Stick with Brand Names
on these links for used brand name clarinets:
Bundy • Buffet • Vito • Jupiter
BUYING A CLARINET ON EBAY
Buying a musical instrument on EBay can be a great experience - or
not. It is important to stick with brand name instruments. Don't look
for the lowest price - cheap instruments may need so much in repairs
that the cost will offset any preceived savings.
Now wait, there are some excellent clarinets on Ebay, but you have
to read between the lines and ask the right questions.
Phrases to watch out for:
- "I believe it to be Rosewood." I`ve only seen very few
that really are made out of rosewood.
- "All the levers work". Dead giveway that the person does
- "A nice bright tone." Anyone that plays clarinet knows,
you strive for a dark rich tone.
- "It comes with X number of reeds". Old nasty reeds are
not a selling point for a clarinet player.
Other things you should consider:
1. It should have a case. Even a crappy case provices some protection.
A clarinet without a case is 20 times more likley to be damaged.
2. The seller should level with you about where it came from. The
old "found it in the attic/basement" story is most likley
false. ASK FOR A SERIAL NUMBER. Stolen horns are sometimes unloaded
3. IF they advertise the clarinet as being Overhauled, ask them who
did the work. If they can`t tell you, it was probably never done.
4. Beware the word "Vintage". While many old clarinets
play beautifully, many are also junk. Ask for a serial #.
5. Beware the phrase "Brand New, Never been played". All
clarinets have been played, even new ones are test played for adjustments.
The question you have to ask, How well was this taken care of? Clarinets
do not have odometers. A clarinet that is 1 year old and well taken
care of, is going to be better than a horn that is 2 months old and
never swabbed out.
The EBay listings below are limited to recognized, brand name instruments.
Take a look at the current offerings and read the remainder of this
article on choosing an instrument.
Good luck in you search for an affordable, quality musical instrument.
WHY PLAY THE CLARINET?
For young players, the clarinet is a
terrific starting point into making music. The size and weight of the
instrument make the clarinet well-suited for children with small hands
and, compared to many instruments, the clarinet has the advantage of
being very portable. There are many opportunities for young players
of the clarinet, primarily in school music programs, including concert
and marching bands, orchestras, jazz bands, clarinet choirs, and solo
clarinet with piano.
The clarinet is often the instrument
to play the melody in band, so children get a lot of pleasure by playing
The clarinet has an exciting and diverse
background in the history of music. As one of the most versatile instruments
in the woodwind family (which also includes flutes, oboes, bassoons,
and saxophones), the clarinet has been the instrument of choice for
many brilliant performers in many styles of music, including jazz,
classical and pop. Some of the most famous clarinetists to make history
with the instrument include Benny Goodman, Richard Stoltzman, Eddie
Daniels, Pete Fountain, and Jack Brymer.
These artists have each developed unique
styles of playing that illustrate the vast capabilities of the clarinet.
The tremendous musical range of tone and dynamics that a clarinet can
produce range from the subtle, fluid lines of Debussy, to the gritty
New Orleans style of Dixieland, to the fire-breathing, high-ranging
passages in "Sing, Sing, Sing" by Benny Goodman. The clarinet
has been featured on "Top 10" songs recorded by Billy Joel,
Supertramp, Chicago, and many others.
From a historical point of view, the
clarinet is a relative newcomer compared to other woodwind and string
instruments. First developed in the late 1600s by J.C. Denner, the
earliest clarinets had only two keys and a body of boxwood. Mozart
was the first major composer who saw the true potential of the instrument,
and penned a clarinet concerto, which even today is considered one
of the greatest concertos ever written for any instrument. After Mozart,
many of the great composers wrote works for the clarinet, including
Brahms, Beethoven, Von Weber, Copland, and many others.
It wasn't until the 1850s that the design
of the clarinet began to take on its modern configuration of 17 keys,
which helped facilitate difficult passages and make the instrument
play more easily in tune. Clarinets are better today than they have
been any time in history, as computerized design and production methods
are being used to manufacture the instruments. They are made with greater
consistency and higher precision, with tolerances to the thousandth
of an inch.
