Clarinet Buying Guide

Clarinet Buying Guide: How to Choose the Right One for You

When it comes to buying a clarinet, there are several factors to consider to ensure that you get the right instrument for your needs. A clarinet is a woodwind instrument that is popular in classical music, jazz, and other genres.

There are several types of clarinets, including the Bb clarinet, the A clarinet, the bass clarinet, and the Eb clarinet.

Each type of clarinet has its own unique sound and is suited for different styles of music.

A clarinet buying guide can help you navigate the process of choosing the right instrument.

Some of the factors to consider when buying a clarinet include the level of the player (beginner, intermediate, or professional), the type of music they will be playing, and their budget.

The guide should also cover the different materials used to make clarinets, such as plastic and wood, and the pros and cons of each.

Additionally, it should provide information on the different brands and models of clarinets available, as well as their features and specifications.

Different Types Of Clarinets

B♭ Clarinet (Soprano Clarinet): The most common type of clarinet, the B♭ clarinet, is known for its bright and versatile sound. It is used in a wide range of musical genres, from classical to jazz and pop.

A Clarinet (Soprano Clarinet): Similar to the B♭ clarinet, the A clarinet is slightly longer, producing a slightly darker and mellower sound. It is often used in orchestral settings to blend well with other instruments.

E♭ Clarinet (Soprano Clarinet): The E♭ clarinet is smaller than the B♭ clarinet and has a higher pitch. It is commonly used in marching bands, as its sound cuts through the outdoor environment effectively.

Bass Clarinet: The bass clarinet is larger than the B♭ clarinet and plays an octave lower. It has a rich, deep, and sonorous tone, often adding a distinctive character to orchestral and band compositions.

Contra-Alto Clarinet: Even larger than the bass clarinet, the contra-alto clarinet is a rare instrument with a remarkably low pitch. Its deep and powerful sound is often featured in symphonic and wind ensemble music.

Contrabass Clarinet: The contrabass clarinet is the largest and lowest-pitched member of the clarinet family. It produces an extremely deep and resonant tone, sometimes described as the “haunting” voice of the orchestra.

Piccolo Clarinet: The piccolo clarinet, also known as the octave clarinet or sopranino clarinet, is smaller than the B♭ clarinet and plays one octave higher. It has a bright and piercing sound and is occasionally used in marching bands and chamber music.

Basset Clarinet: The basset clarinet has additional keywork and an extended range, allowing it to play lower notes than the standard B♭ clarinet. It is often used in classical music, particularly in compositions by Mozart and other classical composers.

Clarinet d’Amour: The clarinet d’Amour is an uncommon member of the clarinet family, featuring a curved shape and a lower pitch than the B♭ clarinet. It has a warm and lyrical sound, and it is occasionally used in orchestral and chamber music.

Materials Clarinets Are Made Of

Clarinets can be made from various materials, and the choice of material can affect the instrument’s sound, tone, and overall performance. Here are the common materials used in clarinet construction:

  1. Grenadilla Wood: Grenadilla, also known as African blackwood or dalbergia melanoxylon, is the most traditional and preferred wood choice for professional clarinets. It is dense, durable, and known for producing a warm and rich tone.
  2. Other Woods: Apart from grenadilla, other woods such as cocobolo, rosewood, and various exotic hardwoods have been used to make clarinets. These woods can offer distinct tonal characteristics and visual aesthetics.
  3. ABS Plastic: ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) plastic is a common material for student and entry-level clarinets. It is lightweight, durable, and resistant to moisture, making it suitable for beginners or outdoor performances.
  4. Resin Composite: Some clarinets feature a composite material that combines wood particles or fibers with synthetic resins. These composites offer a balance between the tonal qualities of wood and the stability of synthetic materials.
  5. Ebonite: Ebonite, also known as hard rubber, is another material used in clarinet manufacturing. It can closely resemble the tonal characteristics of wood while being less susceptible to cracking and changes in humidity.
  6. Metal: Though less common, clarinets made from metal, such as brass or silver-plated brass, exist. Metal clarinets often have a unique sound and are sometimes preferred for specific genres like jazz or experimental music.

It’s worth noting that professional-level clarinets are typically made from grenadilla wood or other high-quality woods, while student models often employ ABS plastic or resin composite materials. The choice of material depends on factors like the player’s skill level, musical genre, personal preference, and budget.

Buying Guide

When purchasing a clarinet, there are several factors to consider.

The buyer should think about their skill level, budget, and the type of music they will be playing.

There are three main categories of clarinets: beginner, intermediate, and professional.

Beginner Clarinets

Beginner clarinets are typically made of plastic and are designed for students who are just starting to learn the instrument.

These clarinets are affordable and easy to play. They usually come with a mouthpiece, ligature, and case.

When choosing a beginner clarinet, the buyer should look for one that is durable and has good intonation.

Here are three highly regarded beginner clarinets that are frequently recommended for beginners:

  1. Yamaha YCL-255: The Yamaha YCL-255 is a popular choice among beginners due to its consistent quality and reliable performance. It is made from durable ABS resin, which makes it resistant to temperature changes and humidity. The YCL-255 features ergonomic key placement and produces a warm and even tone suitable for students.
  2. Buffet Crampon Prodige: The Buffet Crampon Prodige is another excellent beginner clarinet known for its high-quality construction and sound. It is crafted from ABS resin with a matte finish, providing durability and resistance to wear. The Prodige offers easy playability, precise intonation, and a balanced and rich tone.
  3. Jean Paul USA CL-300: The Jean Paul USA CL-300 is a budget-friendly option that doesn’t compromise on quality. It is designed with beginner players in mind and is constructed from durable ebonite material. The CL-300 features a Boehm system, responsive keys, and produces a warm and resonant tone suitable for beginners.

