How to Assemble a Clarinet in Five Easy Steps

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Last updatedLast updated: April 20, 2021
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The first time you saw a clarinet, you could be forgiven for assuming it was a whole, seamless, compact instrument. But I’m sure now that you have played, inspected, and handled one, you would know better. Like a recorder, a clarinet can be disassembled and assembled when ready for use, but the clarinet is way more sophisticated and complicated than a recorder.

When starting on the instrument, one of the first things you would be taken through is how to assemble a clarinet. Modern clarinets are uncomplicated, and one of such is the YCL-450 from Yamaha.

If you’ve just started playing your clarinet, you could always wait for your instructor, teacher, or parent to put you through the assembly process, but if you are eager to learn how to assemble a clarinet, you’ve come to the right place.

Parts of a clarinet

Before we begin, it is most important to know the parts of the clarinet. Yes, there might be other accessories that could be used alongside a clarinet by some users, but the major parts of a clarinet are:

  1. The mouthpiece
  2. The barrel
  3. The upper joint
  4. The lower joint
  5. The bell

These are the five main parts, and they are easily recognizable. For instance, the mouthpiece goes in the mouth, and the two joints, both lower and upper, are the parts that contain all of the keys. The barrel connects the mouthpiece to the joints, and the bell is at the base of the instrument. The easiest way to recognize them would be by functionality.

How to Assemble a Clarinet in Five Easy StepsEasy steps of assembling a clarinet

The assembly process might take some getting used to at first, but the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. Following the steps spelled out below should be enough to help you get it right the first time.

  1. Identify the pieces. This is important as not recognizing the individual pieces could cause one to misarrange parts and try forcing the wrong parts into each other. If you have started playing the instrument (and if you haven’t), from top to bottom, the clarinet consists of the mouthpiece, the barrel, the upper joint, the lower joint, and the barrel.
  2. Begin the process from the bell. The bell is at the bottom, and it is a good idea to work from bottom to top. As such, the first attachment to be made would be between the bell and the lower joint. Take special care not to press the keys too hard so they do not break.
  3. The next attachment is that of the upper joint to the lower joint. To minimize the risk of damage to the keys, attach them off-center first without applying much force before lining up both joints’ keys to match.
  4. Attaching the barrel. The wide side of the barrel is to be attached to the upper joint. The best way to assemble it is to push the barrel all the way, though its position would probably need to be adjusted while tuning the clarinet.
  5. Working on the mouthpiece. Take the mouthpiece cap off and attach the mouthpiece to the barrel. After doing this, you should moisten the entire reed and not just the tip. Be careful not to drop the reed as it is fragile, and any chip or crack would render it unusable. Loosen the crews on the ligature and pass it over the mouthpiece. Once it is well placed, slide on the reed between the mouthpiece and the ligature but make sure that the tip of the reed is in line with the tip of the mouthpiece. Once the reed and mouthpiece’s alignment are complete, tighten the screws of the ligature but make sure to avoid over-tightening. Some of the best clarinet mouthpieces come with their cap and maintenance kits.


Tips and tricks

There aren’t many tips and tricks to note in the assembly of a professional clarinet, as the process is relatively straightforward. Still, the following should help you avoid damage to the clarinet while assembling it.

  1. Be gentle on the keys when handling and gripping the upper and lower joints.
  2. Handle the reed with care due to its fragility as a crack could set you back a few extra dollars.
  3. Don’t force the attachment of any two joints. If you find that attaching any two joints in the clarinet is particularly difficult, utilize some cork grease as a lubricant rather than forcing it.
  4. Always use your mouthpiece cap when the instrument is not in use. Any damage to the mouthpiece would require a replacement. A potentially good fit is the Vandoren clarinet mouthpiece.
  5. Store the reed carefully and avoid making contact with the tip because that’s the area most prone to cracking.
  6. Arrange the pieces carefully within the case and fasten the case before lifting it.
Always check the screws attaching the keys of the instrument from time to time. They are little and are rarely removed, but they could get loose. Checking them often can save you the need for regrets and repairs.

Equipment and extra accessories

They might not be necessary, but many players tend to get accessories that make playing the clarinet more comfortable. Examples of such accessories are a tooth rubber sticker, a mouthpiece cap, a clarinet swab, a tuning device, etc. Some of the best clarinets in the market today are sold with some of the necessary accessories.

Final thoughts

A clarinet is easy to assemble because of the relatively few parts the instrument possesses. Some people might even choose to start the process from the top. This doesn’t change much, but the precautions to be taken should never be discarded, no matter where an individual chooses to start assembling the instrument.

You can wait for an instructor or teacher to show you how to assemble a clarinet in person before attempting it on your own. That is also fine. The most important things are getting it right and doing so while causing minimal damage to the instrument.

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