Hearing-Impaired daughter playing clarinet for 1st time – will there be issues?

Question by tagsfan: Hearing-Impaired daughter playing clarinet for 1st time – will there be issues?
My 12 yr old severe hearing impaired daughter will be playing the clarinet in the 6th grade for the 1st time. No music experience at all. She wears hearing aids but is not deaf. Does not sign. Lip reads and uses residual hearing, but still not normal. Any hearing impaired folks have issues in band? Also, which clarinet is better for a 1st time RENTER? Wood or plastic? Thanks.

Best answer:

Answer by N1
She may have problems tuning her instrument. Plastic clarinets are cheap, but they don’t sound as good and they break easily if dropped. Wooden ones are more expensive, but sound much better and are a bit more robust.

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2 Responses to “Hearing-Impaired daughter playing clarinet for 1st time – will there be issues?”

  1. Maryn Bittner says:

    I have no direct knowledge, but I did play the clarinet at her age and I think it’s a great choice for the hearing-impaired musician. The way the reed vibrates will tell her when she’s buzzing, squeaking, or squawking if she cannot hear it; there’s little or no tuning possible, so she won’t be flat or sharp without knowing it; she’ll be able to make a genuine contribution to a band or woodwind ensemble despite her hearing. Good for her!

    Wood or plastic might be more a matter of her responsibility. I understand the plastic ones have a less rich sound (hardly an issue for any beginner) but are more durable.

  2. Lady Prism says:

    She will definitely have trouble tuning… but as a beginner, that is the last thing they are thinking about anyways! LOL

    As she gets older, she will have a problem hearing how her part fits with others, getting the right tone, and as rhythms start getting more complex, she will have to learn to count like crazy! This is no easy task for those of us who DO hear “normally”, so she will have to work 10 times as hard… but there are ways around it!

    After a couple years of getting her basics down, she will have to spend LOTS of time with a tuner. She will have to play hours of long tones to know which notes are sharp and flat and learn to FEEL the EXACT positioning of her tongue, lips, throat, etc. She will not be able to adjust though, if the ensemble is sharp (or flat) as a whole, or if she’s playing with an out of tune piano. It is doable, though. The same can be said for her tone… I’ll get more into this in a moment.

    As far as rhythms go, she will have to learn to be independent… this isn’t a bad thing! So many instrumentalists learn to just follow the first chair that they don’t learn how to count or phrase on their own. I play bari sax in big band… this part SOMETIMES goes with the saxes, SOMETIMES with the low brass… but usually is a part all unto itself. If I follow the other sections, I will play everything wrong. Your daughter will most likely become a strong and stable instrumentalist as she will ONLY have herself to rely on.

    Now back to tone: first, I recommend a private instructor… they will be able to work with her on what she needs to do. This is no different than a hearing musician… we all need help getting a good tone on clarinet! On sax, it is more like a “heffalump thing”- you find your own sound through trial and error, and by what you think sounds good… the goal of every sax player is to have a unique sound. With clarinet, on the other hand, there is a very SPECIFIC sound that we all work to achieve, and there is little room for individualization (which I think is bunk). Make sure you find a teacher willing to take on the challenge of a hearing impaired beginner!

    Next, ALL beginner clarinets are plastic! The tone isn’t as good, but plastic is more durable. Wood is EXPENSIVE and requires more care and maintenance than a beginner should have to deal with. For a beginner clarinet, stick to NAME BRANDS like Selmer (Bundy), LeBlanc (Vito), Yamaha, or Buffet. DO NOT buy the cheapies from Target or Walmart or Sears (like First Act, Allegro, etc)… they break out of the box and no repair man will work on them because they are defective. Most music stores will not rent wood clarinets- they are for intermediate and pro models, and they lose money. A decent student model retails for $ 300+/-… when you get to wood, you’re looking at $ 4000 (they range from $ 1K-$ 8K). The average rental price is $ 20-$ 25 per month, and usually includes discounted maintenance. Some stores have rent to own programs, so if your daughter sticks with it you will own the clarinet after a couple years.

    The materials of the clarinet have a LOT to do with tone- plastic is GREAT to start, but at some point your daughter should have a wood clarinet. When she changes over (say in 4 years), she will have to go back to basics… wood responds differently than plastic, and she will have to relearn her tuning, tone, etc. We all have to, to some degree, but it may be frustrating for your daughter- hopefully she has been blessed with patience!

    Now as a side note: I went to high school with a deaf girl… 100% deaf for her WHOLE life- and she was one of the best clarinet players in our section. She needed a little extra help (I had to tell her if she was flat or sharp when tuning), and I used to tap my foot on hers so that if a piece slowed down (tempo change), she could stay with the group. After her freshman year, she learned to WATCH the conductor, so I stopped tapping, but she needed cues for things now and again. She also marched with us… she ALWAYS knew her part and was just a lot of fun to have on the field! I know that she put a lot more time and effort in than the rest of us, but she loved it. She went on to college on a full ride music scholarship. IT CAN BE DONE! 🙂

    Band gave me the greatest memories and opportunities in my life, so I wish you both lots of luck, and I hope you have fun! Sorry for the book!


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