Learning Your Clarinet Notes

At around age 11, children can learn to play clarinet notes and take on beginner music designed for this versatile instrument. This age is considered appropriate for learning the instrument because children at that age have full front teeth and the arm strength necessary to support the instrument. Finger span is also large enough to cover the entire clarinet. Children generally start on a B flat soprano clarinet and must learn the different combinations of fingering to produce the desired notes.

The clarinet has one of the widest ranges of any woodwind instrument, with the ability to play 3 ½ octaves. A combination of opening and closing the keys on the clarinet produce different notes.

The clarinet's three different registers make different sounds:

  • Altissimo (top register) covers the notes from the C, two octaves above middle C.
  • Clarino (middle register) goes from the B note above middle C to the C above middle C.
  • Chalumeau (lower register) is from the lower E to the B note above middle C.

To play, the clarinetist will cover seven of the tone holes, operating the rest using the clarinet keys. Some of the beginner notes are among the easiest to play. As the clarinetist perfects the basic notes, more can be added to practice with.

  • Middle A is the easiest note to learn, as all keys are left unpressed but for the left index finger key.
  • B flat is the same as A, except the left thumb should compress the long key right above it.
  • Covering all the finger holes, plus the left fifth finger key produces the B note.
  • Create low F by covering all the finger holes and the top fork key on the right.

The beginning clarinetist can perfect basic notes and moving between the notes by practicing scales. Beginners should go through the B flat major scales, the E flat scale, the A flat scale and the F scale. For those seeking intermediate scales, the D flat, C and G scales will warm up the fingers and mouth.  

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