Ah Clarinet, you’re not safe in my hands.

When I was in grade school, there were a couple requirements each year. Starting in the fourth grade, we had to join the band. Now, my only experience with playing an instrument before then was struggling to play a recorder along with all of my classmates. The recorder might be one of the most annoying instruments in the hands of a child. I do not remember why but in the summer before fourth grade, I chose the clarinet as my instrument. The thing came in four pieces with a replaceable reed. I was not overjoyed with having to stick a piece of wood in my mouth several times a week. I am also not a performer. I was not thrilled about having to play music in front of people.

We played the old standards.

We obtained our instruments and assembled to practice. I was terrible. I was completely confused as to how the thing worked. Confusion led to frustration and a lot of stress. I really did not want to play a musical instrument but it was a requirement that we had to fulfill. It helped that all my friends had to do it too. To my parents’ credit, they tried their best to help me. They got me lessons at one point and for a time, I think they helped. I at least knew how to make sound with the thing. The fingering is where I was having trouble.

My training equipment.

I have excellent hand-eye coordination. I have been playing video games since I was a tiny boy. Through the power of Nintendo and Sega, my fingers were pretty nimble. In addition, I had taken typing lessons from a very early age. Everything I had said that my fingers should be able to move quite dexterously up and down a clarinet. And yet, I could not seem to get it right. This was also about the time that I started to slowly succumb to a respiratory problem I was born with. Of course, at the time we still thought it was asthma. Now that I think about it, the physical effort of playing increasing might have made me not want to play.

I was falling apart, musically.

As it was, I moved into the fifth grade with no interest in the clarinet. I had no ambitions of being a great musician. As far as I can remember, the lessons had stopped. It was for the best, they would have mostly been a waste of money. I am not sure when I started doing it but I began to play random notes rather than read the music. Time signatures and rhythm are easy for me but I was not into reading actual notes. I would just blow into the clarinet and unleash sound no matter if it was correct or not. It was a mistake. Our band leader was really smart. Eventually, he heard something wrong much the way I learned to do through my training in sound design.

These were a godsend until I eventually quit band altogether.

One by one he made each clarinet player play. When he got to me, it was now obvious what I had been doing. He called me out in front of everyone and I was mortified. All my friends knew that I was just dicking around and I was so embarrassed. I tried my best after that but thankfully, they finally sent me in for surgery. For the rest of the year, there was no way I could play because my lungs were still recovering. It was not a fun time but the silver lining was that I did not have to play clarinet anymore. When I returned to band, they let me into the percussion section. I loved percussion. It is where I should have been in the first place (except I lacked the necessary piano training). The capper on the story is that I learned this year that my mother did the exact same thing with the clarinet when she was growing up. I just had to laugh so hard.


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8 Responses to “Clarinet”

  1. artman413 Says:

    It seems anyone that isn’t a musician has a horror story about music class. Not a ‘it just wan’t my thing’ story, but one that makes the whole experience miserable.

    And I am totally with you on the recorder hate. No idea why any child would have to learn that thing.


  2. Tarkabarka Says:

    My school had a choir, but did not have a band… I took guitar lessons from second grade because my dad plays the guitar and I wanted to. For some reason, they tied to teach classical guitar to a second grader, and it was boooooooring…

    The Multicolored Diary: WTF – Weird Things in Folktales


  3. sharonecathcart Says:

    I always say the same thing: I play five instruments, two of them badly. :-) Thanks for sharing your story.


  4. jazzfeathers Says:

    I find it so horrible when school imposes something to a student who’s really unfit or uninterested in something. School should help discover a person’s potentiality. Though in the end that’s what happened to you, and I’m happy for you :-)


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