What is the cheapest clarinet

How to Buy a Clarinet

You don't just buy a clarinet like that. For example, I spent around 5,000 hours practicing and playing on my first instrument for over 15 years - that seems like a lot of time, but it's normal. So it pays to think about the demands, the price and the financial means.

There is no one optimal offer for everyone ...

Regardless of whether you are a professional or a beginner - everyone has different goals with regard to the clarinet, will practice more or less and can spend more or less money on an instrument. This means that there is no "right" or "wrong" choice. But there are always general points to keep in mind, and in this chapter I give a few tips that can help you make the right decision.

Prices: Open to the top ...

On the one hand, you can spend almost any amount of money on a new, high-quality instrument. For professional solo instruments (for example from Wurlitzer or Buffet) with hand-forged keys and adjustments in the mechanics as a set (i.e. A and B clarinet) you can easily spend over 10,000 euros. Alto and bass clarinets are correspondingly rarer and therefore more expensive. You have something great there, but it might not sound better - because, for example, you don't practice two hours a day.

On the other hand, there are used, well-preserved instruments that are very good for beginners and with which even a professional can still play well in the orchestra, for perhaps as little as 500 - 1,000 euros. If you find a much cheaper offer, read the penultimate paragraph on this page.

At this point I once had a link to one Price list with target prices, but the development is so rapid that it does not help much. I recommend entering the relevant keywords in price search engines - such as "Yamaha 457 German 20/6" or "Yamaha 457 German 22/6" - then you get an impression. Both instruments are very similar, but have different prices, so be careful when comparing them!

Without experience, it's difficult ...

Anyone who is a beginner himself or wants to buy a first instrument for a young person and has no experience with the instrument needs help. Without it, there is practically no chance of finding out whether an instrument is worth the price. As a beginner - or later, of course - it is best to contact a reputable clarinet teacher. It's better to look for it otherwise, before you have an instrument, and the best thing to do is to borrow an instrument first. The teacher can help you there. Then you already have some experience yourself when you actually buy an instrument.

If you want to buy an instrument straight away, a clarinet teacher can help you here too. Incidentally, a clarinet teacher (like many professionals, incidentally) receives discounts from dealers, and that is often quite a bit. If you have no contact with a clarinet teacher, you just take another clarinetist you know with you. In no case do you go out alone - you see and hear a lot more in pairs (see also subjective sound experience).

You need time - take the instrument home with you - try it out in peace

Basically, the selection takes time. That is why you take the instrument (s) with you for a few days - whether you buy a new instrument from a dealer or a used one from a private person. That is normal, and the dealers have no problem with it either, especially if they can work together with the music teacher. The sound in the store is often completely different, there are often a lot of people standing around, one is excited, and the lighting conditions are often not ideal either (see below - damage). Of course, this also applies to used purchases by private individuals.

New or used?

Clarinets can be bought new or used - either through a specialist shop or from private customers. New clarinets are made in factories or workshops and then usually sold through specialist dealers. With such a sales structure, there are usually price lists with recommended prices from the manufacturers. In addition, there are sales prices that can differ significantly from the list prices (and are often significantly lower). Of course, this is all the more true when selling on the Internet.

New instrument at the dealer: insist on choosing and trying!

There are music dealers in every larger and often smaller town. Here you can at least buy accessories such as clarinet reeds - even if there is perhaps not a large selection in stock. Of course, the dealer also offers clarinets.

The dealer lives from the sale, and he usually (but not always) earns more on the expensive instrument than on the inexpensive one. Of course, a new instrument at the dealer costs more than e.g. a used one from other clarinetists, but there is usually a large selection at the dealer. New instruments can often be obtained from the manufacturer in the same version so that they can be tried out in several copies. If the dealer is serious, that works with many brands. For example, he orders three instruments to be viewed for a week. No two instruments fail the same. This is an immense advantage over buying a used one: when you have several otherwise identical instruments in front of you and can try them out in peace.

Instrument maker: a special form of dealer

In order to select and buy a clarinet, one should, whenever possible, go to a specialist shop where the instrument is also overhauled and repaired. This is usually a woodwind instrument workshop with a master. Before buying an instrument anywhere, it is wise to ask around where it is well repaired. That pays off later - at the latest when the first overhauls or repairs are due. Not that the repair is cheaper, but the willingness to do something quickly is of course higher with an instrument that the master has sold himself (and what he has earned from). Usually the first overhaul is included in the purchase price, with key seals and sometimes even with retuning.

