On Getting my Clarinet Back

Last week I got my clarinet back. I realised a couple of things, one was how much I missed an opportunity of playing more back in the day. Another thing was how shit I am at playing the clarinet!


I got my clarinet repaired from an eccentric jazzman named Willy. I loved his antiquated slang, he would say ‘bread’ for money and call people cats; refer to old instruments as ‘war horses’ and joked about clarinet repetoire. I miss being around musicians, I was telling Jazzman willy about when I held a tenor sax one time and worked out the embouchure and its pitch range instantly. To which big Willy replied: the Saxophone is ten times easier than the finesse of a Clarinet! I laughed inside.


Finesse is a trait I do not have unfortunately. I’m still learning how to do the embouchure and I am remembering my old teacher telling me constantly what my playing flaws are. Getting my clarinet back has reminded me of how much I love just doing anything musical. I used my improvisation knowledge developed from the piano to blow out a few improvised melodies and modes and licks, and it feels like playing the clarinet is like revisiting an old friend. You change over time after meeting them for a long time, but also, the absence between us has defined us in a big way.


I’m looking forward to playing my clarinet more. When I hold the clarinet and make a melody, I simply think differently. I love the difference compared to the piano. The piano has a largely constricting aspect to it. When I improvise with chords, I make a decision about what to play, but also, what not to play. With the Clarinet, there is more emphasis on clarity of expression and less about decisions by denial.


My piano teacher made his career as a jazz saxophonist and clarinettist, yet we rarely talked about it in our work together on the piano. I love how playing on another instrument gives one a different musical identity, there is a beauty about having many identities, although you can’t play them all at once unfortunately.


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