Damage Dealing Is What I Love

“Yes, we know that you’re a warlock,” you might be thinking.

But do you know that I’m a clarinet player?

I’ve been playing my clarinet for almost a decade now.

It feels weird that I’m old enough to say things about myself involving a decade of pursuit.

Xylophone Spec

I think it was fifth grade I learned to play the recorder.  I remember loving playing Hot Cross Buns over and over on that probably really badly tuned plastic stick with holes on it with twenty-some other really bad recorder players in the carpeted trailer that served as our music classroom.

In fifth grade, the last grade before middle school, the middle school band teachers came over with a whole bunch of instruments.  Everything you’d see in a sixth grade band — clarinets, flutes, trumpets, drums, saxes, trombones, french horns.

I wanted badly to play the drums. Specifically the xylophone.

Unfortunately, they required piano practice for some unknown reason to play the drums.  I still don’t know why.

People, this is why I endured two years of piano.  I quit piano after I realized that the advanced pieces required huge handspans (Screw you, Chopin, for making music I love but CAN’T play) and I’m a person with small hands.  Example?  A DVD case’s height is thumb to pinky stretching.  The Logitech USB mouse with only two buttons and scroll wheel is my perfect mouse size.  I have small hands.

Anyway, I banged on the drumpad as best in rhythm as I could.  I even got to try the trumpet, but I didn’t like it because I fail at buzzing my lips.  Years later a trombone friend (who happened to play a cat druid in a guild with some dashingly crimson vestments) told me that was weird because typically people start out on the trombone which has a bigger mouthpiece.

Whatever.

After you try all the instruments, they tell you which one they think you’d be good for playing for the next three to seven years.

I got the clarinet as my result.

Dime a Dozen

The clarinet, in my opinion at the time, was like the violin of bands.  Violins are to orchestras like clarinets are to bands. There are a LOT of clarinets.  The clarinet section takes up an entire side on high school band seating.  There’s easily 20-30 clarinets in a section.  In District Band tryouts — that is, the school district and all the band players in it — 70 was on the low side for a tryout listing.

Because of the clarinet’s abundance in school bands, it’s considered an honor if you make Symphonic Band instead of the lower Concert Band.  Same thing for flutes and maybe trumpets.

For something like the oboe or the bassoon or the percussionists, you weren’t even remotely bad-ass until you were in the first parts’ (parts are split into first, second, and third, sometimes fourth in old pieces) seating.  Maybe not even until you WERE number one chair.

Why?  If six oboists show up to audition, grats, you made it. Number-wise, nearly 100% of the oboists who auditioned got into one of the bands.  Maybe one person didn’t make it because they only needed five across the two bands.  You have to beat four maybe five other people to get an audition spot for States.  It wasn’t that rare to have the first chair bassoonist be a godly good senior, and the second chair was just pretty good sophomore.

Seventy clarinets show up to audition and about thirty-five to forty made it. Number-wise, 50-60% of the clarinets made it.   You have to beat sixty to sixty-four people to get an audition for States.  Basically, not only did you have to be playing first part in Symphonic Band, you had to be in the top half of those playing first part to be even guaranteed an audition for States.  The two clarinets on either side of me were maybe a point or two off from my score.  You had to compare the first chairs of the two bands (#1 of auditions and #21 of auditions) to get any real jump in score.

Once, I made it to 12th chair Symphonic.  That’s end of the second row (three rows usually).  13th chair was the beginning of third row.  I was the last possible second part clarinet. I was ECSTATIC.  I still have my nametag from that that says my name, my school, and my chair.  I wasn’t even playing first part and I was SUPER HAPPY.

Sure, as an oboist, you’ve got pressure because no one has your part.  But clarinets?  To be a good clarinetist, to separate yourself from the merely average clarinetist, you’ve got to be godly good.

Which is a ridiculous amount of pressure for anybody to bear.

But I’m Special

I wanted to be a percussionist when I was littler because I wanted to stand out.

Clarinets and flutes are largely composed of girls.  There’s always talk of that One Guy Flute or that One Guy Clarinet and whether he’s going to still be there by sophomore year.  Percussionists and brass players, on the other hand, are largely guys.  Though, I admit, I would have been a stereotypical percussion girl if I did happen to play the xylophone.  Girls played the bells, y’know.

