As we head back to school in Michigan, I find myself doing the yearly updating of my teaching syllabi to reflect any changes to curricula or student requirements. As I am doing this, I am struck by the fact that although the literature, methods and scales are different, the basic clarinet accoutrements that I require of my students remain identical whether they are beginners, high school or graduate students. Below is a listing of these items including the rationale behind their requirement.
Swab: We all know that playing the clarinet leaves a lot of moisture in the bore and tone holes of the instrument and it is important to not let that moisture pool as it can be detrimental to the bores of wood instruments and the pads on all. With students playing plastic clarinets, I recommend cotton “hanky” style swabs. They are affordable and do the job well. For students with wood clarinets, I recommend micro-fiber. This fabric is softer and less abrasive to the wood bore.
Cork Grease: Not only used to facilitate tenon and socket connections, cork grease can help protect the cork from drying and unnecessary wear (both of which will cause leaks and reduce the clarinet’s performance). As all synthetic cork greases are made by the same company and labeled for individual brands, I don’t get too worried about what to recommend. I do believe that organics are better but don’t require “designer” grease of my students.
Reed Holder / Case: Each student is required to have at least 4 reeds in his case at a time. To help protect them, a reed guard or case is required. For advanced students, I recommend the “Selmer” style case with the glass plate as I have found that reeds store better and last longer with this type of set-up. For younger players, I recommend a standard La Voz or Rico reed guard. I prefer these to the Vito versions because they offer a flat reed surface.
Pencil: Always needed for marking music for practice or performance notes.
Manuscript Paper: Granted . . . this likely won’t fit in most single cases but my students do need to have it at every lesson. We use it not only for keeping track of weekly assignments but I tend to write out a lot of specific warm-ups, fingerings and technical drills that the student needs to practice.