How To Hold a Clarinet: Tips for Beginners of All Ages

To learn how to hold a clarinet, begin with hand placement, posture, and angling. These core principles will help you achieve a clear tone and good sound. Whether you’ve been playing clarinet for some time or you’ve just had your very first clarinet lesson, learning how to hold a clarinet is an important first step for all beginners.

The clarinet is a member of the woodwind family often played in orchestras, marching bands, jazz bands, and swing ensembles. Clarinets are often recommended as a first instrument for aspiring musicians because they’re easy to learn. The techniques learned on the clarinet can be transferred to other woodwind instruments, such as the bassoon and flute, later on.

When you’re learning how to play the clarinet, your instructor will begin by showing you how to hold the instrument. To hold a clarinet, you’ll need to master the following steps:

  • Left hand placement
  • Right hand placement
  • Posture
  • Playing angle

How to Hold a Clarinet

Step 1. Left Hand Placement

When you play the clarinet, your left hand provides important support by covering the upper half of the instrument, also known as the upper joint. Hold the instrument by placing your left hand over the top holes on the upper joint.

The pad of your left thumb will cover the back hole on the upper joint, while your first, second and third fingers will cover the front three holes. Focus on a grip that’s firm but not too tight. You’ll want to keep your hand flexible and mobile as you play the instrument.

Step 2. Right Hand Placement

Next, learn right hand placement. When you’re learning how to hold a clarinet, you’ll be taught that your right hand supports the bottom of the instrument known as the lower joint. On almost all clarinets, the lower joint on a clarinet has a hook made of silver or nickel. Rest your right thumb under this hook to help stabilize the instrument.

Then, as with your left hand on the upper joint, the first, second and third fingers of your right hand will be positioned over the holes of the lower joint. Your pinkie finger will dangle near the keys below these holes.

Step 3. Posture

Now that you’ve learned where to place your hands, the next step is learning the correct posture. As a woodwind instrument, the sound of the clarinet depends on the quality of your breath. If your breathing technique is wrong, the clarinet may sound too squeaky or hollow. 

To ensure that your breath is smooth and strong whenever you blow into the clarinet, always sit or stand with a tall, straight spine. Don’t slump your shoulders or round your upper back. By maintaining an upright spine, you’ll be able to use your lungs to their full capacity and control your breathing effectively. This will make a big difference in how you play the clarinet.

Step 4. Playing Angle

Finally, learn how to hold a clarinet by mastering the right playing angle. With the instrument gripped in your hands and a straight back, hold the clarinet close to your body with the barrel almost parallel to your chest. 

Your arms should be almost at a 90 degree angle, but don’t be too stiff as you play. Remain relaxed so you can play with ease. Let the sound hole, also known as the bell, point slightly outward.

Learn How to Hold a Clarinet with Lessons from Music and Arts

Learning how to hold a clarinet is an important first step for playing this beautiful, expressive instrument. When you’re ready to learn more and perfect your technique, try private clarinet lessons from Music and Arts. Our professional instructors can’t wait to share their passion and experience with you. Call or email us today to schedule lessons with a clarinet instructor near you.

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