Believe me, this is worth spending some time learning, because if you know how to put a clarinet together perfectly in the first place, it's going to be easy to play from the very beginning and will save you problems later on.

What a fabulous and handsome instrument it is - all black with those lovely shiny keys - and yet those lovely shiny keys can so easily be bent if not handled correctly -  which is why you must pay attention now. Once you have assembled your instrument a few times you will find it easy to put together. You will be taking care of the instrument and you will be aligning the parts up perfectly so your instrument will play well and you will be on the way to sounding fabulous.

Take a good look at your instrument.

Put the bottom of your case flat onto the table (away from the edges of the table so it won't drop off) - Make sure you have the bottom of the case on the table. Now I hope you will forgive me for insisting on this obvious point here, but you would be surprised at how many Young Beginner Clarinet players open their case, and it is upside down, so when they lift the lid the clarinet pieces fall out - and we don't want that to happen to your instrument.

Take some time to look and admire your wonderful clarinet - I promise you - you have made a great choice because this instrument is cool. So cool it can play all sorts of music from jazz - to classical - to pop music - and I'm sure you will have in mind some of the kinds of groups you would like to play in. Maybe a small band or your school might have an orchestra or a wind band, or you might like to get together with your friends and play together at home, or be in a marching band - or a rock band - the possibilities are endless and your fabulous adventure is ahead of you - how exciting. All this is starting with one special piece of learning and that is how to put your clarinet together in the best way so that it will be easy for you to play.

Before you handle anything note the different shapes of the five pieces.

I'm sure you can guess exactly which bit is which. One of the small pieces piece is the mouthpiece. Yours will have a cap and also a ligature - that's the bit that holds the reed onto the mouthpiece.

The small piece shaped like a barrel is called - guess what - "a barrel" . This bit fits into the mouthpiece.

The two biggest pieces are the middle joints. These two fit together in a very special way and it is the linking of these two joints that we shall give very special to later on. I call these two pieces the upper middle joint and the lower middle joint. The top of the upper middle joint screws into the barrel.

The bottom of lower middle joint screws into the remaining piece called the bell.  We can't mistake this piece as it is shaped like a bell.

Here Goes - Young Beginner Clarinet - Lets Get Started

 Greasing the Clarinet Corks

The first thing to do is to grease your corks. The corks, at the end of some of the joints, are there to ensure a tight seal between the joints when the they are together. At the beginning, especially if the clarinet is brand new, the corks will be fat and can make the joints rather stiff and difficult to put together. Greasing the corks helps the joints to slide together easily.

You most probably will have been provided with some cork grease when you purchased your instrument. This can come in a small pot or in a stick. If you haven't got any you can use a small amount of household petroleum jelly on your corks. (do not use any other kind of grease - other than the cork grease provided, or petroleum jelly). Put a small amount of grease on each cork and smooth it round with your finger taking care not to get the grease on the body of the clarinet. If you do, just wipe it off with a cloth and make sure your instrument isn't left sticky.

It is not necessary to apply cork grease every time you play. After a period of time new corks will "seat in" and it will be easier to slide the joints together, then you only need to reapply grease on the corks when you sense the joints are getting a bit stiff.

( A good tip for a Young Beginner Clarinet player is to ask either Mum or Dad or some other adult in the house to put the joints together for you - just for a while - until the corks settle and until you get used to handling the instrument. They will do this quite quickly leaving you to get on with the most important jobs of practising and having some fun)

 Linking the middle joints

I'm serious now - your best attention and focus is required for this bit! We do not want to bend any keys. Have a good look at the two middle joints. Notice the thin small keys, sticking out, one at the end of each joint. These two keys link up the top part of the clarinet mechanism with the bottom part of the clarinet mechanism. They have to be joined and lined up perfectly.

Pick up the upper middle joint  (Thats the smallest of the two big bits) Make sure that the long speaker key at the back of this joint is pointing upwards and place this joint in the left hand so that the holes are upwards. Curl your fingers round the body of the joint and press the ring keys that go round the holes. Notice that by pressing these ring keys the link key is lifted. - This link key is going to fit over the link key on the bottom joint.

Pick up the lower middle joint in your right hand. Put the thumb rest at the top. (That's the bit that sticks out from the clarinet) . If it's at the bottom turn it round in your hand so it's at the top.

 Put the joints close together and you will see the link keys in both joints that will link together. Getting these perfectly aligned is the secret of how to put a clarinet together perfectly.

Hold the left hand (top joint) still.

Put the bottom joint into the top joint slowly, - twisting a little bit right, a little bit left, a little bit right, a little bit left - until the link keys are perfectly lined up. You can then lift the fingers from the ring keys on the top joint and the link key on this joint will drop nicely on the link key of the bottom joint.

PLEASE NOTE - big warning here - never let the long side keys on each joint touch each other - in other words do not twist the joints right round or the long side keys may touch and bend. Always put the middle joints together with great care and look after the keys.

  Adding the Clarinet Bell

Phew this next bit is easy. There's just one point here that I would like you to learn, and it's an important part of good clarinet care. When you put the bell on the clarinet hold the instrument by the bottom joint and simply screw the bell into it. Never hold the clarinet by the top joint when screwing the bell in. You may get movement in the middle of the two top joints, causing the long keys at the side of the clarinet to bend when they touch each other.

  Adding the Barrel

Again this is an easy bit. Similar advice applies - When putting the barrel on the top joint, hold the clarinet by the top joint. Holding it by the bottom joint might give you movement in the middle which could lead to the keys getting bent.

