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Clarinet Buying Guide

The clarinet is a popular instrument because of its great sound and versatility. Clarinets are represented in symphony orchestras and lots of popular music and ethnic music, such as Klezmer and Polka. The clarinet is an excellent choice for beginning band students because of its light weight and great sound.

Many professional players double on clarinet, sax and flute. The clarinet is a more difficult instrument than the sax, due to the extended range (3 ½ octaves) and the embouchure (how the mouthpiece is held in the mouth) requirements. If a student is interested in playing both sax and clarinet, generally it is better to start on clarinet. It is easier to learn sax after learning clarinet, or at least start on clarinet rather than the other way around.

This clarinet guide will teach you about the types and sizes of clarinets, the best clarinets for each experience level, renting or buying used clarinets and give suggestions of the best clarinets to buy.


Who is the player?
What is the player's experience?
What is the short term outlook for the player?
What is the long term outlook for the player?
Plus, is the player going to be playing outside in cold weather?? (marching band, pep band, etc.)The reason why this is important is that the more expensive wood instruments could crack in cold weather, while the less expensive resonate/resin instruments do not and are therefore recommended for players who will play in cold weather.
If an instrument is bought, should quality used instruments be considered?


The clarinet that every one is familiar with is the standard Bb clarinet. This is the most common instrument. Orchestra players from high school and up will need a slightly larger clarinet pitched in A. (the A clarinet) for certain orchestra parts. These are provided by most high schools and some colleges to their orchestral players.
Other sizes used in classical music include the Bb Bass Clarinet (larger, looks a little like a wood tenor sax), Eb Alto Clarinet (a little smaller than the Bass, larger than the standard clarinet, looks a little like a wood alto sax) and the Eb clarinet (about half the size of a standard clarinet). These are typically owned by schools and provides to players as needed, particularly through high school.


Beginner clarinets are typically made of heavy plastic (bakelite). These can have decent sound, plus the plastic instruments do not crack in cold weather, as wood clarinets can. So, even advanced players would want a Bakelite clarinet to use in cold weather. A wood clarinet should NEVER be played outside at a temperature much below 55.
For beginners, beginning clarinet models acceptable for outside play can be had for a few hundred dollars, so these are an alternative. A name brand beginner model bought used in good playing condition (no immediate repairs) could be a good alternative.
Many band directors will prefer that their better middle school and high school students play the same mouthpiece model. For clarinet, the most common selections are one of a few Vandoren models. Reed brand and strength are an individual choice based on trial and error. Most students start out on a Rico brand, 2 1/2 strength (soft/medium soft)


Used pro models in good playing condition are also frequently best buys. Used professional clarinets generally do not hold their value particularly well. The good news for the player is that great playing pro models can be found used for considerably less than a new instrument would cost.
Note: These are our suggestions and top picks. The best source of advice is a working professional clarinet player. Most competent private teachers are happy to help their students with such decisions. If there isn't a teacher relationship, some players will advise students from a particular school as a favor to band directors who are sending them students. Band directors, also, will have opinions on the best instruments to buy.
The clarinet is very popular with children because of its weight and size; it is also portable and offers vast opportunities of playing in school bands and other ensembles. The clarinet is also well-liked by many adults and once you've learned it you can cross over to other instruments like the saxophone. Here are some tips when buying your first clarinet.

What's Your Budget?

There it is again, the "b" word which must always be the first thing you should determine before purchasing anything - "budget". Prices of good quality clarinets may vary from $400 to $1,000 upwards. It is wise to plan your budget first before hitting the stores as your decision will be greatly influenced on how much you can actually spend.

          The Costs of Learning to Play an Instrument
          Basic Budget Worksheet for Personal Budgets

New, Used or Rent?

When buying a musical instrument, there are always three options to consider; new, used or rent. Of course, each of these choices has its own pros and cons. buying new is safe but costly, buying used may be less expensive but you must exercise caution. There is also the option of renting - trying it out first before you commit to buying it. Weigh your options.

          Before You Buy a Musical Instrument
          3 Tips on Buying a Used Instrument

Plastic or Wood Clarinets?

Plastic clarinets are cheaper than wood clarinets; it is also less prone to damage. Wood clarinets, on the other hand, sound more appealing but may be prone to damage especially when exposed to extreme temperatures. For children who are just starting out, a plastic clarinet would be advisable but for adults, a wood clarinet is a good choice.
Types of Clarinets

What Accessories Will you Need?

Among the other things you need to purchase when buying a clarinet are the following: cleaning supplies such as cork grease and cleaning swabs, clarinet reeds which is the tone-generator of the clarinet, method books to aid in your learning and a music stand to make your playing more comfortable. Some of these items are already included in your purchase when you buy a new clarinet

Where to Buy?

There are several places you can go to when buying a musical instrument; music stores in your area, online shops and flea markets or other bargain places. It is very important to do your research well before you buy your instrument. If possible, bring along someone who knows a lot about the item you want to purchase, in this case, a clarinet player who's been playing for a long time.

Name Brands or Not?

While there are both disadvantages and advantages of buying a name brand and an off-brand clarinet, name brand clarinets is generally a better bet. They may be slightly expensive but you are assured of the quality of the instrument.