Squidward Clarinet Guide: A Woodwind Player’s Perspective

If you want to learn more about Squidward, check out a Squidward clarinet guide or two. The instrument is a huge part of Squidward’s life, and you can learn a lot about the character from his instrument.

As a woodwind (primarily flute) player, I love that Squidward plays the clarinet. Whether you play music or not, Squidward’s clarinet can teach you a lot about the series and your own life. Then, you can enjoy the show and consider how it can affect you and your goals.

Bottom Line Up Front: Squidward’s clarinet may not appear in every episode, but it’s a huge part of his life. Knowing more about the instrument can help you understand and empathize with Squidward as you watch the show.

squilliam's clarinet

Overview of Squidward’s Clarinet

Squidward’s clarinet is sometimes a major part of a SpongeBob SquarePants episode. While Squidward isn’t a professional musician, it’s a big part of his life.

I’ve played the clarinet before, and it looks to me like Squidward’s instrument has standard specs. However, I’d guess that he plays a plastic model since wood probably wouldn’t last very long underwater.

The octopus often treats his clarinet like it’s alive, and he gave it a name: Clarry or Clarey (different sources spell it differently). As a musician myself, I’ve given plenty of my instruments names, so that’s a fun quirk Squidward has.

The Clarinet’s Role

Depending on the episode, Squidward’s clarinet sometimes has a significant role. For one, knowing how to play the clarinet is a significant part of the character of Squidward Tentacles.

You can see him playing his clarinet in his house, and he’s even done the occasional public performance. When he was young, he started playing the clarinet, which is how a lot of musicians begin playing.

That’s how he and his nemesis Squilliam Fancyson met. When Squilliam isn’t around, the clarinet often makes Squidward think he’s better than everyone around him.

squidward plays clarinet

Notable Appearances

We first see that Squidward plays the clarinet early in the first season in the episode “Bubblestand.” On a day off from work, Squidward practices music while his neighbors set up a bubble stand (a parody of a lemonade stand).

In Squidville, Squidward gets tired of living between SpongeBob and Patrick. So he moves to a community with other octopuses (yes, he’s an octopus and not a squid), and we see him play his clarinet every day.

One episode where Squidward’s clarinet skills play a big role is “Band Geeks.” In this episode, he tries to prove to Squilliam that he (Squidward) has a band and can play a concert.

Of course, Squilliam taunts Squidward again in the episode “Professor Squidward.” After Squilliam performs, someone mistakes Squidward for Squilliam, and Squidward lands a job teaching at a music school. At the end, Squilliam gets Squidward in trouble for impersonating him.

I can relate to both Squidward and Squilliam in this scenario. People have chosen other musicians for opportunities that I thought I deserved, but I’ve also been guilty of thinking I’m better than others. (Since then, I’ve learned that’s not true.)

Later in the series is the episode “Squidward in Clarinetland,” which turns out to be a dream. In the episode, Squidward is supposedly playing a concert as a soloist.

I could share a lot of other episodes the clarinet appears in. However, these episodes are some of the ones that feature the clarinet and Squidward’s passion for music.

squidward's clarinet

How Squidward Started Playing the Clarinet

Like many musicians in real life, the fictional Squidward started playing the clarinet in school. He joined the band, and that’s where he and Squilliam developed their rivalry.

Squilliam has always been better, which has made Squidward mad. As a musician, I can understand that feeling, especially when you work hard and try to be as good as you can.

Squidward’s Musical Career

Unfortunately, like many aspiring musicians, Squidward has to work a day job. I don’t know if the creators did this intentionally, but they made Squidward’s job that of a cashier.

A lot of musicians end up in jobs similar to that if they can’t find performing work. However, Squidward has a couple of moments throughout the series where he gets to show off his experience.

From the episode where he forms a band to when he teaches at a music school, Squidward is a better musician than a lot of people give him credit for. His professional career may be short-lived, but it’s a bit part of his character.

Why Squidward Is a Bad Clarinetist

A lot of the fish and other creatures in Bikini Bottom don’t like Squidward’s clarinet playing. I can’t blame them, but I think it’s important to consider why he’s not the best musician.

Some of it has to do with the clarinet he owns, while his skills are also partly to blame. I can’t think of any specific moments where the show creators clarify Squidward’s lack of skills.

However, here are some theories I’ve seen or come up with about why the character isn’t very good at the clarinet.

He Doesn’t Play That Often

While Squidward’s clarinet has appeared in quite a few episodes, it’s far from the majority of the series. Some of the appearances are minor.

It’s safe to assume that Squidward probably doesn’t play his clarinet that often. Of course, the show doesn’t cover all of his life, so maybe he plays more offscreen.

However, to get better at your instrument, you need to practice consistently. Squidward has a busy schedule between work and dealing with living between neighbors who annoy him.

