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Buying a clarinet


Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
At the risk of boring those who've heard this before, after a 30 year break I started back up on sax and the next year my wife was thinking about starting back up on clarinet. So she pulled out her Selmer Signet and I pulled out a used Buffet R-13 Festival. She said, geesh that was a lot of money, why couldn't she just play the Signet.

We pulled out a tuner and I had her play the full scale of the Signet, marking the notes that were more than 10 cents out. Then we did the same for the Festival. The difference was astonishing. With the great intonation and the buttery-smooth key works the Festival was a slam dunk. That's all it took. The Signet was gifted to another late bloomer (mostly because she'll never play it).

Now five years later, we still see adults in community band with lousy instruments either just CSO (clarinet shaped objects) or grossly out of adjustment and falling apart. It is obvious that these folks are in the band for the friendship and camaraderie, not the music.

The moral of the story is, get the best instrument you can afford. If you can't afford a decent one, then save up. If you think this may just be a passing fancy, remember the resale for a used better instrument is much higher than for a CSO.

Dave Dolson

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Agree. And, there are huge differences among even the same brands. I re-discovered that fact when I did the great clarinet hunt almost 30 years ago. I played a bunch of top-end models and when I picked up my RC Prestige Buffet, I KNEW I'd found the one. But I played other versions of the same model as well as comparable competing brands, side-by-side - no cigar for any but the one I chose.

So, I'd advise those in the hunt now to make the effort to find a large selection and do the work. It will pay off - and that goes for self-taught hobbyists like me. DAVE


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member

Playing against a tuner only tells you so much, but maybe not the entire truth. It should not be your only point of reference. If it were, buy a synth, not a clarinet.

What really really really counts is that an instrument should fit your body - your mouth, your hands. Nothing worse than a ergonomical misft, however grand that specific instrument may be. Do choose one you can manage physically.

Do take the instrument that "fits", in every sense. Don't look at brand recognition, don't (or only halfway) glance at intonation. Do strive for good repair condition, for a sound that reverberates in your body, and ergonomy that fits your hands like a glove.

Yes, buy the best, even if it isn't the most expensive in the shop. Only you can tell.

Oh yes, do avoid CSOs. A $20 Bundy is a far better investment than a $120 "your.name.here" instrument, as it will be still minimum $20 worth after further 20 years of brutal abuse.