Purchasing a clarinet can be an both an exciting and overwhelming experience. Starting your search for the perfect clarinet with some background knowledge and an idea of what you are looking for will make the process much easier.
Before you Buy
Don’t go out and buy a brand new horn just because you don’t like the way it sounds or you want to change your tone quality a bit. It is more important to invest in a quality mouthpiece, ligature, and reed set up before buying a horn. Usually just changing one of these factors will help your tone, intonation, and articulation tremendously.
Things to Keep in Mind When You’re Ready to Purchase a Horn
Try it before you buy it, especially when it comes to purchasing an intermediate or professional model.
You want to purchase a quality clarinet that is playing condition. Sometimes you’ll get a great deal on a used clarinet but will spend hundreds of dollars at the music shop making it playable.
Check for the following when buying a horn:
Pads are in good shape and all seal
The keys aligned well (feel low and good in your hand)
The instrument isn’t too resistant or free blowing (although this can be determined by your mouthpiece too)
Wood clarinets should have no cracks in them
Check the bridge key and the register key to make sure they aren’t bent and open at the right distance
If you buy a clarinet in person, be sure to play-test the horn to make sure it works and has the right sound, key action, and feel that you want.
If something looks to good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be persuaded to buy that really cheap brand new horn. It probably doesn’t work very well.
You pay for what you get. If you want something that is better condition and will last longer, you will usually pay more.
If you want to buy something online, check with your teacher before purchasing.
Only purchase a clarinet from a reputable music store (locally or online) and make sure it is recommended by your teacher. If you stick to these brands you’ll usually be in good shape no matter what level horn you purchase:
Always stick to a reputable brand. They are trusted for a reason, and most repair shops carry the parts to fix them.
Compare the shop prices to online prices. Sometimes you can get a much better deal (several hundred dollars lower) when you buy online.
Quality Horns for Beginners
These are some trusted instruments that work well for beginners and through marching band. Most are made of plastic so they are a bit more durable than a wooden horn.
Selmer/Conn Prelude CL711
Buffet B-12 (ABS Resin) - will last through high school too
If you plan on continuing on clarinet it might not be worth it to buy an intermediate horn after your beginning horn. You can save hundreds or even thousands if you jump straight to a professional model clarinet. The best time to buy an intermediate horn is as a beginner or right after renting it as a beginner.
Yamaha YCL 450
Yamaha YCL 650 (introductory professional horn)
These instruments are made of grenadilla wood and require more care. If you’re not ready for the commitment of taking care of a wooden instrument don’t buy one. Only purchase a professional horn if you know you will be pursuing music seriously, especially in college. If you’re ready for a professional model talk to your private teacher or contact the nearest university teacher to see what they recommend for you.
You’ll also want to be sure to play-test several horns before purchasing. Each horn, even of the same model, are slightly different at the professional level. They also come with different types of plating on the keys (nickel, silver, etc) so you’ll want to talk to your teacher about choosing what is right for you.
Buffet R-13 (most common)
Yamaha YCL-CX Custom