My friend, who happened to play tuba in marching band, said tubas measure marching bands by exclaiming that OH MY GOD THEY HAVE A GIRL TUBA! OH OH OH MY GOD THEY HAVE TWO GIRL TUBAS!!!!  THEY HAVE TWO GIRL TUBAS WHAT IS THIS I DON’T /faint.

Girl tubas are rare like panda babies, yo.

I wanted to play an awesome instrument purely because I was awesome naturally.

I didn’t take band class when I entered into sixth grade.  I was FURIOUS that I was chosen for the lowly clarinet. You can’t even hear the clarinet during pieces.  Oh, it looks like they’re playing, but are they really?  I don’t hear them.

I’m special, I deserve to play something special and unique.

So I took the option that wasn’t band class.  A rotation of keyboarding (l2type class), art class, and choir.

Keyboarding was fun because it was computers, but really boring considering I aced most of the speed typing contests.

Art class could have been fun except I don’t like being told how or what I’m supposed to paint.  Art is subjective, right?  It’s feeling, right?  It’s totally not concrete “Draw this”, right?  I was known among my classmates for having a knack at drawing.  Well, not like Ginny awesome drawing.  But better than your average stick figure.

Choir.  HAH.  Oh, choir, I don’t miss you at ALL.  First off, I was shy and unsure of my singing abilities.  That whole singing in front of your peers alone thing?  Do you know how nasty peers are?

I had this joke:  I can sing, but you don’t want to hear it.

LFM Concert Auditorium, need Clarinets

Late in the semester, the band teacher pulled me and some other people out of art/choir.  Just to talk.

Apparently, they needed more clarinets. We three had scored as clarinets back in fifth grade tryouts, so they pleaded with us.

I reluctantly said yes.  At least it wasn’t artchoirputer, right?

To epeen a bit, I was first chair clarinetist in my school bands a lot, and when I was wasn’t, I was the highest chair clarinetist in my grade.  The one time in District Band I did not make Symphonic Band, I was first chair Concert band.  I was in marching band during high school, and I tried out for marching band in college, but kept getting cut below #30 out of the freshies and the returners.

I’m good at clarinet.  Not godly good — no, that was a girl in the year below me; she was the James Galway (aka flute GOD) of clarinets that I’ve seen so far.   But I think I can say that I’m a good clarinet player.

And to think, I didn’t want to play clarinet in the beginning because the clarinet is the common instrument.

A Clarinet’s Part

Clarinets tune the band — did you know that?  Yeah, no shit, they do.  Sometimes a flute or an oboe gets picked, sometimes they choose the tuba so you can tune down, but those quickie tunes before the conductor gets on stage are typically done by a clarinet.  Mainly because it’s super easy to tune a clarinet. You just pull out if it’s sharp or push in if it’s flat.  Nothing with the reed, not much with your embouchure (mouth shape & position), just pull out or push in.  Takes half a second.

Our reeds are really cheap, too. I can get a box of 10 for five bucks.  An oboe or a bassoon?  They can get one of their reeds for 20 bucks on the cheap side.  You can also snap an oboe’s reed pretty easily since they have no mouthpiece.  Their reed is the mouthpiece.

You can chip a clarinet reed pretty easily too, though you gotta be a real dumbass to do it.  If you ever see a bunch of clarinetists carrying around their mouthpiece cover and putting the cover on after every pause … this is why.  To prevent ourselves from being dumbasses on a regular basis.

Clarinets play in the same key as trumpets.  Trumpets are loud.  Trumpets are also stereotypically full of themselves.  A standard band joke is “How many trumpets does it take to screw in a light bulb?” “Seven; one to screw it in, and six to tell him they can do it better.”  You hear trumpets more often than your hear clarinets, but we often play the same parts.

Or we’ll be playing with the flutes. That’s what first part clarinets do a lot, because we’re in the upper register all the time.  The second part clarinets might end up playing with the french horns, harmonizing with everyone.  The third part clarinets often end up playing with the bassoons and bass clarinets.  Not solid rules, but generalities.