In the early 20th century, the clarinet
found its way into early jazz, swing, and Dixieland music. Most people
are very familiar with the sound of the clarinet, and can instantly
recognize the famous beginning of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue",
or the soulful "Stranger on the Shore" recorded in the early
1960's. Today, the clarinet is heard in all types of music, and has
been especially prevalent in movie music, as well as through the music
of jazz great Eddie Daniels, and the very popular classical artist
Richard Stoltzman. Pete Fountain, the most famous Dixieland clarinetist,
was even featured on the half-time show of the Super Bowl.
THE CLARINET FAMILY
There are several clarinets in the clarinet
family. They range from the tiny E-flat clarinet, which is about 14
inches long, to the giant contrabass clarinet, which is taller than
a seated adult. But the clarinet most often used in school band programs
is the B-flat clarinet. This is the most popular model, and is the
same clarinet that is seen most often in solo performances and on television.
Playing the larger clarinets is better left for older students who
can handle the larger keys and weight of the instrument.
CROSSING OVER TO OTHER INSTRUMENTS
The technique used to play the clarinet
is also very similar to the saxophone and the flute, which is why many
players are able to switch (or, as musicians say, "double" or "triple")
between these instruments. Often young players will learn on the clarinet
first, and then add or switch to the saxophone or flute to broaden
their musical experience and opportunities.
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO LEARN THE CLARINET?
Producing a good sound on the clarinet
is the first step in learning the instrument. This is not a difficult
proposition if the student starts with good, basic equipment, and of
course a competent teacher to explain the embouchure (how to shape
the mouth to hold the mouthpiece) and the workings of the instrument.
When looking at the clarinet, it may
appear a daunting task to learn because of the number of keys on the
instrument. However, learning one key at a time, at a reasonable pace,
helps to make the process of learning understandable.
A young player may be able to learn at
a fast pace with 20 to 30 minutes of practice per day. If the student
has some recognizable songs to learn and recordings to listen to, his
or her interest and ability should increase very quickly.
HOW TO BUY A CLARINET HOW TO BUY A
Before you go to your local music store
and purchase an instrument off the shelf, talk to as many people as
possible who have played, or have some understanding of the instrument.
This may include band directors, students in the local high school
band, private teachers, or professional musicians (help can often be
gotten from the local musicians' union, usually listed in the phone
directory). Their advice may be helpful, and it would even be better
if you could bring them along when you go to the music store to help
try out the instrument to make sure that it functions properly.
PLAN YOUR BUDGET
The first issue
to consider when purchasing a clarinet is what your budget will allow.
A good-quality, brand-new student clarinet may be purchased for about
$400. An intermediate instrument may cost about $700 and professional
clarinets are generally $1,000 and up. If this is more than what
you are willing to spend, there are two options. One is to buy a
used instrument, which may cost very little, depending upon the quality
or state of disrepair of the instrument. The second option is to
rent the instrument, which allows you to send back the instrument
when the contract is up, or upgrade to a better instrument if you
continue to play.
If you are going
to purchase a used clarinet, you should seriously consider buying
one from a reputable dealer. There are many potential problems that
may occur with a used instrument, and it is important to have a company
that will stand behind the purchase and make necessary repairs. A
good dealer will often refurbish used instruments, and make them
available for a reasonable price.
The second part
of the purchase, is to make certain that you have all of the necessary
accessories to get started. These include:
1. Clarinet reeds
2. Method books
3. Music stand
4. Cleaning swab
5. Cork grease
You should plan to spend $20 to $30 for these accessories, as they are
essential to getting started with the instrument.
WHERE TO BUY
There are basically
three types of places to buy your instrument: the local music shop,
a mail-order house, or a private party selling a secondhand instrument.
Each has its benefits, but a very important consideration is service.
You can take advantage
of Children's Music Workshop discount prices through
The Instrument Place.
Visit their website and order online!
A clarinet consists
of many moving parts, and occasionally needs minor repairs and adjustments,
especially with young players carrying the instrument to and from
school and other activities. If you can find a dealer near you who
has a repair person on site, they can often correct minor problems
while you wait. If you buy from a mail-order company, it is essential
to make sure you know a local repair shop who can fix the instrument,
or you may have to mail it back to the place you made the purchase
in order to have repairs done.
TYPES OF CLARINETS
There are two types
of clarinets available for students, wood and plastic. Usually the
plastic clarinets are less expensive, often by $200 or more. When
you look at a wood clarinet, you can see the grain in the wood. The
plastic clarinet is usually shiny, although there are some matte
finish plastic clarinets available.
