Preservation Hall Lessons – New Orleans Clarinet Introduction

Clarinet Introduction

GRADE: 9-12
GENRE: Traditional Jazz
TOPIC: Clarinet
DISCIPLINE: Harmonizing Instruments


In this lesson, students will be able to describe the role of the Clarinet in New Orleans music. They will explore notable Clarinetists, the origins of the instrument, identify and maintain the parts of the instrument. 



  • Identify the origins of the Clarinet. 
  • Identify notable Clarinetists from New Orleans.
  • Describe the role of the Clarinet within New Orleans music.
  • Locate and describe the parts of the instrument.
  • Assemble the Clarinet.
  • Provide proper maintenance for the Clarinet.



National Core Arts Standards

Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 1 Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 4 Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.



Students should have knowledge of an instrument and an understanding of the lines and spaces on the musical staff. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson.





  1. Introduce the Clarinet to students by showing them the instrument. Tell students the Clarinet has been a vital instrument in New Orleans Music. The Clarinet came in during the early 1900s during the Early Traditional Jazz era. The tone, range, collective improvisation, and ability of the Clarinet to compliment the melody make the instrument an essential ingredient to New Orleans Traditional Jazz. Since then, the Clarinet has evolved to more than just complimenting melodies, but playing melodies as well. Display slide 3 of the presentation, Clarinet Introduction, so students can hear fifth generation musician, Louis Ford, discuss The Role of the Clarinet in New Orleans Traditional Jazz. 


  1. Display slides 4 and 5 of the presentation, Clarinet Introduction, to discuss notable Clarinetists from New Orleans and watch the video, Greats of New Orleans Clarinet. Tell students that New Orleans Jazz pioneers like Sidney Bechet, George Lewis, Barney Bigard, Louis Cotrell, Johnny Dodds, and Pete Fountain had their own style of playing the Clarinet. Each musician started as a sideman, then became a bandleader. Studying the craft of these artists and transcribing their solos is good practice for developing your Clarinet skills. 


  1. Share the history of the Clarinet with students. Tell students the role of the Clarinet in New Orleans has a long-standing history. It is a fun instrument for complementing the melody, playing the melody, or for collective improvisation. Display slide 6 of the presentation, Clarinet Introduction, to watch and discuss the video, Jazz is Like Gumbo



  1. Show the students a Clarinet. Ask: Why is the Clarinet an essential instrument in New Orleans?  Display slide 7 of the presentation, Clarinet Introduction, to review the anatomy of the Clarinet. Identify the instrument parts with students: mouthpiece, barrel, ligature, upper tube, lower tube, keys, and the bell. Allow time for students to analyze and discuss the anatomy of the Clarinet. 


  1. Display slide 8 of the presentation, Clarinet Introduction, to review the Clarinet Assembly instructions. Tell students that proper assembly of the Clarinet is important to avoid accidentally bending the keys and to ensure the tone hose is aligned. Model for students how to assemble the Clarinet. Have students lay the Clarinet case on a hard flat surface to view the instrument parts. First, attach the bell to the lower tube. Second, attach the lower tube to the upper tube. Note: Do not twist the upper tube, this may cause bending of the keys. Third, align the lower and upper tone hose. Fourth, adjust the barrel to the upper tube. Fifth, connect the mouthpiece to the barrel. Note: The barrel has two sizes, one side is larger than the other. The larger side connects to the upper tube. Sixth, apply the ligature and the reed to the mouthpiece of the Clarinet by adjusting and tightening the ligature around the reed. Note: Never put your hand over the reed, reeds are very thin and fragile.


  1. Discuss the reed with students. Tell students that most woodwind instruments use reeds and they are made of a cane called Arundo Donax. Reeds come in different strength sizes, from size 2 (thin cut) to size 5 (thick cut). The selection process of a reed is important because you want to achieve the best possible sound through vibration.  


  1. Allow time for students to practice assembling the Clarinet. Teachers should facilitate around the room providing support for students. 


  1. Display slide 9 of the presentation, Clarinet Introduction, to review the importance of proper Clarinet Maintenance. Maintenance guarantees a longer life and maintains the integrity of the Clarinet. Keeping a clean instrument also keeps your body safe and healthy. Introduce the Clarinet maintenance tools: silk swab, key oil, cork grease, and a dry microfiber cloth. Demonstrate how to use maintenance tools properly. Show students how to apply the silk swab to clean the interior of the Clarinet. Apply one drop of key oil to the keys when needed. Apply a small amount of cork grease on the corks. Wipe off the keys with the dry microfiber cloth. 



  1. Assess students’ knowledge of the Clarinet. Have students assemble the instrument and describe each part throughout the assembly process. Ask: What are the proper techniques for Clarinet maintenance?



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer



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