Sometimes there was a clarinet solo.  It was upper register nigh on all of the time.  Then you’d have clarinet sectionals — it’s like a solo, except the entire section plays.  My favorite sectionals were marches.  You might think marches are kinda boring.  They are foot-tapping, but rather predictable.   The trio was almost ALWAYS the clarinet sectional.   I love march trios. The first time through the trio, it was just the clarinets on top of everybody’s piano (I mean soft volume this time).  The second time, everybody joined in, but it was still the clarinet’s party.

I also love Celtic songs.  Not because I happen to have Irish heritage and like Celtic music anyway, but I love playing the clarinet on Celtic-sounding pieces.  Very mellow sounding, and you get long notes that bring out the clarinet’s natural woody sound. (Wood clarinet >> plastic clarinet)

College Band Class

I still play my clarinet from time to time.  Not as much as I used to.  I did play for a bit in the college band class, but I kept feeling bad about not practicing so I stopped.  It was relaxing, though, and quite fun, so I probably ought to try it again.

There was one time when the trombones (GEEZ TROMBONES) couldn’t get this funky rhythm to work.  The conductor / band director asked rhetorically if they could count to four.  One…eeeee….piiiiii…FOUR! …right?  Am I right?  You know I’m totally right… right? Then he stopped himself and started a poll of our majors to prove we should be ashamed of ourselves for not being able to count properly.

About half the band was comprised of engineering majors.  I mean, I go to a university known for engineering.  That was expected.

The majority after engineering was math & science majors — almost the rest of the band.  Science being a broad term ranging from biology to animal sciences (we also have a pretty good veterinary grad school).

There were no music majors present. Not a single one.

So yes, it’s entirely possible to assemble a band of a hundred or so people who play an instrument outside their major just for shits and giggles.  Even more amazing, you can come back the next semester and the same people are there.  Crazy, right?

I am a Warlock

I have this joke: I can sing, but it sounds reedy.  (I “sing” through playing my clarinet.)

It’s not too hard to tell people I love the clarinet and have them believe that I play my clarinet because I love playing the clarinet.  They don’t believe I play it because I want any sort of fame or it’s a hard instrument to pick up or I play like freaking Benny Goodman good or anything superficial reason like that.

So why is it so hard for other WoW players of different roles to believe I play my warlock, a pure DPS class, not because it’s hard or it has less pressure than a healing or tanking spec or because I can be a hardcore raider with hardcore recognition of my hardcore DPS numbers?

I believe tuba players play the tuba because it’s fun.  Not because it happens to be the most important instrument in the room when the band has to crescendo (or decrescendo).

Can you believe my fellow clarinets that they play their clarinets, their warlocks and hunters and mages and rogues and cat druids and moonkin and fury warriors and arms warriors and frost DKs and unholy DKs and enhancement shamans and elemental shamans and shadow priests and ret pallies … because they like to play their DPS spec for shits and giggles?

Can you believe that I play my affliction warlock purely because I love being an affliction warlock?

Believe me, I know I’m a dime a dozen, I’ve been a dime a dozen for half my life now, and it’s not an insult to me.  I relish it, actually.  After years of playing the upper register, I’ve come to the conclusion that second part is where it’s at!  I know I’m not the soloist, and it’s not an insult to me.  I know I’m not the best in my class, and it’s not an insult to me.  I actually like being Not The Best.

What is an insult to me, is you telling me I couldn’t possibly choose a class for what it is.  That I have to have some stupid reason like less pressure to boost my self-esteem in order to love what I’m doing.

That…is what I, as a player of a pure DPS class, find insulting about this whole DPS-Healer-Tank trinity discussion that pops up every once in while.

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39 responses

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  2. Ahhh, I see what you did there! Brilliant way of putting it :) And I wholeheartedly agree.

    22 Nov 2010 at 08:05

    • Thankees! :) And to think, I had to interrupt a post with a tangent twice to find this one.

      23 Nov 2010 at 12:00

  3. Tam

    Ah, this is brilliant! Bravo the DPS! For what it’s worth, whenever I try to play the clarinet it sounds like I am blowing through the wrong end of a cat so … y’know … I’m in awe of anybody who can make nice sounds come up.

