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Recommendations for inexpensive wood clarinet

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#1
I have a friend who plays saxophone who wants to start doubling on clarinet, and would like to buy a wooden "intermediate" clarinet new or used for around $500 - $600. I have exhausted my knowledge by recommending one or two vintage models that I know play well.

Since there are those on this forum who are more informed than I am when it comes to clarinets, I wanted to pose the question here (so my friend thinks I'm brilliant by coming up with so much great information). : )
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#2
Steve had a Yamaha 34 for sale a while ago.
 
#3
Hit or miss, but I've seen a few nice Noblets (27 and 40) for decent prices, and a few Normandy 8s (a great one I found, and sold, went for $200 pretty quick. Played well, good intermediate horn) are fun. If he's willing to buy an instrument of that sort of vintage.

Beware of Ebay though... real hit or miss. Avoid anything marketed as "wood Bundy". ;)
 

Tammi

Private woodwind instructor
#4
Anything in the Selmer Signet line, Signet 100, Special or Soloist.
Selmer Omega. EXCELLENT playing clarinet. Daughter #1 has one.
Buffet Evette Master Model. I have one that's better than my old teachers' R13.
SML is good too.
Then the Noblet, Artley, Normandy... I personally do not care for any of the 'Leblanc' line, but many do.
The same goes for some older Yamaha clarinets. 'OK' but not for me.
Many of the newer Selmer USA clarinets are very good as well.
As always, play, listen, feel, choose what you like best.
 
#5
I've seen some of the Leblanc Bliss models going for $600 used online, not sure of their condition, but I thought they were cool and I don't want a plastic horn anymore so I was looking at them. It looks like a pretty decent line of clarinets, I got to play on one for a little bit at the FMEA convention, I liked it.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#6
Another consideration to consider...

...is that sax players are notoriously "sloppy" when it comes to finger placement on a clarinet. They are so used to flopping a finger down anywhere on the touch pieces to make a key close that they have never developed the fine sense of finger placement that is drilled into clarinet players (soprano clarinet players, at least) from the get-go.

As a result, this is one of the few situations where I can in good conscience recommend a plateau clarinet. And that, in turn, restricts the recommendations to instruments produced by Leblanc.

Both the Leblanc and the Noblet lines had such horns in the past, although with the consolidation of the brands, that selection may have dropped off a bit. (They also cost quite a bit, no doubt due to other saxophonists discovering that you really do have to put those fingers in the right place.)

(Other than saxophonistus, the only other reason to consider a plateau horn is if you have some deformity or physical infirmity that would prevent you from using a standard Boehm horn. A guy who I used to compete with for baritone sax work had a badly broken and reset ring finger on his right hand, and he had no end of trouble playing the clarinet as a result. I suggested a plateau horn, and he immediately developed his skills enough to become a real competitor for work. Unfortunately (for him), he then died. His plateau clarinet was snapped up at once, while his YBS 52 remained unsold for several years.)

Although the player does not hear the horn in the same way as with a Brille horn, one with the open rings, the listener does not (in tests that we have conducted) notice any difference at all.

In the two 'clinical' cases that I've encountered, both players started on the plateau horn, and then later transitioned to the standard clarinet after they got the facility needed. A bit expensive perhaps, but a lot less frustrating.

If we are in a "single clarinet only" situation here (and the expense would tend to dictate that approach for most), then I would recommend that the putative clarinetist start out on a cheap and easy to find Vito instrument. The tone holes on a Vito horn are significantly smaller than on other instruments (to better suit them to slim young girl fingers, I suppose, especially for the third finger right hand - the designer was full of clever ideas like that), and will make starting up while covering tone holes for the first time a lot less frustrating.

