April 09, 2015
A Guide on How To Tune a Clarinet for Beginning Players
Learn how to tune a clarinet by warming the instrument, playing a few notes, and adjusting the barrel. When you’re learning how to play the clarinet, it’s important to make sure your instrument is perfectly in tune. A clarinet that’s out of tune can sound harsh and unpleasant. This makes playing difficult and can ruin your music experience. Luckily, clarinets are easy to tune.
A member of the woodwind family, clarinets are played in all kinds of music. Whether you’re interested in band, orchestra, jazz, swing, or even pop, the clarinet is a great choice for beginning musicians. Most of the skills you learn while playing the clarinet can easily transfer to other woodwind and brass instruments, too, which makes this instrument a versatile choice for young musicians.
When a clarinet is in tune, this instrument produces a beautiful sound. The sound of a clarinet is often described as smooth, melodic, and rich. Although your breathing technique plays a big role in this, you still need to ensure that your clarinet is in tune at the beginning of every practice and performance. If you’re not sure how to tune a clarinet, follow these steps:
- Warm up the instrument
- Check the tuning
- Blow air through the clarinet
- Adjust the barrel
- Play some scales
- Adjust again
As you take clarinet lessons, your instructor will show you how to tune the instrument. Eventually, turning your clarinet will become second nature. In the meantime, learning the steps mentioned above will help you tune your instrument. Now let’s break each step down in more detail.
6 Steps for How To Tune a Clarinet
Step #1. Warm Up the Clarinet
Before you can begin tuning notes on a clarinet, you need to make sure your instrument is ready to go. As a woodwind instrument, clarinets are very sensitive to temperature. When your instrument has been sitting on its stand or in a case for a long period of time, it will naturally cool down. This causes the barrel and other parts of the clarinet to constrict, affecting the sound.
As you play the clarinet, your breath will warm it up. This means that if you tune it before the clarinet is properly warmed up, the instrument will go out of tune midway through your playing. To avoid having to stop and re-tune, warm the clarinet before you tune for the first time.
Most clarinet teachers and professional clarinetists recommend taking 2-3 minutes to warm up. To warm up, simply blow into the instrument. You can also use this time to practice your scales and alternate fingerings.
Step #2. Check the Tuning
Once your instrument is warmed up, it’s time to check the tuning. To do this, you’ll need a device called a chromatic tuner. A chromatic tuner can be purchased at most music stores. There are also several smartphone apps designed to help you tune your instrument.
Using a tuner is easy. Simply place the device near your clarinet’s sound hole and play a note, such as E or C. The tuner will have a digital display that shows the note you’re trying to play. It will indicate whether you’re sharp, flat, or just right. When you know how your instrument is out of tune, you can adjust accordingly.
Step #3. Blow Air Through the Instrument
When you’re learning how to tune a clarinet, it’s important to be patient, precise, and readjust as needed. Now that you have a sense of the instrument’s current pitch thanks to your tuner, blow air through the instrument one more time. This will ensure that the clarinet is truly warmed up and won’t change temperature again while playing.
Step #4. Adjust the Barrel
The barrel is the part of the clarinet that connects the mouthpiece to the body. When your clarinet is out of tune, you’ll adjust pitch by moving the barrel.
If your tuner indicates that your clarinet is too sharp, pull the barrel to extend it and raise the pitch. If your clarinet is too flat, shorten the barrel. When adjusting the barrel, try to be gentle instead of giving sharp pulls and pushes. You’ll need to experiment with the barrel length as you work on tuning notes.
As you adjust the barrel, periodically stop and play a note into the tuner. This will show you whether the adjustments you’re making are getting you closer to the perfect pitch.
Step #5. Play Some Scales
After you’ve adjusted the clarinet barrel, it’s time to test the instrument’s sound. Do this by playing a few scales. Listen to each note and observe the display on your chromatic tuner.
As you become a more advanced clarinet player, you’ll eventually learn to tune by ear because you’ll know what each note in a scale is supposed to sound like. Playing scales after you’ve tuned your instrument will indicate whether you need to make any fine-tuning adjustments.
Step #6. Adjust Again, As Needed
After you’ve warmed up your clarinet, checked the tuning, adjusted the barrel, and played some scales, you may need to make a few final adjustments. The final adjustments are often very precise, so beginning players may benefit from an instructor’s help in this last stage.
When you’re learning how to tune a clarinet, you’ll discover that adjusting soon becomes second nature. Once you make your final adjustments, your clarinet will sound amazing and you can begin playing beautiful melodies.
Learn How To Tune a Clarinet with Private Music Lessons
If you need help learning to tune your clarinet, consider taking music lessons. Private instructors from Music and Arts will help you improve your clarinet playing whether you’re a beginning or an old pro. Contact us today to learn more.