The best and easiest way to choose a clarinet is to consider your skill level. Your skill level will come in handy in knowing what bore style, reed strength and cut, and the clarinet material to settle for.
Acquiring a new clarinet is a big decision and it can be daunting. There are many factors that you’ll need to take into consideration. Aside from the musician’s age and skill, an important factor to remember is the clarinet’s body and material. It is very crucial to also have a budget to work with. The following are some of the major factors to take into account;
Material of the clarinet.
Clarinets are largely made of plastic (resin) or wood.
The types of plastic used are specially made for that use. The plastic clarinet is made especially for entry-level musicians as they will be able to withstand the rough learning curve of a beginner.
The wood originally used for manufacturing clarinets is the grenadilla, also called the African Blackwood (mpingo wood). Because of the wood’s density, the wood clarinets are preferred by advanced students and professionals.
The table below highlights the major differences.
|Great for beginners||Great for advanced and professional players|
|They can withstand trauma hence durable||They are very delicate and prone to cracking.|
|Easy to care for and maintain||Require a lot of maintenance|
|They are not affected by weather||Weather conditions like temperature and humidity can affect the wood, causing it to crack|
|They are affordable||They are expensive|
|They produce a good and decent sound||They produce better sound than plastic clarinets|
When on a tight budget, choose an affordable clarinet. If you are doubtful, take someone who knows a bit about clarinets with you to offer extra insight.
In most cases, buying a used clarinet is fine but acquiring a brand new clarinet is your best bet.
There are other viable options for owning a clarinet, like taking part in a rent-to-own program.
Types of Reeds.
Reeds are very crucial in a clarinet because they’ll affect your sound. It is advisable to consider the strength and cut of the reed. The reed strength range from hard to soft, with hard reed producing fuller and thicker sounds and soft reeds producing bright and focused sounds.
The reeds come in two distinct cuts; regular and the French file. Professional players admire the quick response from the French file that beginners may not even notice.
Material used to plate the keys
The main plating materials used are mostly nickel or silver. On rare occasions, gold can be used to plate.
Nickel is long-lasting, does not tarnish easily compared to silver, and has a shiny appearance. On the other hand, silver tarnishes easily but has a warm, dazzling appearance and a pleasant feel to the touch.
Although nickel is used on beginner clarinets, professionals prefer nickel plating because it’s lighter than silver plating.
Bore design and size.
The bore is the inside dimensions of a clarinet. The larger bores are flexible in pitch but they are more difficult to play. The smaller bores are easier to play and keep in tune and are best suited for beginners. Medium size bores offer a good balance between focus and flexibility. The cylindrical bore clarinets offer a large sound with great volume and poly cylindrical bore clarinets have an amazing intonation and more ring to them.
The following are some examples of different clarinets for the different skill levels;
For students, the durability, affordability and simplicity of a clarinet are crucial. The following are good options you can choose from, for your first clarinet;
- Yamaha YCL255 Standard Bb clarinet – It is durable, and has an amazing sound quality and components.
- Jupiter JCL700Q – S – This clarinet has good quality features and gives you value for your money, making it perfect for learners.
- Jean Paul USA CL-300 clarinet – This instrument is durable, pocket-friendly and plays well with great tuning.
- Gemeinhardt 2CNI Bb clarinet – This is by far the most popular learner clarinet. The quality is phenomenal, it is durable and has good playability as well.
If you’re an intermediate, this is probably not your first clarinet. Although you’ve bought the instrument before, there’s still pressure as you’ll be spending more.
Some of the best intermediate clarinets are;
- Buffet Crampon E12 France Bb clarinet – This clarinet is long-lasting, light has an adaptable pitch range and the sound quality is exceptional.
- Jupiter JCL750N Bb clarinet – This instrument is also durable, easy to assemble and comfortable to play.
- Buffet Crampon E11 Bb clarinet – The quality, sound and endurance of this clarinet are amazing. It is also lightweight.
- Yamaha YCL450 clarinet – This instrument has great quality and tone with an exceptional key response.
If you’re shopping in this section, it means you’ve been playing for years and you’ve mastered the instrument. This is a long-term investment. The following clarinets are good choices for an advanced player;
- Yamaha YCL650 Pro clarinet – The quality, intonation and sound of this instrument are out of the ordinary.
- Buffet Crampon R13 Pro Bb clarinet – This clarinet is durable and the tone, flexibility in playing and sound are remarkable.
- Yamaha YCL-CSVR Series – The material of this instrument and the sound are of amazing quality.
- Buffet Crampon Tosca Bb clarinet – The tone, sound, quality and durability of this clarinet are unparalleled.
Choosing your first clarinet can be intimidating but you can make the process easier by keeping the mentioned factors in mind. Clarinets demand a lot of care and maintenance.
How do I care for a wood clarinet?
Always store your clarinet in its case. A humidifier is great if the weather is dry since it’ll prevent the wood from drying and cracking. Apply oil to the bore if you’ll be playing in a wet climate. Be sure to clean the clarinet and get rid of any moisture before putting it away.
Is it advisable to rent a clarinet?
While renting can seem like a great idea, saving up and purchasing your clarinet is better. Rental fees can accumulate fast in the long term and you’re liable in case of any damage. Although if you’re not committed to playing long term, renting is a good option.
Does the clarinet brand matter?
Brands like Buffet Crampon Clarinets and Yamaha have a prestigious history. If you are starting, you don’t have to buy from these prestigious brands but also beware of the cheap, low-quality brands.