    Also I randomly cracked up when you mentioned James Galway, not because there’s anything inherently about James Galway but because I got stranded on an airport once and the only book readily available was a copy of SCORE by Jilly Cooper. Now I’ll read anything so in I ploughed. And it contained the IMMORTAL LINE “Rannaldini was the James Galway of cunninlingus.” I laughed so hard I nearly DIED. And now I can think of neither James Galway nor cunninlingus with any safety.

    23 Nov 2010 at 06:12

    • Well, he has a Flute of Gold. Whatever that means. :)

      I almost used Galway the second time, but I said Benny Goodman instead because I figured the parallelalities of that sentence worked better if I used an actual clarinet player versus a flute guy. It’s weird; I play the clarinet, but I don’t know many famous clarinets.

      Kinda like I don’t know many top-edge warlocks. In anything, raiding, pvping, leveling, whatever. Something I need to fix.

      23 Nov 2010 at 12:03

    • Cordelya

      Oh god … now I can’t stop myself wondering which end of the cat is the correct one to blow through.

      Why, Tam, why?!

      01 Dec 2010 at 00:33

  4. Holy crap what an amazing post…
    WHY was it an amazing post? because you’re a fellow band nerd just like me!
    Hell, I wasn’t even a band nerd that most people would recognize. When I told people I played Baritone they would think the bari sax, and if I ever said euphonium, i would just get cross-eyed looks.

    Bravo to you Poneria for a *brilliant* analogy, and one that made me squeal with delight just because I can 184% relate to it. Amazing!

    23 Nov 2010 at 06:37

    • “What’s the range of a euphonium?” “About 50 feet if you’ve got a good arm.” :D

      No, seriously, I knew a euphonium player in my high school band who was amazing on the euphonium. I’d eat lunch in the band room all the time, but particularly if he was practicing something for States or State Orchestra or something. I think he’s a DJ now. :)

      23 Nov 2010 at 12:06

  5. Syl

    A really nice read that touches on a lot of important points. personally, you’re exactly what I would expect from every serious DPS (and tank or healer for that matter) – you play a class because you enjoy it. and because you’re good at it. and because it does it for you.
    thats how it should be and I think all the good players out there are secretly in love with their class.

    and i do hear ya on the annoying assumptions – funny enough as a female player and healer, i’ve got this feeling myself in a different context before. apparently i only chose to play a holypriest in WoW because i got the “nurturing chromosome”. not because i find healing fun and challenging or because i love the complexity of choices and the feeling of responsibility when i heal. i’m really just a healer because of my sex…did ya know?

    so you see, we all get our share of stereotyping. ;)

    29 Nov 2010 at 21:27

    • When I started a tank, the main tank pally to my off tank bear was played by a mother. When I started healing, the tree I looked up to was played by a guy. :-P

      Screw sex! /pun intended

      30 Nov 2010 at 18:46

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  7. Ha! I totally loved this post. The analogy is great, as is the attitude.

    I’ve been the token girl tuba player a few times, I’ve also been the Euphonium soloist, but it was never about what I was playing, it was always about being part of the band :)

    30 Nov 2010 at 17:37

    • But you were a soloist! :3 Best part from learning to listen to the band while playing is I could hear the very cool euphonium over the too-loud trumpets. Trumpets. Pffft. They really were too loud half the time. Euphonium & French Horn were two brass instruments I never really heard, and then they’d get a solo of some sort, and I’d go “OMG I WANT TO PLAY THAT :3.” Every. Single. Time.

      30 Nov 2010 at 18:55

      • You might be the soloist, but you’re never alone :) I always felt like I had back up and that someone would step in and cover me if I ever screwed up :) It’s good to be able to depend on your team :)

        I’ve been around the entire band, and played everything if I’m honest.. (omg.. I have just realised… I was an altoholic at band too! What a revelation!)

        01 Dec 2010 at 12:14

  8. How did I miss this post? I love it. I played tenor sax and was really more about jazz band – not because I couldn’t handle alto sax’s fancy solos or wanted less pressure, but just because I loved it. I’m a mage for the same reason. Hear hear!