Ideally, the instrument maker can also play a clarinet himself. This becomes important if he is to fine tune the instrument. Most instrument makers have one or two instruments that they can master themselves, and of course they're good at that - but if that's the oboe and flute, it doesn't look so good for us. Often there is also a specialist for the respective instrument in a workshop. It is then worthwhile to clarify that you are speaking to the right person; especially if you have to travel a longer distance. Saturday mornings are usually a very unfortunate time. It is always a good idea to call the company once beforehand.

Of course, a dealer makes a living from selling instruments - accessories are rather small items. With a workshop, of course, the seller also has the opportunity to earn money from maintenance and repairs. That is why the dealer has to sell something on which he earns as much as possible. Of course, he weighs that against good advice and a possible long-term customer relationship. If the retailer gives good advice, he may earn less on the first deal, but the customer will be happy to come back. Only: with instruments it is the case that it takes a long time to buy a new one. The temptation is great for the pure trader to look at his earnings rather than the interests of the customer. You can't really blame him for that either. It is all the more important to get help from experts who do not earn money from the business. In addition, most dealers give clarinet teachers considerable discounts.

Always compare with the very best!

Even if a dealer does not only have one instrument of the type they are looking for, they can be compared to the best and most expensive available (e.g. with the German system H. Wurlitzer or very good Yamaha, with Boehm e.g. Buffet or even the most expensive Yamaha ) and try it out if possible. Even a layperson will quickly notice the differences: The mechanics are usually much better, noiseless, and nothing wobbles. The response is usually good straight away and the mood is almost always perfect.

German / Oehler or Boehmsystem?

This is first of all - but not only - a question of price - German systems are simply significantly more expensive with the same quality.

Considerations on this can be found in the chapter on German versus Boehm and in the chapter on teaching.

Number of keys and rings, material

Basically: From the same variety and brand The better instruments usually have more keys and rings than the simpler ones. You can often see this in the type designation: YCL457 / D / 20/6 or YCL457 / D / 22/6: the second clarinet has two more keys, the same number of ring keys: 6, and costs significantly more. The price in 2007 was 750.00 euros for the 20s and 1,150 euros for the 22s.

Better clarinets often have balancing mechanisms and automatic levers. Some Bb instruments even go down to Eb, nice, but you practically never need that. With more keys and thus alternative grips, you can usually grasp a lot easier and better, for example playing bindings legato, which would not work without it. So-called "student models" do not have that. However, some of these flaps and jacks are not absolutely necessary. So-called resonance valves are particularly controversial. In any case, it is no longer so easy to compare the instruments between different types and brands on the basis of their keys.

As a rule, forged flaps are better than cast ones, because forged ones can be bent back and forth more often than cast, cast material is more brittle and breaks faster. Hand forged is better than drop forged.

In principle, wooden instruments are also usually better than plastic instruments. The exception is the "Green Line" from Buffet Crampon, where the body consists of ebony dust glued with synthetic resin and carbon fibers embedded in it - they have practically imitated ebony, except that it no longer has pores and can therefore no longer tear, is acoustic it's supposed to be perfect too. This is of course highly controversial among sound purists.

Investigation of problems - with used as well as with new instruments

  1. Damage to the instrument?
  2. You look at the instrument flap by flap, borehole by borehole from top to bottom, for cracks in the wood, for wobbly screws or obvious defects in the mechanics, springs that do not allow the flaps to close quickly, for upholstery that is not properly glued. Then you hold the individual parts up to the light and look at the hole (inside): Can you see any cracks? Are there any scratches? In the same way you look at the light and feel with your finger the connection points into which the pegs are inserted: Here cracks quickly appear due to the stretching.

  3. Leak test
  4. You assemble the instrument except for the mouthpiece and funnel, close all the flaps and blow in, with an assistant at the bottom holding the instrument shut. Nowhere should air escape.

  5. Mood
  6. Blow on the instrument for a few minutes until it is warm and measure it with an electronic tuner at the desired pitch. The deviations should be small, especially in the critical tones. Incidentally, the standard pitch or concert pitch "A" (A4) is standardized at 440 Hertz. Unfortunately, orchestras have gotten higher and higher over the years: in the Baroque era the A was still around 415 Hz, today many orchestras already play the A around 442 to 443 Hertz. A higher note supposedly sounds more brilliant. This higher tuning is of course not a problem for string instruments, you can tune the strings up and grab them accordingly, oboists (and oboe makers) can still get along well with it, but older clarinets (especially the low ones, such as the bass clarinet) have serious problems with it - one cannot easily change the original overall tuning on a clarinet. So if you are especially in one Orchestra plays and buys a clarinet, you should take that into account (over all Tones of all octaves and not just for the B or A). A simple tuner that can be calibrated is sufficient for testing; today you can usually calibrate it to an A from 438 to 445 Hz.

