Flute or clarinet, that is the question...

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Flute or clarinet, that is the question...

Post by kinskins » Sun Jan 12, 2014 7:14 pm

Hi everyone! I would love to hear some opinions from people who clearly love and appreciate the flute...

I started playing the flute when I was 9 and played in my elementary school orchestra for 5 years. I took to it pretty easily and enjoyed it, but I did not pursue music in high school. Actually, I didn't even pick up the flute again until I was in my 20's and in grad school, when I played it as a way to relax for a few years (it's amazing how quickly it all comes back to you!) Then, once again, life got in the way, and I didn't play again until recently (I will be 40 in April). I'm quite rusty, but the fingerings came back to me quickly again, and I can play a number of songs by myself just for fun. However, I've reached a point in my life where I'd love to get back into playing with other people again, like in an amateur orchestra, or even during Mass at my church.

Here's the thing, though. I have a 30-year-old Bundy student flute, and the sound quality is really not good. I was at a small flute festival last year where I had the opportunity to sample a few different intermediate models and was stunned by how much difference a good flute can really make. I fell for an Azumi model that cost around $1300. I was in love.

My problem is this--while I enjoy being able to play the flute, and I have some background so I think with practice and lessons I could probably get better, I don't love flute music. Well, I love music in general, but there are definitely some kinds of music that speak to me much more passionately. I adore big band jazz most of all, but I also love Latin music, blues, soul, and good ole rock-n-roll. I can feel certain music in my core, and it makes me want to move, to sing, to dance, and to somehow be part of it. I just don't feel that way about flute music. I recently read about a Chamber music ensemble that was accepting beginning flutists for membership, but they stressed that you should be passionate about the music and asked you to share your favorite piece and why you loved it. I realized I would never be able to do that. While I may be able to pick out a song I enjoyed, and could practice it enough to be good at it, I would never have a passion for it. I often hope that if I were to join an orchestra again, just playing with others would be enough, no matter what the music was. But I know that what would truly make me happy would be to be a part of a big band. I know there is probably a need for a flute in some big band music, but I also know that the flute is not the right instrument to specialize in if that's what you want to play.

So this is my concern. I could go ahead and buy myself a wonderful new flute, and start up with lessons, and ultimately would probably find a place somewhere in a musical setting. OR, I can do something new--I can get myself a student clarinet, start over with a brand new instrument from the ground up, but eventually be able to play music that I am passionate about. Also, I discovered recently that my dad has secretly begun practicing his accordian after many years away, and the thought of joining my dad in a polka is almost irresistible.

What do you guys think? How hard is it to make a transition from the flute to the clarinet? I have visions of the horrible squeaks that came out of the clarinet section of my elementary school band. I'm the sort of person that sticks with something until I get it, but if the frustration level is too high, I'm afraid it would end up being a waste of time and money, when all along I could have been getting better at the flute. How important is having a passion for the music? As I write this, I'm beginning to feel like I already know the answer, and that playing a mediocre version of a Duke Ellington song is still better than a good version of Bach. But then I pull out my flute, play some showtunes and Schubert's Ave Maria, and I think about how much I'd love to be able to play a sweet-sounding, high-quality flute, and the dreamy ease of picking up a new flute and just playing it is very tempting...

What is one to do?
Thanks for any and all advice,

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Re: Flute or clarinet, that is the question...

Post by Thunderlily » Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:19 pm

I play both flute and clarinet. I've played flute for about 5 years and the clarinet for about 2.
The clarinet is really easy to pick up once you've got the blowing technique right (squeak squeak!) and the fingerings in the upper register are very similar to the ones on the flute.

I think you should just go ahead and get yourself a student model clarinet (Bundy ones are sturdy and fairly cheap) and try it out. You might spend around 100-150 bucks on it, and when you compare that to 1300 you'd spend on a nicer flute, well... you see my point.
Don't worry too much about the squeaks, it'll be a lot for the first few hours you play when you're adjusting your air flow but after that it's just every now and then.

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Re: Flute or clarinet, that is the question...

Post by kinskins » Tue Jan 14, 2014 1:38 pm

Thanks for the advice! I'm really thinking of going that way...

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Joined: Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:51 pm

Re: Flute or clarinet, that is the question...

Post by Mere » Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:24 pm

I play flute and clarinet. It's great to have the variety and they're just completely different mindsets.

I almost don't want to confuse you.... but, why not the Saxophone? The Alto sax's fingering is not much different from the flute. If most of all you love Big Band music i think the Sax is the way to go.

I'd keep up the flute as well. Playing more than one instrument gives you more strenght as a musician. Playing the sax really helps with your air-flow as you can learn more control because the reed sort of acts as resistance. Having both also means you can play in heaps of different types of band.

Have you thought about hiring? Or can you ask around if anyone has an old clarinet/sax that they used to play in school. It's quite good to have a try for a couple of months, as you might find it's just not for you, and really you do love flute music.

Good luck!

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Location: Australia - Perth

Re: Flute or clarinet, that is the question...

Post by mirwa » Sat Feb 01, 2014 11:53 pm

I play a few different instruments (quite a few), I would recommend taking up another instrument and learning it, being able to double etc is a great feeling.

Being able to pick up any instrument, to play, is a true joy.

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