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A little bit of information/direction - Novice instruments

Hi, As you can tell by the username, I don't blow a horn, which is why I'm here.
I'm sure there are numerous threads on the topic, and if so, I apologise, but please, indulge me as I'm completely out of my depth.

My daughter has picked up clarinet at school and given her spectacular failure to love, cherish and practice any stringed instrument :(, she has shocked and surprised me by not only practicing diligently, but actually becoming proficient in basic melodies and showing good timing and intonation. At the end of the year, she will no longer be able to use a school instrument and I shall have to buy her one.

Out of financial necessity, this will have to be a second hand instrument. I know nothing about clarinets. I believe the unit she's currently playing is a standard Yamaha Bb student model. That said, after 20+ years of guitar, I've been around the block enough times to know that there's plenty of reasonable quality instruments bought new for a beginner who hasn't had the self discipline to learn to play and haven't been taken out of their case for a few years (actually, I have a banjo like that).

So what I'm looking for is:

Good brands and brands to steer clear of.
Traps to watch out for with a second hand instrument.
Any specific things I should check.
Any recommendations for quality novice instruments?

Again, my apologies if this is a common question and I'm more than happy to follow a link to the appropriate thread, but you know, noobies keep forums alive :)
Some basics to consider. Clarinets tend to come in student, intermediate and professional models. Most student models (and some intermediates) are made of either hard rubber or a plastic resin. Pro horns and upper intermediates are made of wood, usually grenadine or some other exotic hardwood. Pros will say (rightfully so) that wood horns have a better sound than the rubber / plastic horns. The disadvantage to wood is that it can crack. Cracking is usually caused by exposure to temperature or humidity extremes, but can also be due to an inherent flaw in the wood. The student horns (at least the good ones) are also constructed in a slightly more sturdy manner to withstand careless use by young players. Intermediate horns are usually not a great value. For the price of a new intermediate horn, you can usually buy a used pro model. The intermediate horns typically don't hold their value as well either.

Having said all that let's talk brands. Yamaha student clarinets are the "go to" brand for most school programs in the US. Some other brands you will encounter are Buffet, Selmer and Bundy. Selmer and Buffet also make some of the finest pro horns, as does Yamaha. There are also a number of other brands (typically made in Taiwan of China) such as Jupiter and a host of private labels made specifically for a retailer. You need to be careful about these. While the price may be right, they are often of poor construction and difficult to repair. Please don't buy a clarinet at Costco or Sam's Club. These are usually made in India, and are absolutely awful. Stick with Yamaha, Buffet or Selmer if you can afford it.

New vs. used. If you buy a used horn on eBay or Craigslist, expect to spend some to a lot of money on repairs / setup. If you buy from a reputable dealer, either new or used, the horn "should" be in good playing condition, although damage in shipping can occur. Ideally, you would buy from a local shop where your daughter (and her teacher) can play test the horn and take it home upon purchase. You may pay a little more initially at a local shop, but you won't be forced to take it in for repairs in order to make it playable.

So, in summary, if you think she is serious and will be playing the horn at least through high school, buy a used pro quality horn from a reputable local shop that stands behind their work. If you aren't sure, go for something like the Yamaha YCL-2xx series, either used or new. I say 2xx, because they have had a number of models over the years. The most common for a while was the 221, but I believe the current model is a 255.

Hopefully, [MENTION=146]Steve[/MENTION], our clarinet content expert will chime in with his $.02, and correct any flaws in my reasoning.
I haven't checked tonehole diameters of modern instruments but there are also other design characteristics for student vs intermediate vs pro.

Student instruments tend to have smaller toneholes. This allows the student player, who stereotypically have smaller fingers to be able to cover the toneholes.

For example, one of the largest tonehole clarinets made was the Selmer Centered Tone (B&H 1010s are big too). I can actually stick my 3rd finger INTO the RH 3rd tonehole while playing!! I certainly don't recommend one of those for a young student as I had to learn how to play it properly as my 3rd finger actually had covering issues.

Students may actually squeak a lot on an instrument that is not designed for smaller fingers (assuming all other technique are done properly and the instrument is in good playing condition). I helped a student once on an Artley. She was squeaking a lot. Her finger when pressed down was actually smaller than the 3rd RH tonehole, thus she was unable to close it properly. The instrument played fine for me though, just not for her of course the pad of my finger was larger too. Some epoxy to lessen the diameter of the tonehole corrected the matter which was cheaper than a new instrument.

