bass clarinet on eBay. I found one eventually, but in the meantime picked up an alto and a couple sopranos when I could get them too cheap to pass up. When I contacted the director of the LaFayette Concert Band I told him I had soprano, alto, and bass clarinets, and hoped he’d ask me to play bass. Instead he wanted me on soprano, and I was a bit disappointed by that.

But if he offered to let me switch to bass today, I’d have a hard time deciding whether or not to take him up on it. (Not that that’s likely — we have a bass clarinetist, and don’t need two in a band our size.)

I’ve re-learned something I’d forgotten, which is that even the third clarinet parts tend to be more interesting than the bass parts. And, not unrelatedly, it wasn’t just time away from playing that accounted for my limited skills: they’d been stunted by my time on bass. Not that playing bass isn’t an enriching experience, but it didn’t help my embouchure any, nor my dexterity, nor my facility in the altissimo register. Bass clarinet is great fun to play, but playing soprano is good for me. And also fun. My teenage disdain for the soprano is gone.

I do hope to find an opportunity to play bass clarinet again at some point. And I’d love a chance to try out a contra clarinet, although at this point I can’t afford to buy even a cheap used one. Right now, though, I’m happy on third clarinet. Second would be great too, someday, when and if I hone my skills well enough and an opening exists, but third is fine until then.

Meanwhile, back on eBay, I’m paying attention to the occasional Bundy eefers…

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