I don’t believe that you have to practice multiple hours a day to be good. However, I do know that you won’t get better if you don’t play at least a bit a few times a week.

He Doesn’t Have Outside Support

Since he started playing the clarinet in school, his parents probably supported him as a student. However, as an adult, everyone in Bikini Bottom seems to hate Squidward’s clarinet playing.

While it’s important to support your own playing, it’s nice to get outside approval. If everyone in your life said they hated how you played clarinet, it would probably affect your confidence.

There are plenty of times when other characters damage Squidward’s clarinet. In “Jellyfish Jam,” jellyfish break the clarinet and dance around it.

Meanwhile, in “Restraining SpongeBob,” Patrick uses the clarinet as a toilet plunger. If people did those things to my instruments, it would devastate me, and I wouldn’t want to play as much.

Now, as a piccolo player, I’ve been on the receiving end of plenty of musical jokes. While I’m confident in my skills, it still hurts to know that people don’t like the instrument I play.


Squilliam Taunts Squidward

I’ve mentioned already that Squilliam is one of the few characters who make Squidward feel like a loser. The two creatures both play the same instrument, so it’s natural for a rivalry to develop.

Whenever Squilliam appears in an episode, his main purpose is to tease Squidward or make him feel bad. Having that sort of contact with a musician can be hard.

I’ve heard of some music teachers in real life treating their students horribly as a way to make them better musicians. Fortunately, I haven’t had that experience, and my teachers have all been positive.

I could imagine if I had another student or a teacher tell me I was bad, it would hurt. And I probably would play my instruments as badly as Squidward plays the clarinet.

Clarinet Stereotypes

Another reason Squidward isn’t the best player may have to do with clarinet stereotypes. There’s a stereotype that students can sound really bad on the instrument.

Beginners can sound like a dying duck, though it’s usually not as bad as the sound of a beginner oboe player. A lot of clarinetists will blame their bad sound on their reed.

These stereotypes don’t help musicians in real life. But they probably also didn’t do any good when the SpongeBob SquarePants writers decided to make Squidward a bad clarinet player.

Of course, as a piccolo player, I’ve heard all about negative stereotypes. It’s hard to overcome that, but it’s necessary if Squidward wants to play better.

Squidward’s Instrument

While Squidward loves his clarinet enough to name it, it’s possible the clarinet isn’t the best model out there. Some clarinets cost thousands of dollars, and Squidward appears to be middle class in Bikini Bottom.

He might not have a ton of extra cash on hand to get a professional clarinet. And sometimes, not having the right instrument can keep you from sounding your best.

I can’t tell you how much money Squidward makes or how much a clarinet would cost under the sea. But on a cashier’s salary, Squidward probably can’t justify upgrading his setup.

And even if he can afford a nice clarinet, it needs a lot of maintenance. There may not be a good woodwind technician in or around Bikini Bottom to keep the clarinet in good condition.

spongebob keeps squidward's clarinet

Squidward’s Ego

It also doesn’t help that Squidward thinks he’s better than everyone around him. Of course, the exception is when he sees his former classmate Squilliam.

Still, having an ego means Squidward probably thinks he’s the best musician in the town. He might not think he needs to do anything to improve as a musician.

I’ve been there, and I’ve let my ego get the best of me. But having a big ego won’t get you anywhere unless you’re already the best musician in the world.

His Embouchure

As a woodwind player, Squidward’s embouchure bugs me. For one, it’s not consistent. If you look at the video above, his entire lips are around the clarinet.

But in other images, he maintains a smaller seal around the mouthpiece. That’s closer to the accurate embouchure that clarinet and saxophone players use in real life.

Also, to play the clarinet, you have to curl your bottom lip inward to protect the reed from your teeth. We don’t usually see Squidward’s bottom teeth, so maybe he doesn’t have any, but he should still use a better embouchure.

His Breathing

Also, he tends to open his mouth wide to take a big breath. I get this is to show the viewers that he’s taking a breath to play, but it’s not the best way to breathe from a technical standpoint.

Breathing that way takes a long time, so it’s not the best option for long phrases. When I play long phrases, I usually breathe in through my nose to catch a breath.

Then, he frequently puffs out his cheeks. This can make a player’s airstream less efficient, so that could be why Squidward isn’t the best player.

squidward playing clarey

Switching Dominant Hands

Another technical issue I’ve noticed is the inconsistency regarding which hand goes where. In most episodes, Squidward plays with his left hand on top, which is how most clarinetists play.

However, there are some instances where he switches his hand position. Regardless of a player’s dominant hand, the left hand always goes on top.

I suppose though, that that doesn’t matter since Squidward’s clarinet is pretty simple. It doesn’t appear to have any of the four left-hand pinky keys or four right-hand pinky keys.

