Clarinet for Dummies, by David Etheridge

My Copy: 9780470584774 (image from

I think we all have that book on a shelf where we wonder, “did I really need to get that book, and how many more years will it sit there before I read/get rid of it?”

Well, I wish like hell I’d read Clarinet for Dummies a lot sooner–I’d probably be part of a jazz or blues band right now, making all kinds of crazy fun musical friends because I would’ve been practicing out the wazoo.


There’s always a risk with “For Dummies” books, where if you already know a little about the subject or how to work with something that’s being discussed, that it’s going to be a waste of time. I tend to read these books straight through (though they say you don’t have to) in case I miss something, and I’m sure glad I did.

I learned things in this book that I’d either heard glossed over (as if as a prior music student, I should just soak this stuff in like breathing) or never at all as far as the clarinet’s concerned.

Clarinet for Dummies, if a beginning or maybe even intermediate player, is definitely worth buying. Part 1 is probably skippable for those who’ve been playing consistently for a few years and already have their instrument, but it is vital for those who still haven’t bought/rented/borrowed one yet. I found a lot of good habits to re-learn in Part 1, since my abilities have backslid so badly.

Part 2 gets into the nitty gritty of playing and so much of what I learned there and in Part 3, about how to compensate for tonal issues that arise, care for the instrument. It does a lot of basic practice and fingering help in this section, and there are plenty of tracks to follow along and listen to on the CD that comes with the book (the CD’s useful for the whole book, actually, but Part 2 takes up the lion’s share).

Part 3 surprised me–talk about “Above and Beyond…” as it calls itself. Teaches you how different tones and movements, like vibrato and glissando got their starts and how to implement them in playing for a richer sound. Then there’s additional fingerings to practice to make things easier when hitting those tougher notes. And the reed care. I’d never heard of taking care of my reeds by testing them and filing them down myself if needed! Never ever heard of anybody doing that if the reed’s not acting like it should. And there’s some good tips about finding teachers and good practice methods to change things up and make it fun to play after some hard work.

And the reed classes and how to hit high notes better. I was always given a reed size and told to go with that, no explanation or anything. Now I get the gist of reed thicknesses and grades much better and can practice with those ideas in mind.

There was a lot lacking in my musical education–then again, when you’re one in a hundred fifty students each time, there’s just not enough of a chance to get more.

As a person that’s felt like a “dummy” around this instrument, I’m glad I’ve got this on my shelf to refer back to when I’m having trouble and needing some guidance. Recommend for any beginner clarinet player.

2 thoughts on “Clarinet for Dummies, by David Etheridge

  1. B. Leigh Howard says:

    I do this. I’m definitely a book junkie. I’ve had some books for years that I still haven’t read. But I don’t plan on getting rid of them because they’re a part of my library at that point. I just keep them on the part of my bookshelf that is specifically for “books that I haven’t read yet.” I mean, maybe one day? Maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

    • TheChattyIntrovert says:

      Yeah, that explains about 80% of the books on my shelf–I had inspiration to research or learn about something, then life got in the way and I sit there and go “uh, why did I get that book again? Oh yeah, because 5 summers ago I was gonna research blah-blah-blah.” Or Barnes and Noble had that damned buy 2 classics, get 1 free paperback sale (I’ve indulged dozens of times by now).
      15% of the books on my shelf I kept from college courses, are primary-source collections, or are Masterclass recommended reads. Hey, when you spend $70 or $80 on a book, and they might give you $5 back, you might as well keep the darn thing…and that’s what I did.
      The other 5% are books where I went “YES! MUST GET NOW! MUST READ NOW! NOW NOW NOW!” (and even then, they may sit there a few years, waiting).


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