14 Easy Clarinet Solos That Sound Amazing (with links to our free sheet music)

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When the Saints Go Marching In

This tune became the quintessential New Orleans-style jazz piece, especially as played by Louis Armstrong and his Hot 5 and 7 groups.

When The Saints Go Marching In

Have fun with it! The rhythmic feel should be very loose - you don't need to play it exactly as notated, it should be felt rather than read. It may be repeated a number of times. You can experiment with the tempo too, perhaps by starting slowly and gradually speeding up.

Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake Op. 20 Scene Finale

This is probably the most emotionally-charged melody from Tchaikovsky's famous ballet. It has been widely used in popular culture, perhaps most famously in the final moments of the film Billy Elliot:

Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake Op. 20 Scene Finale

Expressivity is everything in this beautiful melody. Make sure you observe every slur and articulation mark and leave enough space (i.e. don't start too loud!) for the big crescendo before the climax at B.

House of the Rising Sun

House of the Rising Sun is a traditional folk tune originating from New Orleans, USA. It was made famous by the Animals cover of 1964:

House of the Rising Sun

Listen to the original song before playing - it will help you to work out where the phrases are and thus where to breathe. Watch out for those duplets at bars 24, 26, 30, 32 and 34 - they should be played evenly against the triplet rhythms in the piano.

Beethoven Fur Elise

Originally for piano, the piece adapts beautifully for the clarinet:

Beethoven - Fur Elise

When playing, ensure that the arpeggios split between the piano and clarinet (for example at bars 2 and 3) join together if they were one flowing movement. The section at bar 18 may be played with more movement. The transition back to the opening material at bars 23 to 24 should be played gradually more slowly before returning to the opening tempo at bar 25.

8notes also has a full version of the piece for more advanced players:

Beethoven - Fur Elise (more advanced)

David Bruce - Cool Blues

This twelve-bar blues is also a great for practising your improvising. Listen to this imaginative performance on violin, for example:

David Bruce - Cool Blues

Notice how the soloist doesn't try to make the improvisation too difficult, instead concentrating on giving it a convincing musical shape, for example by marking its beginning with a long note and saving the highest note for the end:

You can also get some more ideas listening to the piece on 8notes before trying the improvisation - the full playback also contains an example improvisation.

Beethoven Moonlight Sonata

The opening of Beethoven's three movement Sonata No. 14 in C# Minor is another work originally written for piano that makes a great clarinet solo:

Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata

The key here is breath control - work out were the phrases are and breathe in the same place every time you practise. The clarinet should remain quite even in tone throughout, almost as if it were floating in space.

Pachelbel - Canon in D

Originally written for three violins and basso continuo, it has nevertheless become hugely popular piece for the clarinet. The key here is to set a steady tempo at the beginning and stick to it - it gets tricky later on, so if you've started too quickly you will soon regret it!

Pachelbel - Canon in D

Hart Wand - Dallas Blues

This is Hard Wand's most well-known piece and possibly the first published example of a twelve-bar blues. Like When the Saints it is usually performed in the New Orleans Jazz style:

Hart Wand - Dallas Blues

It's another great piece for developing your improvising. Before attempting to play it, listen to the 8notes version, which has a suggested solo from bar 13.

Beethoven - Ode to Joy

From the last movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, this joyful tune works well as a solo too.

Beethoven - Theme from Ode to Joy

The melody was originally sung, so make sure that your playing reflects this. Phrases occur every four bars - breathe at the end of bars 4, 8 and after the third crotchet in bar 12. Play with a full but beautiful cantabile sound.

Mexican Hat Dance

Probably the most well-known mariachi dance from Mexico. It makes a great encore piece!

Mexican Hat Dance

Be sure to observe the phrase marks when breathing but, at the same time, don't confuse them with slurs. Listen, for example, to Wang Tong's performance on flute - she uses quite an imaginative combination of tonguing/slurring whilst nevertheless observing the phrase structure.

Strauss II - The Blue Danube

Strauss's melody was already hugely popular before Stanley Kubrick's used it in his seminal film 2001. You may also hear it being played as part of the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Day concert at the Musikverien, Vienna. Clarinet versions of the piece have also become very popular.

Strauss II - Blue Danube Waltz

If you want to make the piece sound truly Viennese, you might consider playing the second beat a tiny bit earlier than it is notated - one of the defining characteristics of this type waltz.

La Cucaracha

Another work from Mexico normally played by mariachi bands. It also makes a great solo piece - listen, for example, to Liberace's incredible reinterpretation of it.

La Cucaracha

An important feature is the shift in accent between normal 4/4 bars (bars 4, 5, 8, 11, 13, 15, 17 and 20) and the other bars which are based on dotted crotchets, two tied quavers and a quaver. Make sure the difference is clear.

Amazing Grace

This old Christian Hymn has become immensely popular, both in church and concert hall:

Amazing Grace

Breathe only at the end of phrase marks. You may use some soft-tonguing within the phrases though grouped quavers, including triplets, should be slurred, even though this is not marked. Be sure to try playing with the 8notes band backing, it's a lot more fun!

O Holy Night

If you are looking for a seasonal piece that is more interesting than your average carol, O Holy Night, written by French composer and critic Adolphe Adam in 1847 is an excellent choice. It has been widely covered, for example by Mariah Carey in 2009:

O Holy Night

The first two phrases (bars 2-6 and bars 7-11) are separated by rests. Each should be played in one breath. Thereafter breath marks are shown. Though the dynamic shape is indicated, with the high point at bar 37, you might also think of adding your own touches - e.g. the new idea at bar 12 could be emphasised with a louder, warmer sound whilst a crescendo towards bar 20 followed by a diminuendo to bar 23 would also be very effective.

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