Vitos can often be had for a C note or less - I've bought excellent examples for as little as $25.00 - and make for a good "clarinet with training wheels" for sax players. Once they've got the drill down tight, then they can dump the Vito and move on to something a bit more "professional".
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#7
I have purchased a plateau key clarinet for my grandson and tried a couple of others. The sound is sooo stuffy. I'll never be a world-class clarinetist, but I do know what kind of sound I'm going after. So my recommendation is to save your sheckles and get what you really want. Why suffer with a lessor instrument... ever! Note: I am an intonation freak which can be relatively rare in the hobbyist sax world. ;)

At the risk of boring those who have heard this story before, when my wife started up on clarinet again after a 20+ year break I purchased her a used Buffet R13 festival sop clarinet (for $700 from QuinnTheEskimo). She had pulled out her student Selmer Soloist that she used through high school. She wanted to know why she needed another instrument.

So I had her play the scale of both instruments to a tuner where we marked the intonation of each note. The Soloist, a fine student instrument, varied from -15 to +25 across the scale at its worst points. The Buffet varied from -5 to +5 across the scale. Most of the Buffet scale was spot on. Suzy was convinced and gifted the Selmer to a neice.

I see people in community bands all the time fighting cheap, student instruments because they think they can't afford better. Most can't even afford to take the instrument in for for repair. Is saving up for a decent instrument that hard? Maybe it will one longer if they have a poor paying job. But I still think it is worth it.

And don't forget to check with your relatives, many of whom might have instruments gathering dust in the attic or some such.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#8
But...

...the problem with sax players moving to clarinet is that they have learned their craft on the sax. The slightest misalignment on a clarinet tone hole chimney was lead to squeak city. Learning on a "more friendly" instrument (like a plateau or a small hole Vito) can save one a lot of frustration.

I agree that plateau horns are not ideal, and that most of what goes with a Vito is the same. But, we all started on student instruments for a reason - any sax player making the leap to the clarinet is in much that position.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#9
I tend to agree with Terry on this one. I've seen too many saxophone players play a clarinet using a sax-style grip and it's not pretty. So, I could recommend a plateau. However, they are pricey if you want new -- and difficult to find, used.

There's not necessarily a reason to buy new, provided you can get a warranty. Check out http://www.musicremasters.com, for instance.

Selmer has a new Soloist line and they're quite obviously cheap Chinese or Taiwanese horns. Make sure it looks like this one. (Oh. That one's all of $533.) Hey, Dave at junkdude.com has a Selmer Signet Special for sale for $650. That's not bad.

I'd rather spend a little less for a "decent" horn and get a "good" mouthpiece. I also can say that the Yamaha and Buffet plastic horns aren't that bad.
 

tictactux

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#10
I tend to agree with Terry on this one. I've seen too many saxophone players play a clarinet using a sax-style grip and it's not pretty.
Then again, it might be an incentive to learn it the right way.
Ain't that hard. By the time you got the embouchure right, your fingers have long learned the drill. :geezer2:
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#11
Then again, it might be an incentive to learn it the right way. Ain't that hard. By the time you got the embouchure right, your fingers have long learned the drill. :geezer2:
That's been my experience. Go for the sound. Some people can make any instrument sound good. Me, I need a really decent instrument to have even half a chance. YMMV.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#12
My friend ended up buying a Selmer Series 9 in good condition for around $500. Thanks everyone for your suggestions.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#13
Let me know...

...how that right hand ring finger seals things up. That's the problem child.

While it is easy enough to learn to play a clarinet, one thing that has to be considered here is that we are just not having someone learn to play here. Instead, they simultaneously need to unlearn their long habit of saxophone finger placement (which is somewhat different than that on a clarinet - check out a tenor and see what I mean) and learn how to drop those fingers down vertically on the tone hole chimneys.

(Old habits die hard. I've got some that have crossed over from bass clarinet to clarinet, from clarinet to sax, and from everything else to bassoon.)

Sloppy finger placement is the bain of the sax to clarinet conversion, or at least that's what I've seen with sax to clarinet folks in the past.

The other way isn't so hard, fingering wise. But, with the sax, the embouchure is the hard part for a clarinet player. Well, that and the stupid bis key.

I like Series 9 clarinets a lot, having a half-dozen of the things laying about. I certainly prefer them to the "improved" Series 10. Most sax players enjoy the rather full-throated sound of the breed.
 
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