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Miscellaneous Help choosing an instrument for classical music

kreggurree

Member
Messages
30
So I am a sax player first, in the phase of trying to return to my playing standard from when I was 18 (26, I stopped for a few years at uni). There is thing that I miss as a saxophone player and that is being able to play classical music. I know this is not entirely true as I have played some classical written for saxophone and some arrangements but this is not enough for me.

So I am trying to decide between Cello,viola,clarinet and piano. Here are my thoughts on my options :

Cello -
  • I adore the tone
  • Bulky, carry-able but I find tenor sax/guitar big enough
  • Expensive
  • Will definitely need a tutor
  • Decent size classical repotoire


Piano -
  • Not portable except with a car (digital piano assumed here)
  • Can teach myself (I have had a few strarter lessons in the past and have had a go at teaching myself so am confident in this with the amount of resources available)
  • Can practice anytime I want with headphones. (currently sax practice is restricted by neighbours and my father working night shifts at the moment)
  • So much solo material means I can be satisfied playing at home on my own
  • On the other hand it is likely I will never be able to play with others in a serious way

Viola -
  • Portable (though larger than I first thought)
  • Definitely need a teacher
  • Cheaper than cello yet still has a lovely rich tone
  • More opportunity for playing with others (amateur orchestras, etc.)
  • Will take a while to get to that standard


Clarinet -
  • Portable
  • Easiest to transition to despite the differences that I am well aware of
  • Time spent on clarinet will contribute to my sax playing
  • Can also act as an embochure maintainer when travelling as its so portable
  • There are some really nice pieces for clarinet though I possibly don't love them as much as the others
  • Only 2 clarinets in Orchestras

I have kind of ruled out cello as I will be equally happy with viola, piano has lots of advantages but I think the ability to play in Orchestras would be nice (especially as I will probably return to living in Prague in 3/4 years where there are several amateur orchestras). Then its kind of between Clarinet and Viola, which is pretty much between time to learn and more pieces I like/orchestral opportunities.

What are your thoughts?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
I guess you wanta solo instrument. That pretty much rules out viola (also saves you from being the butt of many jokes).

Piano players generally expect to find an instrument at the venue, so no problems with portability. Venues' instruments may be a different story.

Cello - takes a long time to learn and a lot of the repertoire is on the morbid side, but still some really nice lively stuff as well.

Clarinet - portable, just like a small sax. But different sound.

Flute may be an option as well. There's also classical guitar.

Most versatile is the piano. Huge repertoire for any genre. And it'll enhance your musical knowledge as it's chord based.
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Subscriber
Messages
5,944
Hmmm - complex question. All strings have similar 'mechanicals' with regard to fingering and bowing, with some individual nuances.

Don't rule cello out. I took it up again last year after 35 years off. You can 'wear' a cello back-pack style if the case has suitable straps or a harness. Mine fits easily enough into the boot of the car - I just have to lower the small section of the back seat about 8" sticks through. It would probably lie across the back seat.

Cello has a big solo repertoire of sonatas, solo pieces, chamber works. You will almost always get into a group / band / orchestra playing cello.

Viola you need to check that you have the right length of instrument for your arms - they come in different back lengths starting at about 15.5" and going up to about 18" (maybe more). You need the support of a specialist to work out the right size for you. It's obviously nearly as portable as a violin. You will always get into any group or band playing viola - they're always in demand. You need to read alto clef, not a big deal I don't think. Limited solo repertoire, often transposed from other instruments. Plenty of chamber music.

Piano. not much to add - venues usually have them, quality and tuning can be an issue. Plenty of solo repertoire. You'll be popular as an accompanist to other players. Limited opportunities to play in bands/orchestras. Expect to pay about £2k plus for a reasonable (say 20 year old) second-hand Yamaha upright (about £7k new). You need a stage piano if you go the portable route. Clavinova etc are not really transportable.

Can't really comment on clarinet. Popular instrument and you may struggle to get into bands/orchestras, especially if you want to play in a 'proper' orchestra that limits wind/brass desks to a fixed number.

Community orchestras will usually accept all-comers. A more advanced orchestra - you will get into most as a string player from about G5. For wind players, tends to be more like G7.
 

kreggurree

Member
Messages
30
Thank you for all the comments.

