“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.
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.
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.