  7. speech
  8. You blow low and high notes softly - they should respond well, even the fully covered ones (like the b). A well-known mouthpiece with a good reed is used for this - otherwise, of course, there is no comparison.

    Then you play a typical étude on it, in which the usual jumps occur - you notice whether the keys are sensible.

    The whole thing is then repeated a few more times at home.

Special features of privately purchased used instruments:

If an instrument has not been played for several years (and that can be the case if you buy it privately), you have to consider whether you should not have it completely overhauled by the instrument maker. This includes oils, upholstery and cleaning the mechanics, possibly reducing play in the mechanics, there are also not inconsiderable costs to you - this can quickly cost 250 to 500 euros. Reputable specialist dealers offer a one-time including overhaul after six months to a year - even for used instruments. You have to take this into account and offset it when there is a supposedly favorable opportunity.

In any case, you should definitely get one written sales contract create, with manufacturer name and serial number.

Determine the price of a used instrument (theoretically):

This paragraph explains how to determine the price of a used clarinet. Of course, this ignores essential factors (how does the clarinet sound?), And in reality it works much less rationally; but I think this can be helpful as a guide. Clarinets lose value over time (unlike top string instruments, which can increase in value with age).

An instrument does not become bad just by getting older - when lying in the case there is no stress (temperature fluctuations, mechanical). The mechanics do not suffer; except that there may be too much oil in the mechanics. The mechanics are what are most likely to wear out with use. Cushions only get worse through use, i.e. they become brittle and then no longer seal. New upholstery feels soft on the surface. Of course, the wood can dry out if it is stored for a long time - an instrument maker would oil the instrument again.

You can tell whether an instrument has been played a lot by the condition of the bore in the upper section: on new instruments it is mirrored like piano lacquer, later the traces of the condensation that constantly collects here and the spit show up as dull areas. The cork connections of the tenons also suffer a bit from the constant assembly and disassembly. When new, they have to fit snugly (neither wobble nor jam).

So how do you - formally - determine the value of an instrument?

  1. You start from the original price.
  2. Since the instrument is no longer completely new and unused, you deduct 10% straight away.
  3. Then you subtract 2 percent for every year since manufacture until the instrument is 5 years old,
    for years thereafter, you subtract 1 percent for each additional year until the instrument has reached 50% of its value. Because after that, the instrument as such no longer significantly decreases in value due to further aging.
  4. Then you examine the mouthpiece:
    In the event of injuries on the track (the flanks), the mouthpiece must be replaced, it is worthless, deduct 20 euros.
  5. For bite dents on the top of the mouthpiece, you deduct 10 euros.
  6. Then you examine the instrument for scratches and cracks:
    For every flat scratch in the wood you deduct: 20 euros
    For each patched crack that does not reach a tone hole (i.e. only superficially): -10% of the original price
    For every repaired crack that had reached a tone hole: -20% of the original price
    For each flap that would have to be re-silvered, you deduct 2 euros
    For each flap that was broken and had to be soldered: 15 euros deduction
    For every flap and every storage that has too much play, i.e. wobbles, which causes rattling, a 10 euro deduction.
    Need new upholstery? 5 euros per upholstery.
    Does the mechanics have to be serviced and overhauled as a whole: -150 euros.
  7. If the suitcase is no longer attractive, you deduct another 50 euros.

Is that getting anywhere near the asking price?
Have you researched the internet and other instruments of similar age cost similar amounts?
Then the seller seems to offer at least more in the serious area.
Private sellers tend to have psychological prices (500 euros, 1000 euros) - if your valuation is higher and you have not found anything during the examination, as described above, the instrument sounds good and you can handle it almost straight away - then buy it! Otherwise think again, negotiate, move on ...

Buy accessories

For simple accessories such as clarinet reeds, wipers, screws, etc., shipping is of course an alternative to the store - standard products such as reeds are usually always the same anyway and can also be obtained by post. Many workshops and dealers also ship.

When I have some time again, I will set up a list of dealers and instrument makers here. But for now - if you can't ask friends for a tip - a look at the yellow pages should be enough.

Keep your eyes peeled for shipping, classifieds & eBay:

What? Can you even buy instruments on eBay?