These clarinets are widely recognized for their consistent performance, ease of playability, and affordability, making them ideal choices for beginners who are starting their clarinet journey.

It is always recommended to try out different models and consult with a music professional or teacher to find the best clarinet that suits your specific needs and preferences.

Intermediate Clarinets

Intermediate clarinets are made of wood or a composite material and are designed for students who have some experience playing the instrument.

These clarinets have a better sound quality than beginner clarinets and are more expensive.

When choosing an intermediate clarinet, the buyer should look for one that has good intonation, a responsive key mechanism, and a good tone quality.

Here are three highly regarded intermediate clarinets that are known for their quality and suitability for advancing players:

  1. Yamaha YCL-450: The Yamaha YCL-450 is a popular choice for intermediate clarinet players. It is crafted from select grenadilla wood, offering a warm and resonant tone. The YCL-450 features an adjustable thumb rest, silver-plated keys, and precise intonation. It is known for its responsive and versatile playability, making it a reliable choice for advancing students.
  2. Buffet Crampon E12F: The Buffet Crampon E12F is an intermediate-level clarinet that provides a step-up in quality and performance. It is made from unstained African blackwood, delivering a rich and focused sound. The E12F features a silver-plated key mechanism, ergonomic design, and precise intonation. It is praised for its excellent projection and professional-like feel.
  3. Selmer CL211: The Selmer CL211 is a reputable intermediate clarinet that offers a balanced blend of quality and affordability. It is constructed from grenadilla wood and features a cylindrical bore design, providing a focused and warm tone. The CL211 has ergonomic keywork, silver-plated keys, and a smooth and even scale. It is well-regarded for its playability and response, making it a solid choice for intermediate players.

Professional Clarinets

Professional clarinets are made of high-quality wood and are designed for advanced players.

These clarinets have a rich, complex sound and are very expensive.

When choosing a professional clarinet, the buyer should look for one that has excellent intonation, a responsive key mechanism, and a rich, full tone quality.

Here are three renowned professional clarinets that are highly regarded among advanced and professional players:

  1. Buffet Crampon R13: The Buffet Crampon R13 is considered a standard and iconic professional clarinet used by many clarinetists worldwide. It is meticulously handcrafted from select grenadilla wood, featuring a high level of precision and attention to detail. The R13 is known for its exceptional projection, rich and warm tone, and excellent intonation. It offers a versatile and expressive range, making it a top choice for professional musicians across various genres.
  2. Selmer Paris Series 10: The Selmer Paris Series 10 is a professional clarinet revered for its craftsmanship and performance. It is constructed from premium grenadilla wood, hand-selected for its quality. The Series 10 boasts precise keywork, a refined bore design, and exceptional attention to tonal detail. It offers a warm and velvety sound with a wide dynamic range, making it a preferred choice for many professional clarinetists.
  3. Yamaha Custom SEV/SEVR: The Yamaha Custom SEV (SEVR for the European market) is a high-end professional clarinet known for its exceptional craftsmanship and playability. It is crafted from carefully aged grenadilla wood and features precise keywork and advanced bore design. The Custom SEV/SEVR offers a balanced and resonant tone, excellent response, and precise intonation. It is highly regarded for its consistency and versatility, appealing to a wide range of professional players.

Brand Comparison

When choosing a clarinet, the buyer should consider the brand.

Some of the most popular clarinet brands include Buffet Crampon, Selmer, and Yamaha. Each brand has its own unique sound and feel, you should try out different brands to find the one that suits you best.

Here’s a comparison chart highlighting key features and characteristics of the Buffet Crampon, Selmer, and Yamaha clarinet brands:

Clarinet BrandBuffet CramponSelmer ParisYamaha
ReputationRenowned for professional quality and craftsmanship.Highly respected in the professional clarinet world.Well-regarded for a wide range of instruments, including clarinets.
MaterialPremium grenadilla woodPremium grenadilla woodChoice of grenadilla wood or ABS resin for student to professional models.
ToneRich, warm, and versatile toneWarm, velvety, and expressiveBalanced and resonant tone, versatile across genres.
KeyworkPrecision and ergonomic designPrecision and refined keyworkWell-designed, ergonomic, and responsive keywork.
Professional ModelsR13, Tradition, Tosca, etc.Series 10, Recital, PrivilegeCustom SEV/SEVR, CX, CSVR, etc.
Intermediate ModelsE12F, E13, etc.CL211, CT, etc.YCL-450, YCL-650, etc.
Student ModelsProdige, E11, etc.CL301, CL401, etc.YCL-255, YCL-450N, etc.
Range of ModelsWide range available for all skill levels.Extensive options for professional and intermediate players.Comprehensive selection catering to all levels of players.
PerformanceExceptional projection and tonal quality.Superior sound projection and response.Consistent and reliable performance across models.
Price RangeHigher price range for professional models.Higher price range for professional models.Offers a range of price options, including more affordable student models.

Please note that this chart provides a general overview, and specific models from each brand may have additional features and nuances.

It is always recommended to try out different clarinets, consult with professionals, and consider individual preferences when making a purchasing decision.

In conclusion, when purchasing a clarinet, you should consider your skill level, budget, and the type of music that you will be playing.

You should choose a clarinet that has good intonation, a responsive key mechanism, and a good tone quality.

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