Dave At the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles October 2005 Eyes closed holding Clarinet. Ken Barratt  behind with mic & guitar
James At the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles October 2005


James Ford: private lessons in Newburgh, Abernethy & Lindores, Fife


This is a good instrument to learn. It can lead to the sax if you wish, & if you learn the clarinet first, you’ll be multi-talented. Clarinet / sax players can be quite sought after.
If you start on the sax, you’ll probably never learn the clarinet because it is trickier.

But it stands on it’s own as a great classical, jazz & klezmer instrument. A clarinet is generally a bit cheaper too & comes in a nice wee case you can carry without thinking about it - unlike a baritone sax. A clarinet is quite quiet – so if you’ve got thin walls, it’s better than a sax.

Sax or clarinet?

James on Clarinet: MP3-1 & MP3-9 in his own composition from a short film. James plays all instruments

MP3/film page

Faff with your lips! When you play you’re clarinet, there’s a lot you can do to the sound by tightening & particularly slackening your lips. Low notes in both registers are harder to do this with but a top C can be bent down to a G! That’s a hell of a lot of bending & depending on your musical tastes can be useful - & great fun to use. Of-course jazz is where it can be used to it’s best.

Clarinet: Clarinet Lessons,  Newburgh, Fife

Using the lips you can do ‘vibrato’ on your clarinet like an opera singer. Wavering the note up & down

It adds interest whilst you simply hold a single note. Dinny do it all the time – like the Leslie on a Hammond Organ, (the spinning speaker) the best bit is when it’s coming in or when it’s disappearing. It’s the transition between clean note & wavering vibrato that’s so wonderful.

Clarinet with guitar behind: Clarinet Lessons ,  Newburgh, Fife
  Acker Bilk uses a technique like vibrato which sounds like wavering – but is in fact a wavering of volume, not pitch. Using your lips for vibrato alters the pitch but Acker alters the speed & pressure of the air entering the instrument so it pulsates. This technique is more commonly used with great effect on the flute.
Image from 'The Book of Bilk ' Clarinet tuition ,  Newburgh, Fife Something else they didn’t tell me for too long: (maybe they didn't want me to have too much fun). A clarinet has 3 registers That means you play from the bottom note to the top note on register one – then press a special thumb key & do it all over again for your second register – .........
but take your first finger away & you have your third register giving you almost another octave. This gives the clarinet one of the biggest ranges in the orchestra. Clarinet: Clarinet Lessons ,  Newburgh, Fife

Acker Bilk

Clarinet played in the Bath:  Clarinet Lessons,  Newburgh, Fife

Bath! (not included as part of a lesson!)

Once you can play a few nice clean notes on your instrument get the Radox out & crank the sounds up. Play so you can predominately hear the Hi-fi. This way you can relax & faff around with your instrument. Hopefully... you'll get sudden urges to play along...

Set of Old Fashioned Bath Taps!: Clarinet Teacher,  Newburgh, Fife Like singing in the bath, it just sounds great whatever you play…. well almost. You may wreck your instrument eventually, but the value of being able to play it well could be higher than keeping it nice & shiny. I tend to buy a new (second hand) clarinet every 3-4 years as the springs rust & pads swell up. If you dry it properly, oil the springs & use a ‘pad saver’ (a fluffy stick you shove up the inside) after your bath, it’ll last a lot longer. Click on the tap for more info...  

This was my first instrument & remains one I’m most comfortable with. It’s where ‘it’ all started!

It’s one of the few instruments I have consistently ‘practiced’ after discovering the pleasures of playing it in the bath - which is just incredible fun!
In the years up to 2006 it has been the most versatile & played instrument with the outfit Floozie Soo. This is a wee jazzy trio & somehow the haunting quality & purity of sound of a clarinet gives it the edge over the saxophone which can be too dominant.

James took grade 8 on the clarinet at the age of 16

Clarinet: Clarinet Teacher,  Newburgh, Fife

Weavers Hall, Bank Close, Newburgh, Fife
KY14 6EG

email: james

mobile: 07970 744986
landline:01337 842434

Dave J Ford peering through  ice sculpture