Then there’s the fact that he doesn’t have clearly separated digits. I imagine it would be almost impossible to cover the holes of a clarinet well when you have tentacles (or for us humans, if we wear mittens).

What We Can Learn From Squidward

Whether you’re a musician or not, you can learn a lot from Squidward’s clarinet and the storylines highlighting it. As you watch various episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants, there are a few lessons.

The next time you turn on the show, consider what that episode can teach you. And if you’re watching an episode that features Squidward’s clarinet, here are a few specific lessons you might recognize.

Practice Regularly

If you want to learn an instrument or any skill, you need to do it regularly. You don’t need to dedicate all of your time to practicing, whether that’s the clarinet or something else.

However, you do need to dedicate some time to practicing at least weekly or a few times a week. Then, you’ll be able to retain what you’ve learned, and you can continue getting better.

Some people believe in the 10,000-hour rule, but I believe more in quality than quantity. It’s better to focus on something for 20 minutes than to do it for two hours but with distractions.

Have Fun

Since Squidward isn’t a professional musician, he gets to have fun when playing. Even if he wants to be the best, it seems like he can usually find enjoyment when he practices the clarinet.

As you start to learn an instrument or something else, remember to let yourself have fun. You don’t have to be the best, especially when you first start something new.

When I was in college and grad school for music, it was easy to forget to play stuff just for fun. I had so much solo and ensemble music to learn that it was sometimes hard to find playing music relaxing.

Give yourself the chance to relax and look forward to learning your new skill. Then, you can keep from stressing if you don’t make progress super quickly.


Don’t Compare Yourself

Squidward rarely compares himself to other musicians. Sure, that probably has to do with the fact that most of the characters he interacts with aren’t musicians.

However, when he compares himself to someone like Squilliam, he feels bad. If you do this in real life, you may feel like you aren’t good enough and that you’ll never be good enough.

The only one you should compare yourself to is you or you from the day before. Try not to focus on what others are doing so that you can keep getting better on your terms.

You Don’t Need the Best Gear

We can’t be sure what clarinet Squidward has and if it’s a student or professional model. Regardless of the gear he has, he can still enjoy playing.

So don’t hold yourself back from learning something, like an instrument, if you’re on a budget. You can find affordable options to start learning.

If you want to get better, you can upgrade to something better. But it’s not necessary to spend a ton of money, especially if you just want to do something for fun.

I didn’t get a professional instrument until the year before I started my master’s in music. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars just to sound good.

It’s Okay to Be Mediocre

Squidward may think of himself as the best musician, but he’s a mediocre player. However, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

It’s okay to be okay at something and not be at the highest level. Squidward doesn’t need to be the best since music isn’t the only thing in his life.

Taking that pressure off yourself can be extremely relieving. I know it helped me to realize that I don’t have to be the best player to still enjoy making music.

Protect Your Hearing

There’s a fan theory that Squidward was a much better clarinet player at the beginning of the series. Sadly, SpongeBob and Patrick’s bubble stand got out of hand.

One of their bubbles consumed Squidward’s house when he was inside it. The house floated up for a bit before the bubble burst, and the house crashed down.

Some fans believe that crash is responsible for Squidward losing some of his hearing. You can play music without perfect hearing, but it’s much more difficult.

If Squidward did lose some of his hearing, there’s a good chance it would affect his playing. We never see Squidward use a tuner to make sure he’s playing the right notes, so protect your hearing as much as you can, even if you aren’t a musician.

jazz clarient

FAQs about the Squidward Clarinet Guide

Question: How realistic is Squidward’s clarinet?

Answer: For a cartoon, Squidward’s clarinet is pretty realistic. There are some pinky keys and other special keys that the animators left out, but you can’t blame them for that.
Animating details was probably pretty difficult back in the late 90s. Even though animation has changed, it doesn’t make sense to change how Squidward’s clarinet looks.

Question: What type of clarinet does Squidward play?

Answer: It looks like Squidward plays a Bb clarinet, which is the standard clarinet. Most beginners will start on that instrument, but you can also play smaller and larger clarinets.
As far as the materials go, Squidward plays various models throughout the series. Some are wood, while others may use other materials, such as plastic.

Question: Why don’t other SpongeBob SquarePants characters play instruments?

Answer: Playing music is hard for a lot of people, even musicians. Other SpongeBob SquarePants characters probably don’t play music since it’s difficult.
However, those characters may have other interests, such as jellyfishing or karate. Just like humans, it makes sense for cartoon characters to have different hobbies.

Final Note on the Squidward Clarinet Guide

If you want to learn more about life in Bikini Bottom, you may want to read a Squidward clarinet guide. You can learn more about the instrument in the show and the character who plays it.

Or maybe Squidward has inspired you to learn an instrument of your own, be it the clarinet or something else. Consider what the character can teach you about playing music.

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