There are distinct
advantages for each of these types of clarinets. Wood clarinets are
generally made of African Grenadilla wood, and provide a warmer,
more professional sound than plastic. Professionals exclusively use
wood clarinets, but plastic is more durable and can take more abuse
especially from young students. Since wood expands and contracts
with temperature changes, it must not be left in cold or hot temperatures
for too long, as the wood will try to contract or expand, but the
metal key-work will not. This could cause the instrument to crack,
and could render the instrument unplayable, or in need of serious
BRAND NAMES VS.
any product, buying a well-known brand generally assures you of a
good quality product, with a company that stands behind it. These
instruments may cost more, but there often include better warranties
and, if needed, parts will be more easily obtained. This does not
mean that you cannot find an off-brand that is of equal quality,
but you need to have someone who has a thorough understanding of
the instrument to tell you if they are of the comparable quality
to the better-known brand.
WHAT TO LOOK
When you first open
the clarinet case, you will notice five parts: the bell, the lower
joint, the upper joint, the barrel, and the mouthpiece. Only the
upper and lower joints have keys, whereas the bell, barrel and mouthpiece
do not. If the instrument is brand-new, ask the dealer to put it
together, and allow you to inspect it. Unless you have a person who
can play the clarinet with you to play-test the instrument, look
at the parts carefully and see if anything is bent or loose. Inspect
the pads to make sure there is one in each key-cup. Then check to
see that the end rings between the top and bottom joints, and on
the bell and barrel joints are not loose.
If you are bringing
another student clarinet player with you, be sure they bring their
own reed and mouthpiece setup, and have them try to play the instrument.
Have them play from the lowest notes to the highest, and ask them
if there is any undue resistance. If the instrument has air-leaks
from poorly seated or loose pads, the instrument will squeak when
they reach a certain note (often younger students may squeak for
other reasons, which is why it is better to have an older student
come with you.)
A reasonable warranty
is important as in purchasing any product, and it is especially crucial
with the clarinet since the instrument has many moving parts. Make
sure that the dealer has service available for the instrument they
sell, as a clarinet will need occasional adjustment and minor repairs
(like replacing pads, and straightening bent keys.)
THE REED AND
Among the most important
parts of the clarinet are the reed, mouthpiece and ligature setup.
These are what actually produce the sound of the instrument, so they
must be of good quality in order to make the instrument easily playable
for the young student.
The reed is a small
piece of shaved cane that is the actual tone-generator for the instrument.
Reeds are graded in strengths, usually from 1 to 5, and generally
the higher the number, the stronger the reed. Most students begin
on softer reeds, until the muscles in their cheeks are used to playing
the instrument, at which time they can advance to harder reeds (harder
reeds produce better tone quality, and greater access to the high
registers of the instrument.)
The mouthpiece is
what the reed is attached to by the ligature. It is placed in the
player's mouth between the top teeth, and with the bottom lip folded
over the bottom teeth. The reed is held in position by a ligature,
which is usually a metal or plastic band with one or two screws to
hold the reed tight against the mouthpiece.
Often, the mouthpiece
that is supplied with a student instrument is of very basic quality.
An upgraded mouthpiece is an excellent investment, as it will help
the student play more easily. It is important to choose a mouthpiece
that is suitable for young players, which your music dealer can recommend.
The clarinet case
is also very important. The clarinet is a delicate instrument, and
can easily be damaged, so look for a sturdy case with latches that
will not come open. Most cases come with the purchase of a new instrument,
but when buying a used clarinet, it may be necessary to replace an
older case to protect your investment.
The clarinet can
be a fun instrument to play, and gives a student an opportunity to
perform with many types of musical ensembles. To keep music making
fun, make sure that the instrument is in proper adjustment, and that
you have all of the proper equipment as indicated earlier in this
article. Listen to music that features the clarinet, and try to learn
songs that you would like to play. There is a lot of satisfaction
gained from performing with a school band, and this is a great place
to start. Enjoy your learning experience.
author of "How to Buy a Clarinet," is a clarinetist and
a graduate of the Indiana University School of Music. Contributing
to the preparation of this article were Larry Linkin, clarinetist
and president/ CEO of the National Association of Music Merchants
(NAMM), and Bernard Portnoy, former clarinetist of the Philadelphia
Symphony Orchestra and professor of clarinet at Indiana University.
permission of School Band and Orchestra magazine
them at www.sbomagazine.com
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