Clarinet Shopping Advice
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Good News: Really good inexpensive clarinets are readily available today.
Bad News: Really bad inexpensive clarinets are also readily available.
Basic Recommendations for parents and clarinet shoppers
All below this line is older information, but still worth reading.
If you are considering buying a Chinese brand clarinet not mentioned above, I strongly advise you to check out the Chinese Clarinet Page. Chinese instruments are improving and this topic is complicated. Don't let the initial price be your only consideration! A list of CLARINETS NOT TO BUY is also found at the bottom of the Chinese Clarinet Page.
BEWARE: Currently on eBay there are listings for NEW Yamaha YCL-250 and Buffet B12 clarinets. They are located in Beijing and are obviously FAKES. The starting bid price is usually under a dollar, but the shipping is around $150! Again, please see more about this on the Chinese Clarinet Page. [UPDATE 20May2012: This situation seems to have improved. I have seen less of these fake listings. I don't think they are gone totally.]
Don't buy a clarinet from someone on Ebay who says “I don't know much about it, but it looks like it would play,” or “It looks like it is in good condition.” Clarinets that have been sitting around for a few years almost always need some fixing to make them really work well. I particularly DON'T trust pawn shops selling on Ebay that claim their instruments are in “good condition.” Often I can see from their photos that the instrument would be unplayable! Just one pad not seating in the upper keyed joint will make the instrument unplayable. A beginning student doesn't know whether the response problem he/she is experiencing is something he/she is doing wrong, or if the problem is in the instrument itself. Don't give a gift of frustration to your son or daughter! Also, most young people don't want to stick out as odd. DON'T buy them an electric blue clarinet or any other odd color.
1981 Selmer Poster
It is often a better investment to buy a wooden instrument, than a plastic one. For instance, used and un-restored Vito plastic clarinets are selling for $30 on Ebay. (Reconditioned ones are selling for $200, plus shipping.) Whereas brand name wooden instruments may fetch half of the original purchase price even if sold un-restored, and will probably bring the whole original value (in today's inflated dollars) if reconditioned. In other words, a grenadilla wood Selmer Signet that was sold for $250 new in 1970 will still bring $250 today if reconditioned, or perhaps $100 if in good condition but not yet reconditioned. Wooden clarinets don't require special care and are not more fragile than plastic clarinets. So if the initial outlay is not a problem, it is a better deal for you to buy a reconditioned wooden clarinet for a beginning student, even if the student will someday play in marching band.I also urge that parents check out the pages at this site about Mouthpieces and Reeds, as these are vital topics for the success of your student.It would be a good investment to have your child's clarinet serviced every year before school starts. Do this early in the vacation time to avoid the rush in the last month before school starts.Parents: Please teach your student how to assemble their clarinet, because much damage results from doing it wrong! The header picture of every page on this site shows good hand position for assembling the most easily damaged part of the clarinet. See the page at clarinetcloset.com, which has good illustrations. (I agree with everything except using cork grease. See my advice on the Corks page.) And see this Wiki page that also includes a video: http://www.wikihow.com/Assemble-a-ClarinetHere is an Excellent Wiki on Buying your first clarinet: http://www.wikihow.com/Buy-Your-First-Clarinet
See clarinut.com for good information about different models for beginners, intermediate players, and pro's.
See more tips for parents also at the same clarinetcloset.com site.
Under the general heading of advice to parents:
Is it true that clarinet is a good instrument to start on if your student wants to play oboe, bassoon, or saxophone?
It does seem to work well to go from clarinet to other woodwinds. I certainly found that to be true. However the thing that must be considered is whether your student, while still so young, will be able to stick with the clarinet if what they really want to play is the saxophone. (I would think they should be able to switch to the instrument of their choice after enduring a two semesters or less of clarinet.) If your child wants to play the oboe or bassoon, cheerfully help them get private lessons. Musicians who play those instruments get good scholarships to college! And since clarinets are so important in the makeup of a traditional band, I would guess that good clarinetists are winning scholarships these days also.
Is it a good idea to buy vintage clarinets?
- If you are looking for a good beginning instrument for a child, a vintage instrument can be an OK choice. The problems are that your band director may distrust any unusual brands, and the keys may not be sturdy enough if your child doesn't take care in assembling and disassembling. If you are considering a French Stencil clarinet, only buy one made by the better manufacturers, especially those which have good reviews on this site.
- If you are an adult coming back to playing the clarinet, a vintage instrument may be a very good choice.
Is a clarinet rated on these pages for Intermediate to Advanced players harder to play for a beginner?
No. Not at all. Clarinets are not like some brass instruments or bassoons, where a beginner could not handle a certain bore or mouthpiece. If your beginning student has a good reed and mouthpiece, they can play any clarinet that has pads that seat well and keys that are regulated well. Above all, you don't want problems there, as the student will think their problems are their fault. And, in general, students will sound a tad better with a better instrument. Having a good horn makes some little psychological difference!
Below: 1941 Clarinet ad: (My how times have changed!)