So normally student instruments have a distinction of smaller toneholes.

Intermediates may increase the size of those toneholes but may not provide pro designed toneholes which may not be cylindrical. Note: various manufacturers design their instruments differently, so not each level instrument is the same across various brands. Intermediate keywork also may be designed to be a bit more flexible and adjustable versus student keywork. And as mentioned a student instrument may be a bit more sturdy to drops, sit-ons, etc.

If you are looking for a student instrument I would say Yamaha. I also like the Buffet B12s though many may not.
Conn-Selmer USA makes student instruments too. They all make intermediate and pro.

One of the things to understand though buying used (and new) is the PROPER SETUP of the instrument.
It's like guitars. What's the difference between a $199 guitar out of the box and a $3,000 guitar set up at a pro shop ?
They both look the same right ?
Or even reverse. A $3,000 guitar out of the box versus a $199 set up at a guitar store ? The $199 may play a lot better with proper string heights/action, intonation, etc. than the $3k guitar.

And per the student aspect. you may be aware of different size string instruments such as 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 size violins, and even various sized guitars depending upon the student age.

Many times people will skimp and buy something on eBay just for it not to really work correctly, versus buying a used instrument from a known shop. Then don't know why the player may have issues playing. I always recommend buying an instrument from a shop or have some return policy, and if needed have the instrument checked by a shop.

fyi, guitar players never want to take a banjo out of it's case, nor even admit they have one.
The Beginner's Corner is a good place to go.

I can almost always recommend Yamaha. They're quality horns and there have been a bazillion sold, so you can find a really nice used one really cheap, even former intermediate or pro models. Also, some schools require you to buy Yamaha-branded horns, so you might want to ask before you buy.

Quoted for truth, from saxhound: Ideally, you would buy from a local shop where your daughter (and her teacher) can play test the horn and take it home upon purchase. You may pay a little more initially at a local shop, but you won't be forced to take it in for repairs in order to make it playable.

Cracked = No
Pinned = No

Have the teacher look at some used horns and pick one. Get a decent mouthpiece, too. I can't emphasize that enough.
Yo, [MENTION=139]Gandalfe[/MENTION]. How is the B18 you've listed different from these that Quinn is selling for $299? $200 premium is a lot for a mouthpiece, especially an intermediate mouthpiece.


If you need/want a new student model clarinet, I think that the one Gandalfe mentions is a fairly good buy, though. I don't have experience with the Gigliotti mouthpieces included with those horns, but the B12/18 is a pretty decent student horn.

To one up:
Selmer Series 9* pro clarinet w/an OK mouthpiece. Allegedly refurbished. $499.
Evette-Schaeffer Master Model w/original mouthpiece. $450. This is a "step-down" from pro and Steve can comment a bit on them. Good horns.

Selmer Signet Soloist w/Vandoren B45 mouthpiece. $350. Former top-of-the-line Selmer USA horn.
Yamaha YCL-34 w/Vandoren B45 mouthpiece. New pads. $399. I owned one. Great horn. The 450 and 451 are better, but I couldn't find any under $500 that didn't need a lot of work.

I tried to find ads from folks with lots of feedback. These are also buy-it-now prices.
I have an E&S Master Model as a backup to my R-13. It's a fine horn. My folks bought it for me in about 1967 as a step up from my really bad Martin Freres hand me down from my brother. At the time the shop owner said that they were really Buffet Crampons (R-13), that didn't pass muster during final QC review, mostly due to cosmetic defects. Possibly an urban myth, but I have read this elsewhere on the interwebz.

IIRC, it was about $350 back then, while the R-13 was around $425. $75 was a big difference in price in 1967.
Inflation calculator.

$350 in 1967 is $2,517.44 now.
$425 in 1967 is $3,056.90 now.
$75 in 1967 is $539.45 now.

A brand spankin' new 2016 R13 is currently between $3400 and $3800, depending on if you get nickel keywork or silver plated.

Steve said:
R113s were also known as the Academy model which were supposedly identical to R13 with some minor default such as body or key scratched.

