What are the best buying tips for Vintage Clarinets? (Factors to consider + more)

A good clarinet only becomes redundant when its mechanisms become so worn out that repair cannot salvage it. Some of the things that signify a bad vintage clarinet are worn tone holes, a change in the dimensions of the barrel, and a change in resistance.

Vintage clarinets can be difficult to source, thus some of the best buying tips are getting the instrument from a reputable seller, purchasing the known brands, and joining a clarinets forum to learn of the features to look for when shopping for a vintage clarinet. We, therefore, combed the markets and have consolidated some actionable buying tips, the factors that you should consider, and more.

What are vintage clarinets?

Vintage clarinets are those old clarinets from the early twentieth century, but some could also be from the nineteenth century. And the reason why they are still in mint condition is because of good maintenance and care, even better is that the wood does not degrade with time.

A good number of Clarinetists prefer vintage clarinets because back in the day the clarinets were made with much more care, and the wood used had better properties. Besides, clarinets made of wood with better properties have are known to aid in rich sound production.

Where can I play my vintage clarinet?

Clarinets can be used as a solo instrument in swing jazz. And when played in the orchestra, the clarinet can take on the middle register of the woodwind part or even play the solo roles. And when played in music for wind instruments the clarinet takes on the leading role along with the trumpet.

Best buying tips for vintage clarinets

  • Have a budget, some really good and old clarinets can create a big hole in your bank balance and as such, you should be clear on how much you are willing to invest in the vintage clarinet.
  • Beware of imitations- if you are new to clarinets there is no possible way you could tell a fake from an original vintage clarinet. You can, therefore, find out from the seller the age of the clarinet as some of them could just be old clarinets and not necessarily vintage.

Alternatively, you could look at the features of the clarinet to determine its age, documentation also goes helps justify the high price that you should pay for a vintage clarinet.

  • Find a reputable seller- a good vintage clarinet seller should be able to tell you about vintage clarinets, the individual should not just have some basic knowledge about the instruments. Also, they should be able to provide proof that they have sold some pieces of the vintage clarinets.
  • Find a clarinet expert and let them teach you about the authenticity of a vintage clarinet. Notable is that some sellers cannot even tell the difference between an old and a vintage clarinet.
  • Join the vintage clarinet forums to learn about the features and what to expect from a vintage clarinet.
  • And once you have settled with a relevant vintage clarinet be sure to test the instrument before taking it home. And if the seller is kind enough to let you test the instrument for a few days before purchasing it, the better for you.
  • Settle for known brands- older brands have put in the years thus they understand the needs of their client base and will make their instruments to match their client’s needs. And as time goes by older brands will develop new modern clarinets but you can be sure that they will never compromise on quality or functionality. And as such you should stick only with the known brands that have years of experience in the industry.
Vintage Clarinets New Clarinets
Advantages Disadvantages Advantages Disadvantages
You won’t need to break the clarinet in Might not be aesthetically pleasing Aesthetically pleasing Come with a hefty price tag
Are fairly priced Do not come with a warranty Have better key placements The player must break in the instrument
Have already been categorized as good so you just need to pick one Used vintage clarinets are difficult to find Feature an improved design The wood used might not have the best properties
The wood used in making them might have better properties Might need to be repaired and a lot of care for good performance Come with a warranty Might have a short shelf life
Could last even longer There might not be many vintage clarinets to compare with You can test out different new clarinets before purchase Too many knockoffs in the market

How to care for your vintage clarinet

Older clarinets need a lot of care when compared to their newer counterparts for good performance. Below are some of the best care processes that you should not fail to institute.

  • Be sure to swab the clarinet after use, but avoid the inserts because they will put in moisture and which is not good for your clarinet.
  • Use bore oil on all 4 pieces of the body, and if the horn is really dry, you might have to repeat oiling a couple of times in the first week, and then you can oil your clarinet once a month. The above will prevent cracks and warping.
  • Be sure to humidify your clarinet, insert an orange rind in the bell to improve the smell of the case, and to protect it from shrinkage.
  • Do not expose your wooden vintage clarinet to temperature changes as it might crack.
  • Also don’t forget to oil the mechanism of the vintage clarinet.


Finding a vintage clarinet is not easy unless you are purchasing it from a friend who has had it as a family heirloom or from a professional who understands the difference between an old and a vintage clarinet. We however believe that with the provided tips above and the pros and cons of the new and vintage clarinets, you will be able to make a suitable choice.


What is the price of an old clarinet?

Old clarinets that have a little damage could retail for $200 and $600.

Where can I purchase the vintage clarinets?

Vintage clarinets can be sourced from pawn shops, music shops, and ecommerce stores.

How often should I service my clarinet?

Your clarinet should be serviced every 12 to 18 months.

Do clarinets become worse with age?

Some clarinets do become worse with age, while others become even better when the wood ages. It all depends on the care process instituted to the clarinet.

Charlotte Moore is a Clarinetist by profession and has over time offered lessons on how to play the clarinet among other musical instruments. And while a majority of clarinet players are well versed with the process of settling with a good clarinet among other accompanying features. There is little information about clarinets. The reason why Charlotte prepared comprehensive experts touching on the various facets of the clarinet. The consolidated information will offer more insight on everything clarinets including the best stand to use, and the best plastic clarinet that you can invest in, among other information. Charlotte Moore is a devoted mother of two and a professional clarinet player.

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