Adding the Mouthpiece And Reed

We're nearly there. Stay focused and read these important facts about the Mouthpiece Parts before you put them together.

The Mouthpiece has a flat reed table where the reed sits. This flat table is lined up with the long speaker key at the back of the clarinet.

The Reed is THE most important part of the clarinet. It doesn't matter how expensive beautiful or shiny your clarinet is, if the reed is not in good condition the clarinet will not sound good

TIP - A good strength of reed for a beginner is number one and a half

I call putting a reed onto a mouthpiece "setting the reed". A correctly placed reed makes the best sound. You will notice that the reed is shaved from half way up. The base of the reed is thick and it gets thinner and thinner towards the tip. When we push air through the clarinet to make the sound, the tip of the reed vibrates and the vibrating air goes down the instrument to make the sound.

Always handle your reed by holding it by the base or the side at the bottom, where it is thick. Never hold the reed by the tip or you may damage it.

The ligature is the piece that holds the reed to the mouthpiece. Ligatures come in different shapes and sizes. Whichever kind you have, please remember these important points.

  • The ligature gently keeps the reed in place - it never nips the reed. (The fibers of the reed run from base to tip. Nipping the base of the reed may interfere with the vibrations at the tip)
  • The ligature secures the reed below where the reed is shaved (do not have the ligature too high up on the mouthpiece as this will stop the reed working well)
  • ​The ligature is set central to the reed

Here we go..............

Handling all these bits can be a bit tricky, especially if you are a very Young Beginner Clarinet player. Asking an adult to help out with this bit, for the first few practise sessions, is a great idea. (Sharing the learning is great fun)

Pick up your clarinet and hold it by the barrel. Screw the mouthpiece into the barrel. Line up flat part of the mouthpiece with the long key at the back of the clarinet on the upper middle joint. ( this long key is called either the  "speaker key" or the "register key")

When you first put the reed on the mouthpiece it is a good idea to lay your clarinet on your lap so you have both hands to deal with the reed and ligature. Hold the reed by the thick end and put the thin end  into  your mouth for a few seconds to moisten it. Moist reeds work the best. Don't make the reed soggy - just nicely moist. Place the reed onto the flat part of the mouthpiece (the "reed table"). Remember to handle it by the sides or the base and line it up with the sides of the mouthpiece (the "rails" of the mouthpiece). Make sure the tip of the reed goes to the tip of the mouthpiece. Press the reed towards the tip of the mouthpiece and you should see a very faint black line of the tip of the mouthpiece, then you know that the reed is in the best place to produce the best sound.

Once in place, very slowly slide the back of the ligature down the back of the mouthpiece, taking the ligature over the tip of the reed. Done very carefully and in a controlled manner, the tip of the reed is not disturbed or damaged. Bring the ligature down the mouthpiece to below where the reed is shaved. Gently adjust the screws on the ligature so that the reed is kept in place.

You may then put on the mouthpiece cap in the same way as you put the ligature on. - Slide the bottom of the cap slowly down the back of the mouthpiece till it snugly fits in place. Your mouthpiece cap will protect the tip of your reed and the tip of the mouthpiece.

There it is - Your clarinet is put together perfectly!

               Your adventure begins!

Hey There Young Beginner Clarinet -

ALWAYS do these important things EVERY time you play - 

  1. Moisten your reed before putting it on the mouthpiece.
  2. Line the link /bridge keys correctly.
  3. Line the reed and mouthpiece with the long speaker key at the back of the clarinet.
  4. Place the reed straight and exactly to the tip of the mouthpiece.
  5. Have the ligature the perfect tension on the reed without nipping it.
  6. Place the ligature low down on the reed, below where is shaved.
  7. Place the ligature central to the reed.

 Your clarinet will then work perfectly for you and feel easy to play.

Hey there Mums, Dads, and grown-ups everywhere.

    You can be the most wonderful asset to your young beginner.

Just by knowing a few simple facts you can support your child here and there, and make a world of difference to your childs' development.

  • Often after learning correctly at first, young beginners, in their enthusiasm to start playing, will often neglect to see that the instrument assembled correctly in subsequent practise sessions. This makes the instrument difficult to play and lead to frustrations. By keeping as eye on the assembly, now and again (especially the placement of the reed) a parent can ensure the young beginner gets off to the best start. 
  • Very young beginners can often find the assembly a big challenge at the beginning, especially if the corks are new and tight. It is worth putting the instrument together for your child in this circumstance, and allowing your child to get on with the playing, just until your child feels more comfortable handling the instrument.

Perfect assembly = easy to play clarinet = happy beginner = loves to play

Poor assembly = difficult to play clarinet = demotivated = doesn't practise

- Top Tips for how to put a clarinet together -

 in a nutshell

Grown ups - from time to time please check out these things.

  1. Line the link/bridge keys up perfectly between the two middle joints
  2. Moisten the reed before you place it on the mouthpiece.
  3. Place the reed straight on the mouthpiece. Line the sides of the reed parallel with the rails of the mouthpiece. Place the tip of the reed at the tip of the mouthpiece. Press the reed gently with the thumb, a few cms below the tip. The reed is in the perfect position if you can see a very faint black line at the tip of the mouthpiece
  4. Make sure the ligature is central to the reed, not nipping the reed and that it secures the reed below where the reed is shaved.
  5. Line the reed and mouthpiece with the speaker key at the back of the clarinet.

    Ready for More?

    If you enjoyed this article why not check out Maggie Gray's "Take Note Beginner Clarinet" DVD course. You will:

    • Produce an amazing sound
    • Another benefit here
    • And another benefit here!