September 15, 2008

Clarinet

It was so nice to have all that helpful feedback on the difficult musical instrument choice! I barely know the difference between a trumpet and a trombone (I have to say to myself, "slide ____" and see which word leaps into the gap; then I can picture the trombone, and know it isn't the trumpet), so practically all the information was new to me.

I answered some frequently-asked questions in the comment section, but then the comment section got kind of large and so here they are:

Q: What exactly makes reeds "disgusting"?
A: My mom, back when she played the clarinet, thought it was pretty gross to have to suck on the reed until it was saturated with spit, then screw it onto the mouthpiece and put the spit-soaked reed back in her mouth. But many of you didn't find this gross, and a few of you couldn't imagine what could possibly be gross about it, and I think that's a very good sign for reed instruments.

Q: Instruments with spit valves are way more disgusting than reeds! Way more!
A: Okay! I believe you! My mom didn't play any spit-valve instruments, so the "reeds are icky" opinion was stand-alone, not relative. I'm going on what I've got, here.

Q: You said no to drums because of the noise! You are wrong! They are actually the quietest! All instruments are loud! Let him play drums! THIS FACTORY UNFAIR TO DRUMS!!
A: I think there was more feedback on this than on anything else, even though I didn't say anything about drums being loud, or about why I was rejecting them. The actual reasons I rejected them were: (1) Rob has near-zero interest in playing them, and (2) I think one of the most enriching parts of learning a musical instrument is learning to read music. I asked him again about it, though, after reading all the appealing comments about what an easy/small/quiet instrument they can be to practice on, but he still says he's not interested.

Q: Flutes are for sissies. --Anonymous
A: Since I'd just said that my brother played flute for many years, this was kind of...tactless, yes? I do see the concern with "girl instruments" vs. "boy instruments" but I don't really LIKE it. If someone says very delicately that in their school the flutes were mostly played by girls, I hear the message loud and clear and am inclined to take it into consideration as a valuable point: I may think such divisions are ridiculous, but that doesn't mean I want to sacrifice my child on the alter of social change. When someone says "Flutes are for sissies," that makes me feel as if prejudices and gender stereotypes are ugly and stupid, and that the ridiculous ones should be beaten to pulps. By boys brandishing flutes, perhaps.

Q: Why not have him play [other instrument not on list]?
A: The seven instruments I listed are the only ones offered in the school program.


After several days of discussions, the decision is that he's going to take clarinet. He ranked it at the top of his list by a wide margin, and we thought his reasons for choosing it were good: he said he liked the sound of it best, and that he preferred the kind of instrument with a lot of keys where a certain combination of keys meant a certain note, rather than a "sliding" way of finding the notes (as with the trombone and with string instruments).

This is so strange for me! I tried piano and recorder in elementary school and experienced Epic Fail with both (no interest + no talent), and so I don't even know about practicing, or how to read music, or how to take the instrument apart and clean it, or how to suck on a reed. You can bet I'll be asking desperate questions in the future of all you ex band members.

35 comments:

Jess said...

I like your reasons for choosing clarinet. And since he had a real part in choosing it, he's more likely to stick with it.

JustACliche said...

I suppose I should have mentioned in my other comment, my son plays the flute. He was teased a bit in 4th grade but now that he's in 8th? He's loving it because he's always surrounded by girls. Just sayin. Your son will get that side bonus with the clarinet too. Enjoy!

Alice said...

yay for clarinet! the squawking should only last a little while, honest ;-)

Megan said...

I took not-by-choice piano lessons and hated it so much I would make up crazy excuses to miss class. I can clearly remember my nine year old self telling my mom they made us move computers around at school that day so my hands hurt and I couldn't play the piano.

I love that Rob got to pick his own instrument. Hopefully that eliminates some of the whining and crazy excuse making - although that was probably just me.

Whimsy said...

Yay for the clarinet!!!! I agree with Rob: it just SOUNDS SO GOOD!

And the Q&A thing was hilarious. Ha!

Lindsay said...

justcliche and megan made me lol. Yay for the clarinet, small carrying cases = awesome.

squandra said...

Sounds like you made the right choice. I hope he has fun!

P.S. I am so looking forward to discussions I can HELP with! I don't have kids, but I played saxophone and violin for about 10 years each as a kid, my dad is a saxophone and oboe professor, my mom was a school music teacher for years, etc, etc.

staci said...

I think I'm a bit late to this party, but I just had to comment.

My husband plays the flute and he is not a sissy! He also plays bass guitar, acoustic/classical guitar, piano and saxophone.

Being able to play multiple instruments actually means you are talented, not a sissy.

Amanda said...

Excellent points and decision! I hope he has a blast playing!

Nellyru said...