Apparently the Buffets from 38,000 through 41,000 were designed with a lower joint a bit too large. This created a problem with clarinetists playing the instrument in tune and Buffet was losing business. Buffet brought in Hans Moenig who some how corrected the faults and these instruments were relabeled as an Academy model and sold as a student model.

But there are some Academy models which resemble the R-13. The serial numbers above are Pre-R13. They exist in both eras, but many Evette, Evette Master Models, Evette-Schaeffer and Evette-Schaffer Master Models are Malerne stencils. Any with a preceding A, B, C, D or E are Malernes. any K series are Buffet made. There are few that are just a number, within the R13 range that are R13 defects, but only a few - they must have totally identical keywork, totally identical body cutouts .. ie, totally identical !!
From ClarinetPerfection.com.

I could do a point-by-point comparison of the Master on eBay and R13s on Steve's 'site, but I'm really not the most knowledgable on clarinet. All the models I listed I knew were pretty decent buys at those prices.

One of the unfortunate things about eBay and the forum format is that a person could post, like OP, that he needs a clarinet for his daughter, but by the time we all research and post good eBay ads, the ads might no longer be up.
My E&S is K223xx. My R-13 (originally my brother's) is 790xx, bought in 1964 or 65 for $350. Thanks, Mom & Dad for buying us good horns!

I'll have to put them side by side and look for differences.
My E&S is K223xx. My R-13 (originally my brother's) is 790xx, bought in 1964 or 65 for $350. Thanks, Mom & Dad for buying us good horns!

I'll have to put them side by side and look for differences.

I have a K series E&S sitting on the shelf.
I can't recall much about it and whether I did a tonehole analysis on it versus an R13.

But after I did measurements of about everything with Academy models and such
I've found major differences.

Not major to non-pro players but quite significant differences when it comes to the
reasons R13's are designed they way they are with hourglass shaped toneholes and polycylindrical bores.
With the evolution to the polycylindrical bore. The model just before was a tapered bore,
1950s and earlier was just cyclindrical I believe.

It takes significant time to measure up the bore and toneholes of a clarinet
all of which no one pays you for. So retail shops would never try this on a
large scale. I've built up a large spreadsheet of data on this stuff but there's
always missing brands, etc. But it does get quite informative.

At one time I nearly bought a rifle bore gauge analyzer to measure the bore measurements from top to bottom.
But those are quite expensive for absolutely no return what so ever.

But I have the measurements I need for a future endeavor of creating wood recorders and possibly
some clarinet pieces (though lack keywork).

At one time when I first tried some LeBlanc Concerto clarinets I loved the way it projected more. After I measured it up I understood exactly why the playing characteristics were and why it was a good cross between an R13 and a RC/CT. there's a lot you can learn from measuring/blueprinting stuff. Blueprinting mouthpieces is a very detailed thing too. I got into that from a friend who is now a mpc guru and maker who sent me blueprints of a clarinet mpc years ago. So informative of how much detail is put into the design.
I'll put in several good Clarinets I've noticed on ebay below, say, $700, no affiliation with any sellers, along with my thoughts on them, and keep in mind probably the majority of them need repadding.:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/371649442386 Another Selmer Series 9*, $499 BIN, I believe that mouthpiece is a Buffet C Crown, though I can't see the facing on it.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/172268613516 Leblanc LL, $450 starting/current bid, no BIN, original mouthpiece.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/331905396039 20sish Pre-R13 Buffet, bidding at $30 right now, Quinn doesn't mention a case so I'll assume it doesn't have one with it.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/391501296291 Selmer Series 9, $399 starting/current bid, upper joint was replaced at some point in the past, as there's a star above the serial, no idea what that mouthpiece is.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Henri-Selmer-Paris-Series-9-Professional-Clarinet-A4537/391504873006 another Selmer Series 9, bidding at $83 right now, comes with a Selmer HS*
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Evette-Schaeffer-Buffet-Crampon-Clarinet-With-Case-/201620935280 another Buffet E&S master model, with original mouthpiece, starting/current price is $249.
One of the problems with non-Buy-It-Now (BIN) auctions is that the horns listed can easily surpass any limit you want to put on them and can end up costing way more than they're actually worth. In my post, above, I mentioned horns under $499 that are going to stay under $499 -- unless, of course, the seller re-lists the horn. I also chose $499 for two reasons: a) to pick better horns than a B12 that are under $499 and 2) so I could beat the price Gandalfe mentioned :D.

