How useful is learning an instrument like clarinet in college social and adult life?

DS has played clarinet for 4 years in elementary and middle school band. He did not take band in 9th grade as it is conflicting with another activity that he is very interested in. He is not playing any team sports either as his interests seem to be more academic.

Although he is not taking band, he is continuing private clarinet lessons but seems to be less and less interested in practicing as there is no band performance or some such larger goal. He is seriously considering stopping clarinet but seem conflicted.

We are not sure what advice to give. Neither of us played an instrument when we are young and we wish we knew an instrument that we can play for fun.

My question is: In college or as an adult, is it common to play clarinet by themselves or does it have to be paired with other instruments to be enjoyable? An instrument like a Piano, Guitar or even Flute I see people playing by themselves. I have never seen anyone play clarinet alone by themselves.

If it is not going to be something that is useful to him later on, we might as well suggest him to give up on clarinet.

We think knowing an instrument would make a more well rounded adult. He has interest in photography, music, reading, video games, movies, and origami outside of academics.

We have little knowledge of music/instruments and would really appreciate advice from others. What would you recommend?

Yes people play solo clarinet. Is there an ensemble outside of school that he can play in? It seems he needs to be playing with others to feel motivated. Does his teacher have a recital?

That said, he has already learned enough to be able to enjoy music for the rest of his life. He can read music and knows some of the nuances of performance. He can become an appreciater rather than a performer and that’s fine.

I would let him decide. It is fine to stop for awhile. He can explore other things and come back to it if he wants to, and I think a return would bring more motivation as well if it is his choice.

In college he could certainly play as an extracurricular but there are many other extracurriculars to be involved in.

ps there is a music major forum here on CC that is not just for music majors- you could post there!


One of my colleagues played her clarinet to her scientific instruments (not sensitive to vibrations!) while she was in the lab. We all loved it. We called it concert night. I took my first piano lesson at age 40. Still play and love it. Music is a gift at any age. I would keep up with the lessons unless your kid hates them.

I played saxophone from 5th to 8th grade. I did not want to do marching band in high school, so I told my parents if I could quit band, I would work on piano more. I really did, and would definitely say it did me more good than saxophone- I have done some accompanying for groups, taught some piano, and have played organ at church since 15.

Any music training is good, but I do think piano and guitar are used more commonly in adult life as hobbies than other instruments.

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Have you asked your son what he thinks?

It is really personal choice. If he might be able to rejoin band next year and would enjoy it then I would probably encourage him to stick with the lessons through this year and perhaps come up with a less demanding practice schedule for now.

As for playing in college or as an adult that is really an individual deciding where to spend his/her limited time. I was thrilled to finally be able to give up piano lessons. In contrast, my D played violin in a orchestra through her college years and really enjoyed it and my grandmother took piano lessons well into her 80’s.

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“You will do it and you will enjoy it!” is probably not so effective. :wink:

I was going to say that while it may be useful, that’s not why we do it. But then I realized I arguably hired someone because they played clarinet. The first round through the applications, she was just below the cut, but I figured “what the heck? Works with others, well-rounded, blah blah blah” and put it in the above the cut pile. She smoked the interview, and ended up getting the job.

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He is so passionate about a couple of other things and spends a lot of time on them. So on the private practice lesson day, he does not want to go as he did not practice at all during the week. Last 6 weeks he was practicing just before the lesson for 30 minutes and then does the lesson. No practice the rest of the week.

I asked him if he wants to quit, he says he is not sure. So he does not have motivation to practice and without practice he does not want to take the private lesson. Right now every week, he says he does not want to go to practice that week only.

Hence my dilemma. I dont want to tell him to quit and he is not able to make a decision either way.

My kids had to really want to do something for me to be willing to pay. I would tell him he can stop for now and reevaluate when band is again possible.

I know kids who did band and didn’t take lessons. That is also an option.

It sounds to me like he needs you to encourage him to stop lessons for awhile. Maybe don’t use the word "quit’ which sounds so permanent.

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He played piano for 2 or 3 years before clarinet. He wanted to play clarinet in the band so he stopped piano at that time. Even today, once in a couple of months when he is upset over something he goes to the keyboard and plays some of the piano songs he knows. So we are really glad he learned at least a little bit of piano.

He never plays clarinet in that way, probably because it takes 10 minutes to setup and apparently needs to warm up for another 10 minutes. So we are not sure if he would ever play clarinet as an adult. And if he is not going to play later on, it might make sense to stop now.

A joke I once heard is what gives me pause:

Older Teen: I wish I could play the piano. I am disappointed.

  • Parent: What? When you were 10, you begged and cried to make us stop your piano lessons. And we had to give in.*
  • Older Teen: How could you listen to a 10 year old?*


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I think you need to stop thinking about this as a permanent decision. Encourage him to try stopping.

He may want to rejoin band- up to him when the time comes. And that would not require lessons necessarily.

Maybe he would like piano lessons. Or maybe a year to focus on things he loves right now will be the best.

He is not 10 and he is using these years to explore and narrow focus. If clarinet isn’t fun, then it makes sense to stop. It sounds like a chore. You can encourage him to give it a break.

This is not black and white, written in stone, forever. I am not a psychologist but I have read this is an age when maturing means transferring motivation from external (parents, teachers) to internal (authentic desire to do something.)

I did not pay for music lessons if my kids didn’t practice. That was always the deal. Playing in a group for fun is really the true motivation for most teens!

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My husband and children all played violin from elementary to high school with private lessons every Saturday morning.

They took orchestra in HS, for one year, to meet the University of California and California State University “F” admissions requirement of 1 year of Visual and/or Performing Arts. After that, my husband and I didn’t really push them to continue.

Here’s the caveat: although my children weren’t really interested in continuing to practice, they did it because they started getting requests to play for pay. Family and friends knew that our children played well, and could do Pachelbel’s Canon, Gymnopedie, Water Music, and the Four Seasons. When they were getting $300 to $500 per ceremony, EACH, they had no problem with motivation in playing in HS or college for friends and family.

Your son is already “well-rounded” if he has played for others. You really don’t need to push it. He’ll pick it up when and wherever he chooses to.

My oldest wanted to quit band and I said “Okay.” He put his hands on his hips and said “You are not supposed to say that!” We talked and he stuck with high school band and was more committed because he had chosen- but has never played after high school.

On the other hand, my middle one DID quit school music but started lessons again mid-high school and is almost done a doctorate in music.

Once in high school I think developing autonomy is the important thing :slight_smile:


THIS. Lessons are not cheap. We paid for private lessons as long as our kids put in their share of practice time.

I agree with the advice above…take a leave of absence from these lessons maybe until after the first of the year. Then decide whether to resume…or not.

WRT what does this do? My kid played in a bunch of civic theater orchestras and they were so happy to have her. Nice group of people.

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It sounds to me like he needs you to encourage him to stop lessons for awhile. Maybe don’t use the word "quit’ which sounds so permanent.

You nailed it. Thank you.

I had a vague notion that is what he wants but was not sure. I did not want to put words into his mouth and influence him. This is exactly what he wanted. I had a talk with him and pausing it for a few months is what he really wants for now.


Thanks for all the advice. It is really really helpful for me.

DS was not willing to quit but also doesnt want to take lessons. So taking a pause is what he wants. We are going to take a 6 month break as of now and go from there.