How Hard to Play Clarinet

I tried learning the oboe, and while the fingering wasn’t that difficult, I didn’t have the lung power to get a good tone. How does the clarinet compare? Is it relatively easy to get a good sound?

Oh, yeah, tons easier, seriously. Geez, you started out on the oboe? :eek: In my daughter’s middle school music program, they don’t even feature it in the annual “Do You Wanna Learn How To Play A Band Instrument?” presentation in the auditorium. They just bring out the clarinet, sax, flute, trumpet, trombone, and drums. You know–the easy ones. :smiley:

But yeah, the embouchure is way easier, you don’t have that “resistance” thing going on, where you have to stop and breathe “out” rather than “in”, and you can get a decent tone out of it much sooner.

There are good used (plastic) clarinets all over the place. Don’t knock it–plastic is perfectly adequate for anybody who doesn’t have a contract with Deutsche Grammophon.

You ought to pay about $200 for used, $700 for brand-new. The kind of music store that does the “instrument rental” program for the schools always has good used instruments for sale. Make sure the mouthpiece isn’t cracked where the reed lies flat on it, and make sure the keys aren’t loose.

the embouchure is different IIRC, but a clarinet is a lot easier to keep in tune. Slight inward/outward movements of the mouthpiece in and out of the mouth won’t have the drastic affect on pitch that they do on an oboe (yes they have an affect, but it’s not near as noticeable unless you’re one of those @#$! with perfect pitch :slight_smile: ).

The clarinet still takes some lung power, but not as much, since a) there is only one reed that needs to be vibrated vice the two on an oboe and b) the apeture for air is larger on a clarinet, so it does not need to be forced through as hard to put out the same volume.

Disclaimer: I’ve played the clarinet for almost twenty years, but have only tried an oboe once, about 17 years ago (junior year in HS), but those were the impressions I came away with.


I play flute and oboe-complete opposites in embouchure.
The oboe was quite difficult to keep a full tone (for me, at least). I could sound NONduck-like about 60% of the time.

Clarinet does have a much more relaxed emboucure.

The lung “usage” is about the same, it’s just a matter of how the air is expulsed.

I’d guess that you didn’t lack lung power to get a good tone. You lacked breath control, which is crucial for generating a decent tone on an oboe. At the beginning level, it’s easier (not easy) to get a decent tone on a clarinet. However, your question implies that you want to find a wind instrument that’s “easy” to play, and if you’re going to get fairly good on any instrument, it’s not going to be easy. Producing sound is just a very early baby step toward “playing the clarinet.” But, to answer your question, compared to an oboe, it’s relatively easier to produce an acceptable tone on a clarinet.

I played the clarinet for three years between the ages of 9 and 12. (I really do wish I had kept with it!).

One thing-always make sure you have a decent supply of reeds handy. A couple of times my reed broke right before a concert, and I had to simply pantomime playing.


Yes, a clarinet is easier than an oboe to get an acceptable tone out of. It requires somewhat less lung pressure, too.

The clarinet and oboe are both Bohm System instruments, so the fingering is very similar, and a lot of what you invested in learning the oboe will carry over. There is a difference, though, because the clarry overblows a twelfth (which means that the fingering that gives you C in the lowest register gives you G in the second register), whereas the oboe, like the saxophone, overblows in octaves.

Another thing you may be unfamiliar with is that standard clarinets are transposing instruments. What a clarinetist calls ‘middle C’ is actually concert-pitch B-flat, A, or E-flat (depending on the clarinet, and sometimes other pitches, to). Scores for the clarinet are usually transposed, but clarinetists get good at transposing on the fly while playing at sight.


Noting what Agback said and remembering my days of playing the clarinet, it seemed that it was easier getting an acceptable tone in the lower register, then in the upper register. The fact that the clarinet jumps a twelfth made it more difficult to achieve control in the upper register at first. In addition, anything above high C was yet more difficult to play with acceptable tone.