Why, I can't possibly think of a BETTER REASON than liking the sound of it best for playing an instrument!

Also: "experienced Epic Fail" Bwahahaha! That's right up there with "pinehole" as one of my favorite things you say.

confiance said...

I've got to agree with Rob re: lots of keys. I could never figure out how the trumpet and trombone players managed to remember the correct fingerings/positions for notes. With only three keys, you have a bunch of combination and mouth changes to make. The fingers of the clarinet always made sense to me. Add or subtract a finger, go up or down a note. Add your left thumb, go up an octave. Add the fingers of your right hand, go down an octave.

shannon said...

Sounds like you've thought it out well. :) And, although they don't start with the good stuff, the clarinet is a FANTASTIC instrument for playing jazz!

Type (little) a said...

Yay for Rob having real reasons for choosing his instrument! I picked "flute" because I was put on the spot and that's what the last girl asked for. LOL.

I may think such divisions are ridiculous, but that doesn't mean I want to sacrifice my child on the alter of social change.

I SO AGREE! My daughter was invited to a "Pirates and Princesses" party on sunday, and I DID ask her, although I wanted her to go as a pirate, she chose princess.

WELL, she would have been the only girl pirate if I had pushed the issue.

AND they had separate tables ( a princess for girls and a pirate for boys) and plates, and favors, etc, etc.

And the girls had a makeup and hair tent. To be fair, they did have eye patches and face paint for the boys, but guess how many were interested? (you'd be right if you guessed NONE)

I'm so glad Mommy didn't embarrass her with her non-conformist ways. :-)

Kristin.... said...

Hooray for Clarinet. The squeaking and sqwaking don't last forever.
And Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull plays the flute and he no sissy. He's rich and famous, too.
Flute rocks, but clarinet is really cool. I always wanted to learn oboe, but was told it would mess up my flute playing...

Jodi said...

I have zero band experience either but now have two kids in band. Both girls and one plays the sax and one plays the flute. Fortunately the teacher covers most of what they need to know.

I have 5 more kids coming up that will all be playing instruments too.

No matter which instrument they choose be prepared for a noisy house. Even the "quiet" flute makes my ears ring after about 5 mintues. LOL

But they are learning a valuable skill right? Right?

Lippy said...

My cousin inherited my flute when he was ready to play. Some relatives were concerned about the "sissy" factor. He now plays 4 instruments and wrote all the music for a play his school put on in the spring. So they can sissy that. Clarinet is great, because if he enjoys music alot he can transition to more instuments if he chooses. Also, if he does marching band later, it is much easier to march with a clarinet. It is light and you are facing forward, not sideways like the flute!

daysgoby said...

I didn't participate in the original post, but one word of warning - Clarinets can really screw up braces/retainers and such, so if he has problem teeth, might want to run it by your dentist first.

M said...

I think the clarinet is an excellent choice! Many of my friends started off on the clarinet and then moved on to the various saxes, bass clarinet, and oboe. It's a great instrument my itself and will be awesome should he ever chose to transition. Quite versatile for the future kiddos as well!

Great choice!

(I played the trombone for three years ... hated it.)

Brooke said...

I played violin for a couple years and switched to alto sax for precisely the reason you said: that a certain combination of keys certainly yields a certain note. Unlike violin which, once the tape strips were removed, I couldn't quite find the notes. I think spit valves are gross too, but reeds were not a problem.

wafelenbak said...

Incidentally, the reeds don't HAVE to go in your mouth to moisten them. A lot of my fellow clarinetists used a little dixie cup of water to soak their reed. :)

Angie said...

That is great that you went with his choice. Plus, I played the clarinet, so I'm a bit partial.

juliloquy said...

Congratulations on the clarinet choice. After he's played for a few weeks, bust out some klezmer music to really blow his mind.

Also, I loved this:

When someone says "Flutes are for sissies," that makes me feel as if prejudices and gender stereotypes are ugly and stupid, and that the ridiculous ones should be beaten to pulps. By boys brandishing flutes, perhaps.

d e v a n said...

I hope he loves it!

Elizabeth said...

I played the French horn in 5th and 6th grade, and I can attest that spit valves are pretty gross.

And I know Rob doesn't want to learn drums, so I'm not trying to push you all in that directions, but I did want to say that my brother and sister both play drum, and have since 5th grade. They actually both read music (both have gone on to teach themselves bass), and the drums taught them a lot about key signatures and other such things. So you do still learn music to a certain extent when you are a drummer.

Miss Grace said...

Also, if he grows up to be an awesomely awesome band geek, it's really easy to transition between the clarinet and the saxamophone.

Bertino Verse said...

Yay! I think it's great that he put so much thought and interest behind his decision. I hope he loves it!

Michelle said...