Of course you can! There is even a huge selection, and there are a few very satisfied buyers in my circle of friends. But especially with eBay you have to be careful and differentiate: If it is a dealer, the very consumer-friendly return and exchange rules of the Distance Selling Act apply (reversal within 2 weeks without giving reasons, without it being allowed to cost the buyer anything - also no postage - unless the dealer has clearly stated otherwise in advance) - of course only in the EU, abroad it is difficult to enforce your law ...

However, if it is a private purchase, the buyer must be aware that he can acquire worthless - and then very expensive - junk. Communication with the provider is only possible to a limited extent. Conditions such as return if you do not like it or if there are deviations from the description or the photo - e.g. plastic instead of grenadilla, Boehm instead of Oehler etc. may not be compatible. Therefore, buying by mail order, classified ad or eBay is quite a risk. The risks naturally increase with foreign sellers. With countries outside the EU, especially Eastern European dealers, you should be more careful! You are certainly not more dishonest in principle, only, for example, Russia is not exactly known as a constitutional state in which a foreigner could easily enforce his interests before independent courts, and who can appear in person before a court there?

With the many Chinese sellers and also with Baidu, the "Chinese Amazon", it is only a challenge to find the address in the atlas, the customs information is notoriously too low and there is an import risk with German customs.

The price in the sales contract can also be the basis for the insurance value; if the insurance does not insist on an estimate by a professional, which of course costs money again (you should insure the instrument as soon as possible - see below).

New instrument with case on eBay or at a discounter for less than 100 euros? Attention!

In recent years, such offers have come from an Austrian retailer, for example, but also from discounters - in Germany, for example, from real. However, these instruments are usually more suitable as decoration. You may be able to play on it, but often they are not right. And instrument workshops cannot do much with these instruments either. Why?

Usually these instruments are made in China. There, musical instrument production - like almost all other productions, including the notorious toy industry - is fully organized based on a division of labor. There are hardly any factories - people work in huts and small houses, i.e. work from home. This means that, for example, a family with a drill, which they use to drill holes in chair legs again the next day, drills the instrument's tone holes. The flaps are made by the same blacksmith who might make spoons the next day. So it goes on for us. Accordingly, there is a lack of precision and of course experience. A few streets further is the hut with the electroplating baths (this is often highly toxic chemicals), here too people live, eat and sleep. The products are then transported in a trailer in a small car or by moped. The producer commissions the cheapest supplier of the service in batches and pushes the price where he can. That means catastrophic occupational health and safety conditions, the notorious careless handling of hazardous substances and, of course, child labor. And the quality of the instruments is therefore more of a coincidence.

These instruments are not particularly suitable as a beginner's instrument, because beginners absolutely need instruments that work well - you have enough to do with the actual learning and don't want to struggle with the problems of the instrument. If something doesn't work, it should be up to the student.

This is not to say that very high quality instruments cannot come from China (especially from Taiwan) - but they usually have their price, and the brands (such as Jupiter) are well known. The quality of discount brands can fluctuate extremely, sometimes even being good - e.g. there are people who are satisfied with Roy Benson instruments (that's a typical Chinese brand).

Usually a good idea - instrument insurance

A good instrument costs several thousand euros. Since the owners are usually very attached to their instrument and therefore pay close attention, there are few insurance cases, low risk and that is why the policies are affordable.

Typical instrument insurances insure against theft, loss through fire, destruction through accident (often also dropping), not infrequently against loss through leaving the suitcase (!), Theft also from the trunk of the car (at least until 10 p.m.). Destruction while traveling is often covered by luggage insurance, but then the current value is replaced.

When it comes to contracts, you have to pay close attention to what they insure and under what conditions they should apply: If you rehearse in schools in the evenings and perform in concert halls (where the instruments may be in non-lockable or poorly lockable rooms during the break), you can do you go to rehearsal weekends, where you spend the night, for example, in schools or youth hostels or the like (not included in most of the standard formulations)?

Tip: You may soon join an orchestra or a music club, where you can often get very cheap community insurance - this is often worthwhile for that reason alone, even if you are not (yet) actively involved. Just search the internet and write or call the contact addresses!

Clarinet on the plane

You should take your clarinet with you as hand luggage on the plane. You could pad the instrument case in a normal suitcase with clothes, because it is protected from rough handling during loading (luggage is very often thrown during loading!), But there is often negative pressure and very low temperatures in the luggage compartments of the aircraft during flight .