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Top 11 Benefits Of Learning & Playing Clarinet

My New Microphone Top 11 Benefits Of Learning & Playing Clarinet

The clarinet is a well-known, beautiful-sounding woodwind instrument, a staple in orchestral ensembles and a notable element of some jazz and folk music. There are a surprising number of benefits associated with learning how to play clarinet and practicing/playing regularly.

Perhaps you're debating whether to try out the clarinet for the first time, or maybe you're already a student or even a professional player. Regardless of your experience level, I hope to inspire you to continue on your musical journey with the clarinet as you read this article.

There is so much to gain from learning a musical instrument like the clarinet, and I've selected what I believe to be the top 11 best reasons.

The Top 11 Benefits Of Learning And Playing Clarinet Are:

  1. Strengthens Breathing
  2. Improves Coordination/Dexterity
  3. Improves Discipline & Concentration
  4. Improves Memory
  5. Builds Confidence
  6. Introduces A New Language
  7. Enhances The Understanding Of Music
  8. Provides A Creative Outlet
  9. Yields Translatable Skills For Other Woodwind Instruments
  10. Building Relationships
  11. Therapeutic Benefits

In this article, we'll discuss each of the benefits listed above to understand better how learning and playing the clarinet can improve our lives.

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Learning & Playing Clarinet Strengthens Breathing

It's rather obvious that better breathing will make for a better quality of life. It's vital, after all. Woodwind instruments like the clarinet (along with brass instruments) help strengthen our breathing by demanding specific breath control to produce sound.

To play the clarinet properly, we must learn the necessary breathing requirements to blow air, vibrate the reed and ultimately produce the intended sound. Like when singing, if the clarinetist runs out of air to blow, the instrument stops producing sound.

Diaphragmatic (belly) breathing helps us improve our overall breathing. Breath control, ranging from relaxed and open inhalations to sharp, explosive exhalations, gives our lungs a good workout and strengthens our respiratory system.

Music therapy, including the learning of woodwind instruments like the clarinet, helps improve already healthy respiratory systems. It also shows promising effects on improving the overall respiratory health of those living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (source).

Note that clarinets require higher pressure (harder blowing), while bass clarinets require lower pressure (slower blowing but with greater volume). So, becoming proficient at both clarinet types will really benefit our breath control.

Strengthening the respiratory system and breath control improves our overall health and has benefits beyond music, spanning to exercise, meditation and more.


Learning & Playing Clarinet Improves Coordination/Dexterity

Playing the intended notes with a clarinet demands more than just breath control. We must also be able to match our exhalations with the proper fingerings for the notes we intend to produce, all in the appropriate rhythm and tempo. This takes dedicated training to gain the dexterity needed.

In learning the clarinet, we must develop the ability to synchronize our hands, breathing and embouchure, making them perform the notes we want, when we want them. With the timbre and emotionality we want to express. That demands the development of dexterity!

This dexterity and coordination are further improved as we learn to sight-read sheet music, connecting the respiratory system, mouth/embouchure, hands, posture and eyes.

The coordination developed by playing the clarinet will undoubtedly help us learn other woodwind instruments. It can also help with improving hand-eye coordination elsewhere.


Learning & Playing Clarinet Improves Discipline & Concentration

Discipline and concentration can be thought of as a muscle. We tend to wane throughout the day as we get tired, though the more we practice the art of discipline and focus our concentration, the better we become at each.

Becoming a skilled clarinetist takes time, dedication, humility and a willingness to improve continually. In other words, learning and playing clarinet takes discipline and concentration.

From the mechanics to the in-depth theory, learning clarinet is a fun way to learn music and to also develop discipline and concentration.

Learning the basics of clarinet presents a fairly steep learning curve, which requires work to overcome. Mastering the instrument demands unwavering resolve to the craft. The necessary determination required to learn the clarinet will be internalized and will help us in other aspects of life that require it.


Learning & Playing Clarinet Improves Memory

Many studies, including this one, have been conducted to research and understand if and how learning and playing musical instruments can improve memory. The findings show how both listening to and learning music will improve memory.

Learning and playing the clarinet stimulates parts of our brain linked to memory. Our memory can be improved by putting our brains to work (source). The auditory and tactile stimulation, along with the visual aspect of reading music, makes learning clarinet a definite brain workout.