I've done no research on clarinet prices at all, except when I've seen the odd post here that asks about a specific make/model. I don't know what the price range is for a Selmer Series 9 or 9*. They may consistently sell for under $499. This is in contrast to the thread I started on eBay (and other) dealers with cheap Yamaha YAS-23s: I know about what price they should be and I know what a friend of mine paid for his tenor.
I'll go through all of the series 9s that sold on ebay recently where I can tell the ending price, from sellers with at least a few feedback:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Selmer-Paris-Series-9-Clarinet-/222176849088 U Series Bb Series 9*, $355+Shipping and probably needs an overhaul
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Selmer-Paris-Series-9-Bb-Clarinet-/222177798626 T Series Bb Series 9, $357+Shipping and needs an overhaul.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/ORIGINAL-SELMER-SERIES-9-CLARINET-SUPERB-CONDITION-/252439700155 T Series Series 9 Bb with Articulated G# and 7th Ring, $522+Shipping
http://www.ebay.com/itm/SELMER-SERI...-GREAT-WOOD-VINTAGE-NICE-w-CASE-/172256694144 1963 Series 9 Bb, $398+Shipping and would probably need an overhaul.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nice-60-s-Selmer-Series-9-Clarinet-Outfit-/272264167704 S Series Series 9 Bb, $520+Shipping
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-1960s-Selmer-Series-9-Wooden-Soprano-Clarinet-Woodwind-/122008247157 S Series Series 9* Bb, $175+Shipping, but doesn't have the original barrel.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Selmer-Series-9-Wood-Clarinet-in-Hard-Case-/182151116005 No idea what serial, Series 9 Bb, $365+Shipping and probably needs overhaul
http://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-SEL...WOODEN-CLARINET-No-U3325-w-CASE-/272258329738 U Series Series 9* Bb, full Boehm sans low Eb, $370+shipping and probably needs an overhaul.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/SELMER-SERIES-9-PROFESSIONAL-WOOD-Bb-CLARINET-/381637552623 S Series Series 9 Bb, $575+shipping and probably needs an overhaul.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Selmer-Seri...ase-ready-to-ship-out-FAST-LOOK-/222130949423 T Series Series 9* Bb, $450+shipping
http://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-SEL...L-WOOD-Bb-CLARINET-serial-V2631-/272244153503 V Series Series 9 Bb, $538+shipping
and then after I gathered all of those I got off on a tangent and will probably get more data later.
Adding in my own Series 9, which I paid $535 for, I get an average price of 430, which getting more data is probably going to raise the price a bit.
I did some cursory looking into past Series 9 and 9* horns and they do seem to be a pretty good buy. I think I saw a high of $1200 for completely overhauled, almost factory new and a low of $130. Yes, $130. The top joint was a factory replacement and the horn needed an overhaul, but no pins, bands or cracks.

I don't know if I've mentioned it elsewhere, but I've not really played that many pro-level Bb clarinets. I owned a Selmer Centered Tone for awhile, but found it a bit fussy to play. I'm fairly sure I used a Selmer Series 10 or 10G for awhile and I also used a friend's early 1970s Buffet R13, both of which were really nice to play, but using a nice mouthpiece (Selmer C85) on my own Yamaha 34 produced a nice tone and pretty good intonation, so I never really lusted after those pro models. I've also played my wife's (probably 1960s) SML, too. I've been waiting to play a horn that knocks my socks off as much as when I first tried a Conn 30M tenor sax.

In any event, I do think that Quinn's offer of $299 on a new Buffet B12/B18 is really, really good. If you're a beginner, buy one of those, get yourself a decent mouthpiece and you're set. I *think* that the B12/18 has just been replaced by the Buffet Premium, which is a plastic horn modeled after the E13, and is priced about the same as the B12 was: $599. The Yamaha 255 is in the neighborhood of $1000 new.

Can I find a better clarinet under $299? Yes, I definitely can. Can I find a clarinet under $299 that doesn't need any repair? ... Maybe. I wouldn't bet on it, though.
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