Coming Home to Clarinet

Please bear with me as I explain my clarinet questions. I am 48yrs old. I used to play clarinet in high school but haven’t really touched it since, until recently. I recently decided that I wanted to return to playing. There is an intergenerational klezmer band in my neighborhood that I got very excited about, especially since they said they would welcome players of all levels. The teacher is wonderful!

Now, my old clarinet is something of a mystery. It is made of wood, says it is made in France and has the name “Le Bonet” on the bell. I have been trying to find out anything about Le Bonet but have not really gotten anywhere. I got as far as to learn that it was probably a “stencil” clarinet, which means who knows where it came from. It hasn’t been played for a very long time, it clearly needs pads and looks a little dry but has no cracks. Neighborhood music stores have told me
1. since it’s French and made of wood it’s worth at least $600 and is definably worth getting re-conditioned, and
2. it would make a good lamp, don’t bother spending your money; buy a new one or rent one for awhile.

So, what to do? I did rent one just to get started with the klezmer group but now want something more permanent. I can’t spend tons of money, but would like something that sounds good and plays decently. I read several of your responses regarding the importance of a good mouthpiece and will definitely follow up on that. Any advice you share would be greatly appreciated.

Yes,to begin with, it is most probably a stencil clarinet though these can at times be very good indeed, or the opposite. Because it is French and wood means only that and someone is looking for your money for a repair or overhaul job. This could be very good, if the clarinet is good to begin with AND the repair person is professional and/or knows professional quality. You must weigh all of that in your mind before you take what is most probably a leap of faith. That is what a good teacher and/or clarinetist is for. Let us say that you opt for a new instrument. You get a lot for your money, if you buy a nice wooden Yamaha. They are superb.

I have played on both their so-called Professional models and their, “Not professional models. My experience was that the cheaper clarinet played better and I went so far as to really like this Yamaha very much. I do not recall the number of the model. I think they are the most reasonable, provide the best guaranty, AND are best in-tune, a major factor. Do not rent.You should be able to purchase one for considerably under a thousand dollars.

Do not pay more than list price, minus 30%. They will scream and yell, but those instruments are usually 50% off to the dealer or more, and you will get it. You must not play a stock or mouthpiece that comes with the instrument unless it is a B45 Van Doren, or a Selmer Hs*.

Mouthpieces made by manufacturers to put in the box are traditionally poor. I hope this helps. The other makers do compete, but I have found the Yamaha to be an excellent choice in all ranges. Good luck to you


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