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intersting music


I was wondering if anyone could recommend a book with some fun clarinet music in - like themes or pop or something for me, i'm about to do grade 6 so if you know one with some difficulty i'd be very grateful.



Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Hi, musictothemax! Welcome to the forum!

Answering your question might require a little explanation. I assume using the grading scale that's common in a lot of schools in the US where 1 = "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and 6 = "Mozart's Clarinet Concerto", and there's nothing higher than a 6.

(As examples, of course.)

No pop chart is going to be a 6. I can't even remember anyone arranging solo pop charts as grade 6 material. Concert band, yes -- if you consider Andrew Lloyd Webber as "pop".

If you want to extend the definition of "pop" to "jazz chart", I think that'll be something a little more "6-able".

Now, if I misread you and you're going to be in 6th grade, that's something different :).


Old King Log
Staff member
For just foolin' around, you could get one of the many Hal Leonard "artist" books that cover a particular artist, band, musical or style. Examples of these include the dozen or so books issued on the music of Elvis Presley.

Go to www.halleonard.com and browse around a bit; you are bound to find something that suits your tastes. You can even view portions of the charts to get an idea as to what's happening.

Pop music of any era on a Bb clarinet is a problem situation. You can find loads of it to play "by yourself", but playing in a group of any size short of a concert band is problematic.

What you will get with one of these Hal Leonard books is a series of piano arrangements with the vocal line included, as well as the chord structure for the tune. By yourself, you could play the melody line (top line of the piano parts) on just about any pop tune that is amiable to "melodic music". (but see below)

What will be problematic is doing stuff from some of the newer artists. Take something like the music of the Black Eyed Peas. There will be a melody line in the chart for one of this group's songs, but it will not be "lyric" like music usually played on the clarinet. Nothing wrong with this, but it just won't flow like something written by Mozart.

The See Below Part

While you can play straight from any of these books, if you try to play along with someone also playing the chart on the piano or guitar you will hear one of the least desirable musical harmonies on the face of the planet. That's because you are reading a part written for the piano (i.e., for an instrument pitched in C) but playing it on a clarinet pitched in Bb. Ouch!

There are only six ways around this:

1) Only buy music with a properly transposed and written clarinet part. These arrangements exist, but in far, far fewer numbers than what I started out describing. You will also find that there is a very limited selection of this type of music in the pop area - almost so limited as to be non-existent.

2) Transpose the part, either before you play it (doing it in manuscript yourself) or as you play it (on the fly transposition).

The first is tedious in the extreme, but it won't do you any hard. Get some staff paper, and go to town. We'll see you in a few hours, and we'll try not to disturb you during that time.

The second is much less tedious, but has a high learning curve. There are several different "cheats" for this - reading the tops of the notes and so forth. It will take time, and you will make a few mistakes along the way. But, if you master this skill, you will go much farther in the music world.

3) Have your pianist use the automatic transposition feature (available on many keyboards of the electronic variety) so as to shift her instrument to play lower to parallel yours. This is quite possibly the easiest way to make this work, but it is equipment dependent.

4) Go the SSA vocal arrangement route. These are arrangements for a choral group, with two sopranos and one alto, all on one page, with a piano part printed below them. Go to your local sheet music provider and ask to see "SSA" vocal arrangements.

In this case, you will just ditch the piano part and play the two soprano parts on Bb sopranos, and have someone play the alto part on a Bb bass clarinet. Since everyone is operating on a Bb instrument, playing the C parts on the chart will come out a little lower sounding, but everything will work just fine as long as you omit the piano part.

Many of these are arrangements of two or three pop vocal tunes in medley form, and many of them are quite clever. For a change, you will be playing something that those who are listening will actually recognize. All three voices get to shine at one time or another - not just the lead voice. And, best of all, these SSA arrangements are dirty cheap - $3.00 back when I was using them as a teaching tool in the 1980's.

The only problem here is that some of these arrangements have intros and/or outtros that are piano only. You can usually pick these out when viewing them at the music store. However, even if you only play the body of these works, you'll still get solid pop music, and in three part harmony to boot.

5) There is something out there called Music Minus One. You will get the sheet music for your instrument, a CD that contains the rest of the orchestra (all playing in the right key). Punch it up on the CD player, wait for the downbeat, and go to town.

The problems here are that MMO is relatively expensive, and the selection (the time that I looked into it) is somewhat limited.

6) I include this only because someone else will suggest it if I don't - play the piano melody line on a C clarinet.

Again, this is very equipment dependent, but if you take this route, you'll have no troubles with "making it fit". There is an inexpensive C clarinet on the market (Lyons?), and if you really crave the "performing in a group" situation and want to play something that's pop oriented, it may be worth the trouble. The C horn uses a Bb clarinet mouthpiece, has the same basic keywork as your standard Bb clarinet, and is slightly smaller.
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