ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Learning to Play Clarinet in my Fifties

Updated on May 1, 2014
Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Music permeates Maren's soul, whether performing (voice, piano, drum, guitar, clarinet) or acting as a crazily enthusiastic audience member.


This woodwind is older than I am - my dad's high school instrument.
This woodwind is older than I am - my dad's high school instrument. | Source

Old Dogs Acting Like Young Pups

When it comes to learning new tricks, I believe old dogs can do it. Consequently, I did not hesitate to embrace a new class of musical instrument – a woodwind – at age 55. Perhaps “embrace” is too strong a term, but “attempt” is too weak to describe my attitude. I was fairly confident that the “ugly black stick,” as my teacher sometimes calls it, and I would make music together. Confident – that’s the word.

Reading Music

Generally, I already could read music, mostly for piano or vocalists. Band music, however, is a different animal. First, it is smaller print. For non-music readers, imagine reading text in the font Arial 12 all your life, and then being required to switch to Arial 9. The difference challenges me, no question about it. Then, add the trial of having the score farther from one’s eyes. Double torture! As I choral singer, when I perform with a score I have an eye-to-print distance of approximately 14 inches. For piano, it is about 16 inches. Now, with the clarinet, the eye-to-print distance is from 20 to 22 inches. It takes some adjustment, this. However, I am up to the task!

More Reading Music

Band music has all sorts of weird symbols unfamiliar to me. There are many more repeats, da capos, dal segnos, and lots of eye jumping around. Sometimes our conductor stops to go over the “road map” with us. In other words, it aint left-to-right, forward march. Am I too old for this? Nope. I’ll get it.

Finger Agility

Singing does not require finger agility. On the other hand, one would think that someone who plays piano and a smidgen of guitar could easily maneuver around a woodwind. Hmmmm…. Perhaps I would have been far worse without my prior experiences? I’ve tried to convince my teacher that my short finger length impedes my potential, but he isn’t buying it. As it stands, my fingers get very confused. On a clarinet, the notes are not logically arranged completely in ascending order. There are exceptions and then alternate fingerings. Who knew? (And, who invented this instrument?)

There is a remedy for the finger challenge. Practice.

For the record, I am told that this instrument is harder to play than a saxophone.
For the record, I am told that this instrument is harder to play than a saxophone.

Sound quality and more

Regarding the quality of my sound and the level of my playing: I sound like a beginner because I AM a beginner. Res ipsa loquitor. There is no shame in being a beginner. On the contrary, if I invite my parents to come see the equivalent of a 4th-grade instrument student in my 56-year-old body playing in a band concert, good for us! I am fortunate to belong to a community band which welcomes players from beginners through semi-professionals. I am totally comfortable in my own clarinet-playing skin. As long as everyone else is also comfortable, then all’s right with the world.

The moral of the story

Supposedly during the filming of the movie On Golden Pond , Katherine Hepburn informed co-star Jane Fonda that she tries to learn something new every day. I don’t find it necessary to grapple with unfamiliar information daily. Nonetheless, learning as frequently and regularly as possible is a good thing.

Text and photos copyright 2011 Maren Morgan


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile imageAUTHOR

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania


    • ThePelton profile image


      7 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

      I'm 60, and I'm teaching myself how to run a lathe. Keep going. Those who die early have no good reason to get up in the morning.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile imageAUTHOR

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      @AliciaC: I think the whole "band experience" is amazing. Now I understand the bond lots of band kids develop in high school. My band is very nice and I will eventually do a hub on it.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Good luck with the clarinet! I believe that it's never too late to learn how to play a new instrument. Although I play the piano and have sung in choirs I've never played in a band. It sounds like fun!

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile imageAUTHOR

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks, Wayne! To me the point of making music is to enjoy it. My guitar playing level is your basic chords that go along with kids' songs and folk songs, and I get a lot of use from that. Let me know how your keyboard playing goes. We can do it!

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Hang in there my friend I admire you dedication. I have tackled the guitar to the level of poor play but now I want to try is short...what the hell! WB


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)