More specifically, learning a musical instrument like the clarinet stimulates the amygdala and hippocampus, which play a role in processing emotions and memories (source).

While learning and playing the clarinet, we stimulate the hippocampus, which activates neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons. Neurogenesis is linked to improved learning and memory (source).

Consider all the factors of learning and playing clarinet that involve memory:

  • Memorizing songs (with rhythm, harmony, melody, timbre/tone)
  • The notes of the clarinet (and their transposition from the written music)
  • Chord arpeggio fingerings
  • Breathing techniques
  • Embouchure techniques
  • Theoretical knowledge of music (rhythm, harmony, melody)

Learning & Playing Clarinet Builds Confidence

As we learn how to play the notes, phrases and pieces we set out to, we develop certain confidence with the clarinet. This confidence in the area of music has the tendency to spill into other parts of our lives. If we can learn the clarinet, surely we can learn whatever else we put our minds to (music-related or otherwise)!

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines self-confidence as the “confidence in oneself and in one's powers and abilities”. Playing the clarinet gives us immediate auditory feedback. If it sounds the way we're trying to make it sound, we build self-confidence.

Furthermore, music is a social art. As is the case with most musical instruments, we can get to a point in our development where we're in a position to play with and/or for other musicians and audiences. In doing so, playing clarinet can help us overcome general shyness and stage fright.

Developing the confidence to perform in front of friends, family, strangers and even virtually/online will pay dividends in many other areas of our lives. Becoming proficient with our clarinet playing gives us the opportunity to engage in such performances.


Learning & Playing Clarinet Introduces A New Language

The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Music is the universal language of mankind” (source). Whether we're learning songs on the clarinet by ear or via sheet music, it's akin to reading and speaking a language.

Like written and spoken language, music can tell a story, and the clarinet can invoke a number of emotions and feelings in the player and listener.

By learning the clarinet and, therefore, a certain dialect of the “musical language,” we can expand our understanding of music and the world.

Likewise, studies have shown that learning a musical instrument like the clarinet helps strengthen the same parts of the brain responsible for language processing (source). Learning clarinet not only introduces the language of music but also enhances the brain's capacity to learn other languages.


Learning & Playing Clarinet Enhances The Understanding Of Music

From being a single voice in a small ensemble to part of a group of 4 clarinetists (as is the case with a typical modern full-scale symphony orchestra) to taking the lead in a jazz group or providing a strong melody in a folk band, learning the clarinet gives us ample opportunity to deepen our understanding of music.

Once we learn the fundamentals of playing the clarinet, we can access the many different styles available to expand our musical learning. In doing so, we deepen our understanding of the beautiful art form of music.

It's worth noting, too, that clarinets are transposing instruments, so we'll have to learn about transposition if we're ever tasked with reading or writing sheet music.

Additionally, since clarinets are reliant on the breath, their phrases can be thought of as more “human-like”. While guitarists, pianists, drummers, etc., can continually play notes, the clarinetists' restrictions may actually help develop a certain viewpoint of melody, harmony and phrasing that is more human.

Another “limitation” worth considering is the monophonic nature of clarinets (they can only produce one note at a time). This means that, unlike polyphonic instruments like the guitar and piano, clarinets can't play simultaneous notes in chords. Rather, they must arpeggiate chords, playing each chord tone in succession. This “limitation” qualifies clarinetists to think of melody and harmony in a different way.


Learning & Playing Clarinet Provides A Creative Outlet

Whether we think of ourselves as “creative” or not, we all have the inclination to create. While there are many aspects of creativity, music and the arts are unmistakably creative (source). Whether we're naturally musically inclined or not, learning the clarinet can give us an outlet for our inherent creativity.

Studies show that learning musical instruments creates connections between the brain's two hemispheres. Learning the clarinet and playing/practicing it regularly can actually grow the corpora callosa in the brain, the bundle of axons that effectively connects the two hemispheres (source). With new neural pathways, we add additional ways of thinking (consciously and subconsciously), which surely improves our ability to create innovative and unique musical ideas.

Whether we're playing written songs or writing and/or improvising our own, learning and playing the clarinet is an excellent instrument for expressing our innate creativity.


Learning & Playing Clarinet Yields Translatable Skills For Other Woodwind Instruments

Clarinets are single-reed woodwind instruments. Learning to play single-reed will translate to other reeded woodwind instruments, particularly those with single reeds, such as the saxophones.