Very cool that you let him make the choice. Can't wait to hear how the lessons go. And I'd suggest learning to read music with him. It's not that hard and a great skill to have -- especially when the next child needs to learn to play!

aibee said...

in re the answer to Question 1 (also A:Q2 as now I know why they're called "spit" valves. Because it's a DESCRIPTION. Thanks a WHOLE bunch for that moment of enlightenment, Team Saliva): eww X a million billion TRILLION.

Becky said...

I think that was great reasoning on his part. And you have to actually learn to read music with an instrument like that (a lot of trumpet, french horn, trombone players learn just the positions or fingerings). Also, clarinet transfers easily to sax if he wants to pick that up later. Excellent choice! Not that he needs my approval. ;-)

Psuedokim said...

My sister played the flute. And she's sissy-opposite too.

Off topic: Swistle, I just saw your tweet about the 30-day shred and I have to admit to you I just gave in to trying to do what all the cool kids are doing and ordered mine off of Amazon this morning. If this is the last comment you ever get from me, you'll know I died and it was because Jillian killed me.

Jill said...

Woo hoo clarinet! Get ready to hear a lot of off-key ode to joy. Also, you can show Rob how to take the bottom part of his instrument (the bell? the horn? enh it's been awhile) and use just that part to make really cool quacking noises. I'm sure at some point he'll figure it out on his own anyway.
And to add to the braces/woodwind discussion: I was totally awesome and had braces and was in band at the same time. No problems for me. Well, other than the resulting pictures from that era.

HollyLynne said...

enough about instruments, lets talk BROWNIES :) I made your recipe last night but using the "break up a candy bar and mix in instead of using chips" method. Milk chocolate and caramel bar. The brownies were TO DIE FOR!

omnia_vincit_amor said...

As a music teacher, I can tell you this: DO NOT USE THE SYNTHETIC REEDS.

The cane reeds are fine, and will help your child be a better player. I would start with Rico reeds, probably a "2" on the hardness scale. Talk to the band teacher first. Also, you might get the clarinet looked at by the local band repair shop (ask the band instructor) to see if it needs any pads replaced, since it is an heirloom. The pads need to be replaced every 8-16 months. Make sure your son knows to swab out his instrument with a soft cotton handkerchief and the metal rod that comes with the instrument. Again, talk to the band teacher for more info.

Clarinets are much less spitty than brass instruments, and much less noisy. You can buy a mute that has headphones on it that you put in the bell of the clarinet, so he can hear himself and you guys hear him less if you need to.

He could also move to the saxaphone, oboe, or bassoon from the clarinet, if he has the inclination... but a word to the wise: Saxes are expensive, as are oboes and bassoons, and the oboes and bassoons have double reeds, so he would need a very good private teacher to help him with those advanced reeds and help him learn to make those reeds, because they are very important to a good sound.

But he has options. I wish him luck! This is very exciting!!

Anonymous said...

I've had two percussionists. The second wanted to play the trumpet; we already had a trap set that she had been playing around with for several years. Because she (#2) could read music, she often played the bells much to her dismay. Now that she's a junior in HS, she doesn't mind bells or chimes and is the section leader for marching band. This means that she plays cadence when they enter the field. Also, when the director is unable to count out the beat for a new piece, he has her do it.
The noise factor is a consideration if you have neighbors. The kids never practiced after 9:00pm, at least on the trap. On days when I absolutely could not handle the din I would step outside and work in the flower beds. I could still hear the drumming and yet I found it very relaxing to listen in on the progession to perfection. I've found that most people love a good drum solo and drumline features.
I did not have to cringe at sour notes or deal with the upkeep of a brass or woodwind instrument that children rarely do correctly.
Drummer #1 did start out on the clarinet. He did'nt really enjoy it. Wanted a guitar. He got a guitar, plays it well and bought several others on his own. He also bought himself a beautiful trap set when he was in college, played with a couple of local bands, and left his original drums for his sister who is eleven years younger.
We orignally got the 1st snare for the middle child. He enjoyed banging on things but never took to it. #1 was a natural, loved it. #2 also plays guitar and keyboard.
Learning to read music and play with a group is a fantasic learning tool. If music is important to the child and the clarinet loses its appeal, please don't be afraid to switch to something else.
The middle child, now 26, plays a stand-up bass with a bluegrass band. I'm not sure where this came from, but I love it. We missed this nitch and he found it on his own.

mamacrow said...

sorry, know I'm late commenting on this and maybe already someone's said this, but - flutes are for sissies?! WTF?! James Gallway is a sissy then is he?!

Clarnet - Aka Bilk. Man is genius. Have ACTUALLY seen him play live and it was AMAZING! Bill Haily, too...

and my sister plays the clarinet and is pretty amazing too!