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Topic: OT: What to look for in a clarinet for a beginner?

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  1. #1

    OT: What to look for in a clarinet for a beginner?

    Im looking to buy a clarinet for me and eventually my kids. My instruments is the piano, and i feel comfortable playing recorders, and i always like to learn clarinet.
    I know, like with all instruments, price range can go from some few dollars to the sky, but i want to know what to look when buying someone: brands(i see selmer,knight, yamaha, suzuki, amati, etc, and the only i know something is yamaha, that usually is good), characteristics, in what key, things to avoid, etc. I cant spent much $$$ but i dont want to acquire something cheap that only get me frustrated because bad quality issue.
    Well, any tips, very welcome!
    Marcelo Colina

  2. #2

    Re: OT: What to look for in a clarinet for a beginner?

    Marce,

    a first orientation are the categories of the manufacturers themselves. Unlike other markets the categories "beginner", "student", "orchestra instrument" and "soloist instrument" really mean something in the world of instruments. It is not like with photo cameras where every little box is called "professional".

    Back to instruments, while it is not always true that a "soloist instrument" is necessarily useable for that purpose these categories nevertheless enable one manufacturer to put his own instruments lines into a certain row of quality. With other words, a "orchestra instrument" of one brand will be better than a "beginner instrument" of the same brand. That is what it says, not more.

    The very good thing about clarinets is that they can be manufactured as a standardized product. So the prices don't really go up to the sky, for about 3.000 EUR you already should get some of the best instruments for professionals. According to that beginner instruments are in the price range from 300 - 1.000 EUR.

    This is a very different situation to string instruments which have to be built much more individually according to the piece of wood that is used and are way more expensive therefore. Usually you only get a student string instrument for the price of a professional clarinet, saxophone or trumpet.

    The other difference is that a brand new clarinet has its highest value at the beginning of its lifetime and devalues with constant use, just as every normal object. Again the difference to string instruments which can rise in value enormously in some cases - which is a constant source of irritation and trickery.

    I don't know whether this helps you but I have met several professional clarinet players that play a Selmer. For a beginner and kids that will apply much saliva to these instruments are too precious and a Yamaha student model for 700 - 1000 EUR should do very well for several years.

    The other strategy would be to buy a beginner instrument in the range of 300 EUR and replace that with a better instrument after you see that things work out. But for knowing which brand of these really are convenient you would need the help of an accomplished clarinetist.

    You can ask your clarinet teacher if you have one. My personal opinion is that you should not expect instrument teachers to invest their time for free instrument testing. So either you pay them their normal tuition rate for testing the instrument, or you silently accept that they might get provision for talking you into a certain instrument. I don't really know whether this is common with wood instruments, but it is very common with string instruments.

    The most common key is the Bb instrument BTW.

    Ah yes, search youtube for clarinet tips. I found a lot of helpful information for cello there.

    That being said real lessons with real teachers are irreplaceable. But it helps if you nurture your own interest by watching videos and reading books about the instrument you want to learn.
    All your strings belong to me!
    www.strings-on-demand.com

  3. #3

    Re: OT: What to look for in a clarinet for a beginner?

    I don't know what you want to use it for. If its only for yourself and the kids to play, especially if they're young, try finding a C clarinet, they are much smaller than the Bflat. (nobody uses a C in real music of course but they're much easier to learn on). A Bflat needs a reasonably large hand, not a childs.

    I learnt clarinet at school, they are not easy to play, I hated it, mind you easier than oboe. A clarinet overblows at a twelth rather than an octave and the break is right is awkwardly placed and hard to play across neatly. Thats my feeling anyway.

  4. #4

    Re: OT: What to look for in a clarinet for a beginner?

    Thanks your tips! Very informative for me.
    Marcelo Colina

  5. #5
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    Re: OT: What to look for in a clarinet for a beginner?

    Marce,

    Another thing to consider: the better, top of the line, models will probably be made of wood which require a lot more care. The beginner and mid-range models will be made of a composite material which will be much more resistant to weather, moisture, etc. That's not to say they won't also need care because they will. I retired from teaching public school music 5 years ago so my knowledge is at least that old, but while I was still teaching I used a lot of Selmer clarinets, especially their beginner models. They are well constructed and stay in tune (as much as a clarinet in a beginner's hands will do.) Yamaha clarinets are also okay and I also had good success with Buffet. Also, the mouthpiece is very important. I never really liked the stock mouthpieces which came with the beginner models and had many of my students look for a custom mouthpiece. You might want to research that, as well as custom ligatures (the frame which holds the reed in place on the mouthpiece.)

    You may get more up-tp-date information from others who are more current "in the field" but, hopefully, this will give you some help.
    Jerry
    Dayton, Kentucky
    Personally, I'm waiting for caller IQ.

  6. #6

    Re: OT: What to look for in a clarinet for a beginner?

    Thanks very much your tips! im getting now a good panorama before going to buy something.
    Marcelo Colina

  7. #7

    Lightbulb Re: OT: What to look for in a clarinet for a beginner?