Related article: Top 11 Benefits Of Learning & Playing Saxophone

As mentioned before, learning the clarinet means learning breath control. Understanding proper breathing and embouchure techniques for the clarinet will help tremendously if we decide to take on other instruments. Even the more difficult instruments, like the oboe, which requires a great deal of breath control, will become easier if we have proficient skills with the clarinet.

This breathing control will also be of benefit when transferred to reedless woodwind instruments like flute and piccolo. Additionally, the control will come in handy with brass instruments (such as the trumpet, trombone and tuba) even though they are in a different family of musical instruments.

Double reeds are more difficult to play, and some teachers even suggest learning a single-reed instrument before “graduating” to a double reed. Though both reed types work the same (by vibrating against the mouthpiece or the reed itself, respectively), learning how to play a single reed will shorten the learning curve when it comes time to play a double-reed instrument.

Finally, the fingering of the clarinet, though unique in its own right, will translate in some manner to other woodwinds. The clarinets (B♭, bass, A, E♭, contrabass, conta-alto, alto, etc.) are transposing instruments that share the same fingering with respect to written sheet music (though their written “C notes” will be different).

Though the fingerings and key mechanisms will differ between clarinets and other woodwinds, the muscles used to play such instruments will be trained with all woodwinds.


Learning & Playing Clarinet Helps Build Relationships

As mentioned previously, music is a social art. It brings people together. Learning the clarinet, like any musical instrument, gives us a skill and knowledge (whether we're a hobbyist or a professional) that can make connecting with others easier.

First off, let's consider the teacher-student relationship. If you choose to go down the path of hiring a clarinet teacher to help you learn, you'll build a relationship with that teacher by default. This is true of in-person lessons and one-on-one online lessons.

Once you've learned how to play sufficiently, you can become a teacher and build relationships with your own students.

A few online resources to consider for online clarinet teachers are FiverrPreply and Upwork.

This may seem obvious, but musicians play music with other musicians. Learning to play the clarinet will make it easier for you to connect with other musicians.

Whether you start a band, join an orchestra, or simply jam for fun, becoming a skilled clarinetist will get you noticed by other musicians.


Learning & Playing Clarinet Has Therapeutic Benefits

Debra Shipman (Ph.D. RN) states, “Learning to play a musical instrument provides a peaceful retreat from the pressures of daily life. Therapeutic outcomes of playing music include better communication skills, improved emotional release and decreased anxiety and agitation. Musical training promotes cognitive function, mental health, and a connection to others.” (source)

Music is being studied thoroughly as a promising tool for therapy for the brain, lungs and heart (source). These health benefits are readily available with regular practice on the clarinet. The American Music Therapy Association lists the following benefits of music therapy:

  • Promote Wellness
  • Manage Stress
  • Alleviate Pain
  • Express Feelings
  • Enhance Memory
  • Improve Communication
  • Promote Physical Rehabilitation

Learning & Playing Clarinet Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills

As the first of two bonus tips, let's talk about money. To include another quote, Paul Van Der Merwe stated, “Money makes the world go round” (source).

Once you've become a capable clarinet player, there are many different avenues to monetize your skills. Here are just a few to consider:

  • Performing original music live (at clubs, dinner parties, churches, coffee shops, and even busking)
  • Performing covers live
  • Record streaming royalties from original music
  • Teaching clarinet lessons
  • Recording as a session clarinetist

There are plenty of other opportunities to monetize clarinet-playing skills. Marketable skills (whether they're high-paying and/or capitalized on or not) are undoubtedly a benefit of learning and playing the clarinet.


Learning & Playing Clarinet Bonus Benefit 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction

Learning and playing the clarinet isn't only about the technique, music theory and songs. It's also about the instruments themselves. Leaning the clarinet gives us a great opportunity to learn about the physics of sound and woodwind instruments more generally.

Furthermore, learning the general upkeep of clarinets teaches us about plenty of other topics, including:

  • How to disassemble and reassemble clarinets
  • How air vibrates reeds and tubes of air to produce sound
  • The effects of humidity on wood
  • How to clean clarinets for optimal health and performance
  • How to properly oil the keys
  • How to prepare reeds

Leave A Comment!

Have any thoughts, questions or concerns? I invite you to add them to the comment section at the bottom of the page! I'd love to hear your insights and inquiries and will do my best to add to the conversation. Thanks!

This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

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