“The dreaded strings”,the teeth, and the dentist

I have a 7 year-old son who has started playing the piano and recorder at school. The school would now like him to play an orchestral instrument as he seems musical; first thoughts are clarinet. However, my son has not yet lost his top front teeth and the dentist has estimated 12-18 months. By the time the new ones come down Fred will be in Year 6 and will have missed out the whole of prep school orchestra!

Does one really have to wait for the permanent teeth to come through? Please tell me I don’t have to consider the dreaded strings! Any advice would be much appreciated.

UK CC Snr Ops

Hello KB
Thank you for your note from the UK.
Your young man is 7 and has started playing recorder and piano at school. He seems musical. Your first thoughts are clarinet, but you have concerns that your sons front teeth are still baby teeth.

If “any advice will be apprec1iated”, let me first ask the question. Has your son been consulted? And if so, what are his wishes, for they need to be considered , actually, perhaps they deserve first consideration. Is he happy with the piano?And the recorder? I think that if it were I who was your son, I would chose either to continue the recorder or the piano, prior to the consideration and suggestion of the school. The schools wishes wishes are based upon the need for  balanced instrumentation, not necessarily the wishes of Fred. Perhaps he would like to move from recorder to flute, which will be not nearly as demanding as switching to the clarinet.

And before we go further, who is it that dreads the strings? Is it Fred or perhaps someone else? There is nothing to dread about playing a string instrument. Next to the piano, it may provide him with the greatest wealth of repertoire of any instrument, for as long as he wishes, during his lifetime, which follows prep school orchestra.

But, what about the orchestra? The prep school orchestra.If he waits until his teeth come in he will have” missed the whole of prep school orchestra.” Is that of great concern to Fred, or to you?

Those are questions you need to answer in order to help guide your son.

To teeth, to dentists, and their reaction to the clarinet embouchure. Dentists despise the clarinet embouchure as its characteristics include pushing out the front teeth and the lower teeth in, and the dentists job is to have alignment which is correct, which is not necessarily derived from playing and practicing the clarinet.( There are several postings here on that subject).
The consideration of clarinet goes back to the condition of your sons teeth. If I had consulted a dentist prior to selecting the clarinet, I would not have played the clarinet, but it wouldn’t have mattered because I was drawn to the instrument and nothing would have kept me away. And because of the clarinet, I have had a lifetime of difficulty, from the standpoint of teeth, but that is the subject of another article.

I think that 7 is not too young to start the clarinet if indeed Fred would really like the clarinet, but his teeth will be a concern. You should consult with your dentist about commencing the clarinet prior to the teeth coming in, and what effect, if any, the clarinet may have. That is of course, if  the dentist is informed concerning the playing of a musical instrument which is placed in the mouth. Some are, others are not.In gathered opinions, most dentists prefer that their patients do not play the clarinet.

You do not have to worry about “the dreaded strings” Fred does. He will let you know.

One hopes his choices are in line with the family and the family dentist, and the school board.

best of all good fortune.

Sherman Friedland


If you will put the word “teeth” in the search space, you will find four or five articles which I have written on that subject.

(Below, you will see automatically generated pertinent postings. They are not pertinent, Ignore them sf


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