Since my initial post, my heads been in a tone war where I listen to a Brahms Clarinet sonata and think how one day I would love to be able to play that, then I listen to some Satie and Rachmaninov sonatas and remember how much beauty the piano can produce all on its own, and then I discover more viola pieces I've never heard of that just tug at my gut. I've even been via the Oboe (didn't know how beautiful it can sound or how expensive it can be).

Any way its down to really Viola vs Clarinet (with Piano and Alto Flute[via c flute] lurking but unlikely)

Well I have found a local teacher to arrange a taster session with and someone on another forum has offered a viola to borrow if I pay to insure it. And I have found good beginner clarinet serviced and second hand for £100 so I could easily try both and then see.

I think the taster session will help me decide if nothing else I might just realise strings don't work for me.
 

Jeanette

Organizress
Cafe Moderator
Messages
25,901
Thank you for all the comments.

Since my initial post, my heads been in a tone war where I listen to a Brahms Clarinet sonata and think how one day I would love to be able to play that, then I listen to some Satie and Rachmaninov sonatas and remember how much beauty the piano can produce all on its own, and then I discover more viola pieces I've never heard of that just tug at my gut. I've even been via the Oboe (didn't know how beautiful it can sound or how expensive it can be).

Any way its down to really Viola vs Clarinet (with Piano and Alto Flute[via c flute] lurking but unlikely)

Well I have found a local teacher to arrange a taster session with and someone on another forum has offered a viola to borrow if I pay to insure it. And I have found good beginner clarinet serviced and second hand for £100 so I could easily try both and then see.

I think the taster session will help me decide if nothing else I might just realise strings don't work for me.
Trying both is probably the best way but may take longer than one lesson to really get a feel.

Good luck

Let us know how you go on.

Jx
 

AndyWhiteford

Senior Member
Messages
454
Would you consider violin? imho, one of the most versatile instruments, genre wise- I started about 2 years ago, and I can hold a tune and can play a little gypsy, klezmer, jazz, celtic or classical. Lots of info & videos out there on the net, too, (though get a few RL lessons)
it's no harder than the viola, and only a little shorter in the neck, but violin reads common treble-clef, while viola reads the much rarer alto-clef. side benefits include being able to play Mandolin :)
I picked up three nice old antique violins in various local auctions, [ around £70 each ] added new bow, strings & fine tuners and you're off & playing.
clarinet is a nice choice too, very genre-adaptable & portable, I started on clarinet about 3 years ago
(24 years on saxophone to date) and I'm gigging with it regularly
-A-
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
If you wish to rule the classical world, a three manual pipe organ is really impressive.

Can you remortgage?
 

kreggurree

Member
Messages
30
Would you consider violin? imho, one of the most versatile instruments, genre wise- I started about 2 years ago, and I can hold a tune and can play a little gypsy, klezmer, jazz, celtic or classical. Lots of info & videos out there on the net, too, (though get a few RL lessons)
it's no harder than the viola, and only a little shorter in the neck, but violin reads common treble-clef, while viola reads the much rarer alto-clef. side benefits include being able to play Mandolin :)
I picked up three nice old antique violins in various local auctions, [ around £70 each ] added new bow, strings & fine tuners and you're off & playing.
clarinet is a nice choice too, very genre-adaptable & portable, I started on clarinet about 3 years ago
(24 years on saxophone to date) and I'm gigging with it regularly
-A-
Well to be honest I prefer the sound of the viola and can not think of many advantages to the violin other than the fact there are more teachers with that as their first instrument. I believe the viola is just as versatile in being able to play in all the genres mentioned just that less is directly written for it. I might even argue the viola is more adaptable within classical as it can play a lot of cello works and violin works too ;).

Oddly enough I started in a position of I want to play viola but will be happy with clarinet as I can use my existing knowledge and now I kind of swung around to I would play clarinet if the classical world wasn't swamped with them.

If you wish to rule the classical world, a three manual pipe organ is really impressive.

Can you remortgage?
I wish, a home with a built in organ mmmmm. Would have to be detached though ;) (and maybe 1/2 km away from all neighbours)
 
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