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Clarinet Advice Page

If you already play, then it's not too hard. Come into the shop and try as many makes and models as you like. But if you have no previous experience, choosing an instrument can seem like a minefield. There are so many makes and models on offer, and such a range of prices that you may need some guidance.

If you already have a teacher, it is well worth asking their advice. It isn't much fun to arrive for your first lesson to find that the teacher doesn't like the one you have bought!

How we choose.

We get shown new models and brands all the time. Our stock has been chosen using three main sources of information.

Firstly, our repairers. Regardless of what anybody else thinks of an instrument, if it doesn't meet the approval of our repairers then we don't stock it, full stop. We need to be able to look you in the eye for years to come, so if our repairers are going to criticise it when it needs attention, we can't sell it!

Secondly, our customers. We have listened to thousands of Clarinet teachers and players since 1960. We know what they like and why. Their input mainly concerns practical issues relating to playing, such as tone quality, tuning, feel and positioning of keywork.

Finally, we use our own commercial expertise. We address issues such as; is it good value for money? How long it will last? What it will be worth after x years? Is it upgradeable? Our job is to ensure that we have given you all the information necessary to help you choose the instrument that will best suit your needs

Rent or buy?

Many parents of children learning for the first time, and some adults who have never played before are understandably unsure of buying until they are more confident that they will cope with learning the instrument, and indeed enjoy the experience. Our Rental Scheme can provide the ideal introduction to the instrument for a comparatively small outlay. The main advantages of our scheme are:
It's economical. You pay monthly, and you can cancel at any point after the first 3 months - simply return the instrument to us.
You can rent, New or ex-rental instruments.

Many players are put off by the experience of playing on a poor quality second-hand instrument.
It's convenient. You don't have to worry about buying second-hand and reselling it if it doesn't work out. You simply return the instrument to the shop.
After 12 months, the instrument automatically becomes yours.
All rental instruments come with free servicing and maintenance (Full details on request).

It's worth pointing out that at least 80% of our rental customers carry on for the full 12 months, and end up owning their instruments, so you can afford to be more confident than you may think - if you're sure of the commitment, it's cheaper to buy outright, especially if you are eligible for the LEA Assisted Purchase Scheme, where you can buy the instrument without paying VAT.

How much should I spend?

For most young beginners, a Buffet B12 or Yamaha YCL250 will be the ideal instrument. We find that some young players and most adults appreciate the tone quality of better instruments quite soon after starting to play, and may therefore consider starting on a wooden instrument, such as the Buffet E11 or the Yamaha YCL450S.

As you look through our range of clarinets, we would generally say that by paying more for your first instrument, you would expect:

Better build quality. It will last longer.

Better tone quality. You will be able to keep the instrument for longer before needing to think about upgrading.

Better resale value. The best quality instruments are easier to sell, and retain a greater proportion of their value.

There are still many expensive instruments available which don't perform as well as you might expect. We have confidence in the brands we sell, and consider them safe choices that offer the best value for money.

Reeds and Mouthpieces.

Reeds & Mouthpieces play a vital role in producing a good sound on a clarinet. It is well worth while starting from day one with a good quality reed. The majority of our teachers prefer their pupils to use Vandoren reeds. Some choose Rico Royal. A better quality reed will help the player to produce a good tone, and usually last a bit longer (unless you bite them!).

Reeds are usually graded in strength from 1 to 5, in half steps. Depending on the mouthpiece fitted, most teachers will start a child on a 1.5 strength reed, and an adult on a number 2. As the player develops a better embouchure, the teacher will suggest that a player progresses to a slightly harder reed, such as 2 or 2.5. The harder reed enables the player to produce a clearer tone, and makes higher notes easier to sound. Worn reeds become soft and lose their tone quality.

Choice of mouthpiece is also critical for the clarinettist. Whilst some teachers are happy with the mouthpieces supplied on the better student instruments, many recommend that players choose a better mouthpiece from day one, or change after a short period of learning.

We find that mouthpieces by Vandoren and Selmer (Paris) are most often recommended. These mouthpieces have been machined from hard rubber, as opposed to being moulded plastic. They help the player to produce a better sound. Ask your teacher's advice before changing, or our staff can help you choose. We can supply your new clarinet with a top quality mouthpiece included, and save you money later. You can see a selection of clarinet mouthpieces for sale in our online store.

Finally, if you are visiting the shop to choose a new mouthpiece, be sure to bring the old one, and your instrument with you.