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Are Clarinets Loud? (+ 4 Practical Tips For Playing Quietly)

The clarinet can be loud at times, but when the instrument is played well, it should not be overly disturbing to neighbors or family members.

Generally, the clarinet has a light, warm, and pleasing tone, but the fact remains that many inexperienced clarinetists will experience a learning curve where their sound is difficult to listen to.

1. How Loud Are Clarinets In Decibels?

At its loudest, the clarinet can play at anywhere from 85db to 114 dB. This is comparable to the volume of a noisy restaurant or heavy traffic.

Do You Need Hearing Protection When Practicing Clarinet?

Many musicians are not aware of the dangerous effects that exposing themselves to such loud sounds can have on their hearing.

  • Hearing loss is common among experienced musicians, especially percussionists and brass players.

If you are practicing the clarinet solo, you probably do not need hearing protection. It is unlikely that you will consistently play at the instrument’s maximum decibel level while you are playing on your own.

However, if you play in a concert band or orchestra, you may want to consider picking up a pair of musician’s earplugs that will dampen the sound of rehearsals without taking away your ability to hear the music.

Brass and percussion instruments are notorious for causing hearing loss!

2. How Loud Are Clarinets Compared To Other Instruments?

Clarinets can produce a powerful sound when they are played loudly. The clarinet is among the loudest instruments in the band or orchestra, with the exception of the percussion section.

  • The clarinet comes in at about 85 to 114 dB, with the trombone and saxophone tied at about the same decibel level. The oboe is next at 95 to 112 dB. The cello can play up to 85 to 111 dB.
  • The trumpet can play between 80 and 110 dB, and the French horn at 90 to 106 dB.
  • The flute’s decibel level maxes out between 92 and 103 dB, and the piccolo at 90 to 106 dB.

What’s The Loudest Woodwind Instrument?

The saxophone often plays at a consistent 100 dB or louder, making it the loudest woodwind.

However, the clarinet can give it a run for its money, especially in the upper registers!

3. Does The Clarinet Sound Stand Out In Bands Or Orchestras?

When the clarinet is well-played, it provides an attractive, warm layer of sound to the band or orchestra.

The sound is meant to blend in more than to stand out, and experienced players can play smooth harmonies in the background.

When the time comes for a solo or featured section, the clarinet can also step forward and make its presence known. It is a versatile instrument that provides a unique tone quality to the band or orchestra.

4. Can The Clarinet Be Played Quietly?

Yes, an experienced player can easily play the clarinet quietly. However, the high notes in the altissimo register (above the treble clef staff) can’t be produced very well at low volumes. These notes tend to be shrill in the hands of inexperienced players.

Are There Mutes For Clarinets?

Yes, you can get a practice mute that covers your mouthpiece, barrel, and bell. It is necessary to mute all three parts of your instrument for the best results.

The use of a practice mute changes your airflow. This means that you will not be able to practice dynamic changes or build up breath endurance.

I would recommend limiting its use to when you are primarily interested in working out correct notes and fingerings.

5. How Does Experience Affect Your Playing Volume?

Beginning wind instrumentalists are notorious for being extremely loud. When players are in the early stages of learning how to produce sound, volume regulation is one of the last skills to be learned.

Clarinetists must learn to control their airflow and volume over time. It is quite easy to play softly in the lower registers, but the instrument requires more air power and breath support to get the high notes out.

If you’re wanting to learn more about how to get better at playing the clarinet, make sure to read my complete guide on how difficult the clarinet is to learn!

6. Practical Tips On How To Practice The Clarinet Without Disturbing Other People:

Soundproofing Techniques

If you want to play in your home or apartment without disturbing others, you are very considerate!

Here are some basic soundproofing techniques that you can use to dampen the noise:

  • Make sure that your floors are covered with area rugs or carpets. Hard floors create spaces for sound to resonate.
  • Hang heavy drapes on the windows. You may also want to consider hanging cardboard egg crates on the walls to help contain the sound.
  • Weather-stripping can also be your friend. Make sure that there are no gaps around your doors or windows for sound to escape.

Find A Place To Play Away From Home

If it is too much trouble to soundproof your own environment, you may want to find somewhere else to practice.

Music stores often have soundproofed lesson rooms that they will rent out for practice sessions. Colleges and universities may also be willing to let you use a practice room.

If you work in an office, you may be able to ask your employer whether you can use the space at night or on the weekends to practice without disturbing anyone.

Use A Mute

As mentioned above, a mute can be a great asset for occasional practice. While you won’t be able to practice dynamics very well while using a mute, you can practice music that requires complex fingerings.

White Noise Machines

Finally, try placing a white noise machine outside the door of the room where you are practicing. This will muffle some of the sound coming out of the room.

White noise machines are inexpensive and easy to find! They are also excellent for blocking out outside sounds when you want to study or sleep.

Final Thoughts

The early stages of learning any woodwind instrument are loud for everyone. My teenage son recently picked up the tenor sax after five years of playing percussion, so we have had to put some of these tips into action at home!

These practical tips should be able to help you create a practice space where you can avoid disturbing people and hone your ability to play at an acceptable volume.

As you gain experience, your practice sounds will be more pleasant and less likely to bother others.