    Quote Originally Posted by marce View Post
    Im looking to buy a clarinet for me and eventually my kids. My instruments is the piano, and i feel comfortable playing recorders, and i always like to learn clarinet.
    I know, like with all instruments, price range can go from some few dollars to the sky, but i want to know what to look when buying someone: brands(i see selmer,knight, yamaha, suzuki, amati, etc, and the only i know something is yamaha, that usually is good), characteristics, in what key, things to avoid, etc. I cant spent much $$$ but i dont want to acquire something cheap that only get me frustrated because bad quality issue.
    Well, any tips, very welcome!
    I started on clarinet many years ago (and started a number of other instruments relatively more recently ). Clarinet was my first real instrument, and I still play it today (40+ years later). Here are my suggestions:
    • Start with the standard Boehm system Bb soprano clarinet (assuming you live in the US: if you live outside the US, I'm not sure what the preferences are for Boehm vs. other key systems). The vast majority of clarinet music (especially for beginners) assumes a Bb soprano. Resist the urge to get a C clarinet (or D or Eb) just because it will fit smaller hands better. The higher clarinets are in general harder to play, requiring more finesse with the reed and embouchure. If you are trying to get a child started, and his or her fingers can't cover the holes, they are perhaps too young to start clarinet. Recorder is a decent substitute (when taken seriously): it was probably the premiere wind instrument from the Renaisance into the Baroque periods, and there is a huge repertoire.
    • Get a teacher immediately - and make sure the teacher actually plays clarinet. If this is your first wind instrument, there are many ways to get started down the wrong path, which will cause you endless frustration later
    • Pick a beginner model (in resin or plastic) made by a mfgr known to make good clarinets: Selmer Paris, Buffet-Crampon, Yamaha, Leblanc. Wooden models will take more care, are more prone to cracking and accidents, and will not give you any improvement in timbre until you are at least a few years into learning clarinet.
    • If your local music store has decent rental instruments, consider renting one for a few months (they may well have specials over the Summer, while school is out).
    • There are actually some decent instruments made in China, but it can be very difficult for a beginner to tell if the instrument is good or not. These instruments can also have hidden problems, like having unusually brittle keys (which snap off, and cannot be easily repaired), inconsistency (one horn may play great, while the next horn from the same source plays far out of tune), and may be difficult or impractical to return. Same goes for bargains found on eBay. If your teacher (see above!) has imported some, and recommends them, no problem.
    • If you do acquire a 2nd hand instrument or rental instrument, have your teacher check it out right away: a small problem like a leaky pad can cause you much frustration. The horn will refuse to play certain notes, and you won't know why.
    • Plan to spend an hour a day, 5+ days a week practicing, for best results, for at least a couple of months. Commit yourself to at least 2 or 3 months, whether you feel discouraged or not. Learning a new wind instrument is like learning a foreign language. It takes actual practice (and listening to the results) to get your neurons connected the right way. It will pay off.


    Enjoy!

    Grant
    ==============================
    Grant Green ||| www.contrabass.com
    Sarrusophones and other seismic devices

  8. #8

    Re: OT: What to look for in a clarinet for a beginner?

    Quote Originally Posted by GDG View Post
    I started on clarinet many years ago (and started a number of other instruments relatively more recently ). Clarinet was my first real instrument, and I still play it today (40+ years later). Here are my suggestions:
    • Start with the standard Boehm system Bb soprano clarinet (assuming you live in the US: if you live outside the US, I'm not sure what the preferences are for Boehm vs. other key systems). The vast majority of clarinet music (especially for beginners) assumes a Bb soprano. Resist the urge to get a C clarinet (or D or Eb) just because it will fit smaller hands better. The higher clarinets are in general harder to play, requiring more finesse with the reed and embouchure. If you are trying to get a child started, and his or her fingers can't cover the holes, they are perhaps too young to start clarinet. Recorder is a decent substitute (when taken seriously): it was probably the premiere wind instrument from the Renaisance into the Baroque periods, and there is a huge repertoire.
    • Get a teacher immediately - and make sure the teacher actually plays clarinet. If this is your first wind instrument, there are many ways to get started down the wrong path, which will cause you endless frustration later
    • Pick a beginner model (in resin or plastic) made by a mfgr known to make good clarinets: Selmer Paris, Buffet-Crampon, Yamaha, Leblanc. Wooden models will take more care, are more prone to cracking and accidents, and will not give you any improvement in timbre until you are at least a few years into learning clarinet.
    • If your local music store has decent rental instruments, consider renting one for a few months (they may well have specials over the Summer, while school is out).
    • There are actually some decent instruments made in China, but it can be very difficult for a beginner to tell if the instrument is good or not. These instruments can also have hidden problems, like having unusually brittle keys (which snap off, and cannot be easily repaired), inconsistency (one horn may play great, while the next horn from the same source plays far out of tune), and may be difficult or impractical to return. Same goes for bargains found on eBay. If your teacher (see above!) has imported some, and recommends them, no problem.
    • If you do acquire a 2nd hand instrument or rental instrument, have your teacher check it out right away: a small problem like a leaky pad can cause you much frustration. The horn will refuse to play certain notes, and you won't know why.
    • Plan to spend an hour a day, 5+ days a week practicing, for best results, for at least a couple of months. Commit yourself to at least 2 or 3 months, whether you feel discouraged or not. Learning a new wind instrument is like learning a foreign language. It takes actual practice (and listening to the results) to get your neurons connected the right way. It will pay off.


    Enjoy!

    Grant
    Grant, thanks very much your advice! Im piano teacher, and i usually tend to learn by myself, but understand what you say about bad habits that later will frustrate the thing, so, im hearing.
    I would like that some of my kids learn clarinet, and the recorder advice is very apreciated.
    Best regards, and thanks the time to post.
    Marcelo Colina

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