    30 Nov 2010 at 18:08

    • You missed it because I’m lame and don’t feel right retweeting my own posts midday, and I manage to post them right in between the Oceanic/EU twitters and the US twitters being awake & tweeting.

      You mentioning jazz band reminds me of my short-ish, lean, oboist band director picking up the bari sax and playing it better than the bari sax kid. :3

      30 Nov 2010 at 18:51

  9. What an enjoyable post! Thanks for writing it. :)

    I’m not sure why anyone would think DPS has less pressure than healing or tanking, either. At least, why it would necessarily have less pressure. That’s going to be different from person to person, and a DPSer in a guild that reliably posts logs to WoL or whatever gets to enjoy the pressure/stress of being evaluated by their DPS. For me personally, if I’m not at the top or within a percent or two of it, that can feel pretty crap.

    30 Nov 2010 at 18:21

    • It was enjoyable to write! Thanks for reading it! :D

      Supposedly you can faceroll good DPS. Supposedly. <– I assume that opinion comes from people who have never taken DPS seriously and never are going to take DPS seriously.

      I used to be OMG about the top of the meters, but now I'm more content to fall where I fall. I'm in a guild that's more progression-based than my first guild, so unless I'm consistently in the top, I'm not too peeved about it.

      Unless, of course, I'm miles behind in the relatively same gear. Then I go into WTF mode about my gear, my rotation, freaking everything.

      30 Nov 2010 at 19:00

  10. I was totally a female percussionist in my high school marching band, and I got to play the xylophone some of the time (though we had an assortment of non-marching drum equipment lined up at the front of the field I got to play). When I had to carry around our heavy instruments, people always thought it was strange, but I loved it. :)

    30 Nov 2010 at 18:35

    • Now I have the image of a moonkin in the pit with flowers sprouting from the bells & tympani. :D Even though we never dragged our tympani set out onto the field, it’s totally there in my head.

      30 Nov 2010 at 19:03

  11. Great perspective from the DPS side of things! Your music background sounds a lot like mine (I also played the clarinet, though I no longer play.) and you did a GREAT job of relating it to the flip side of the sour “DPS are expendable” mentality floating around currently. Awesome post. :D

    30 Nov 2010 at 18:55

    • ‘NETS REPRESENT! /bellbump

      This evolved from a larger rant about that very same “DPS are expendable” mentality that lights up every now and again. Specifically coming off reading comments on some RO post I can’t find now. Then I just went “OH WHY NOT” and, voila, really long analogy post that I’m rather proud of. /puffs chest out

      Tangent is for win. :D

      30 Nov 2010 at 19:06

  12. tinkerpriest

    Great post! I was a trumpet/trombone/euphonium/bassoon/pianist throughout high school and college (also choir–music ed major for 3 years, lol), so this clicked really well for me. :)

    Good post. People play what they play largely because they love it, and sometimes to fill a hole so the team can keep chugging along… which I did in band actually–this is why I main trombone now!

    30 Nov 2010 at 19:41

    • Well dang, you’re just an altitis band geek. :)

      01 Dec 2010 at 10:03

  13. Dyre42

    Speaking as someone that was forced to play the clarinet I can honestly say I play a hunter because I’ve always played “the guy with the bow” role whenever it was available in a game. Its what I like to play. I have a healer and tank but literally I rolled those because my guild needed them and they helped me learn how to be a better hunter. Truly skilled DPS are not expendable. A hunter that can kite a raid boss to death in a pinch is hard to come by. A DK, Ret Pally, Warrior, or even a Rogue that can emergency tank while the MT is getting a battle rez is hard to find. Unfortunately there is no add on that measures your Skillscore (deaths due to avoidable damage, number of times utility abilities were used, number of times the character pulled threat without changing stances, auras, or presences etc etc etc) At least when it comes to pugs DPS is going to be measured by the number of 32nd second notes they can play rather than how well they can play in tune or improv.

    01 Dec 2010 at 02:58

    • “At least when it comes to pugs DPS is going to be measured by the number of 32nd second notes they can play rather than how well they can play in tune or improv.”

      OMG I <3 you for this sentence. /grabby hands

      01 Dec 2010 at 10:00

  14. Dyre42

    P.S. For the record skilled DPS should sound something more like this:

    Than this:

    01 Dec 2010 at 03:21

    • Dyre42

      Well that was large and obtrusive :P.

      01 Dec 2010 at 03:24

  15. attuck

    After 10 years of playing in band you don’t know why percussionists need to know how to play piano? Granted, it’s not exactly necessary but for a lot of parts you’re not going to be able to contribute fully if you don’t know a basic keyboard. I guess I was lucky in high school having two great pianists cover those parts (one was actually normally an alto sax).

    01 Dec 2010 at 06:26

    • But you learn the basic keyboard in your how-to-play-this-instrument book for pretty much every instrument. The clarinet one definitely had one. And it’s not like you need two YEARS of piano to learn that. Maybe two days, but not two years.

      If you need two YEARS to learn a basic keyboard, you shouldn’t be in any form of music whatsoever.

      01 Dec 2010 at 10:02

  16. I loved this post :D

    I played the clarinet for ~ 10 years (before giving it up when university got too busy) and was first chair, but in a smaller band than yours. Still, I enjoyed it a lot, and can I ever see the parallel you’re drawing between clarinets and DPS. So very true (says the kitty druid player)!

    Who cares if everyone can distinguish your instrument from all the others, as long as you’re playing and enjoying the right part?

    Also: plastic clarinets are evil to the core. I was soverythankful to get rid of mine. Must take up playing again one day though…

    01 Dec 2010 at 09:28

    • Plastic clarinets are evil until it’s rainy and cold when you have to march. Then they’re great. Even though they still sound like crap. :)

      01 Dec 2010 at 10:06

  17. I have to admit, I skipped reading most of it, but I really like the analogy.

    I had a bunch of my personal experience written up to comment, but you know what? Nah, you wrote a great article, I’ll leave it at that ;)

    01 Dec 2010 at 13:59

  18. Brilliant! It’s taken me a couple days (okay, more than a couple) to finish reading all my tabs, but I’m glad I finished with this. I didn’t start healing because I like being important or needed or anything – believe me, the lower stress of DPS was fine with me, as far as that goes. Nor was it the shorter queue times for random, though that is a plus. No, I started healing because it was FUN, and I just couldn’t stop after I started. And people who play DPS? I might JOKE that you do it because you’re a scrub, but in the end, I believe everyone plays what they do because it’s fun! Maybe, granted, it’s the metres, or being a relatively rare spec, but there’s got to be SOMETHING fun about it otherwise why play?

    02 Dec 2010 at 00:15

  19. Mooghidrah

    This Enhancement Shaman says AYE!
    I love love love my enhancement shaman – it’s the best spec in the game, and I have tried many.
    Great article :)

    04 Dec 2010 at 14:33

  20. Lujanera

    Poneria says:

    “Once, I made it to 12th chair Symphonic. That’s end of the second row (three rows usually). 13th chair was the beginning of third row. I was the last possible second part clarinet. I was ECSTATIC. I still have my nametag from that that says my name, my school, and my chair. I wasn’t even playing first part and I was SUPER HAPPY.”

    This describes very well my experience as a dps in raids. While dps often seems simple to outsiders, I’ve found it to be extremely competitive to actually do. As the article mentions, it’s hard to stand out when competing against scores of other people. I don’t normally dps — I’m primarily a tank and healer — but doing so has given me a lot more respect for the good dps that are out there.

    That said, I think some of the criticism that is often leveled at dps has to do with how fault tolerant the role can often be. Drawing on the musical analogy, nobody notices when a dps/clarinet makes a mistake, but if the tank/cymbals screws up, there’s nowhere to hide. The LFD system has created an environment where playing a tank means subjecting ones’s self to a lot of scrutiny and pressure. By contrast, almost every LFD run I have done for the past six months has had at least one dps player that was underperforming significantly. Poor players such as those that I observed do a lot to shape the views of tanks and healers like me. It’s not fair to the good dps out there, but that seems to be the unfortunate reality outside of well-run raids.

    05 Dec 2010 at 19:49

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