Student Instruments Part II

Good Afternoon

My name is Joe and I live in Pennsylvania. I found your name and email address on the Clarinet Home Page ( The Web page suggested I contact instructors with any detailed questions – well, I have a BIG question (I’m sure you get it all the time).

I’m 29 years old and have never played any type of musical instrument in my life until the last several months. I have always wanted to play the clarinet and figured that the recorder would be a good starting point. I have taught myself to read music (with the help of my wife who plays the piano) and purchased an inexpensive recorder and method book. I enjoyed playing the recorder, however, the more I played the more I realized that the sounds I’m hoping to one day play can not be found with the recorder (I have always enjoyed the popular artists such as Kenny G or Jim Brickman – can’t say that I’m really familiar with many others although that would be a goal of mine). I believe that it’s time to purchase a clarinet and get started with the “real thing.”

My question is this: what would be several good instruments (brand, model etc.) to start with, considering a price of below $300-$400? Should I purchase new or used? Also, would you recommend several good instructional books that could get me started on my own? Any help would be greatly appreciated!



Hello Joe:

Happy New Year. This has been an especially busy one for me because we have moved and changed everything concerning computers … anyway it has been debilitating at least. In any event, here are the answers to your “big question” … Wait, I have a problem relating to your question. The question you should entertain with a positive response is “Shall I get a teacher?”

My answer to that is, you can probably save yourself hundreds or thousands of dollars by getting an accomplished teacher who has played the clarinet. If you do and he plays for you, you are absorbing literally tons of money by just listening. That is the nature of this learning process: Much of the clarinet discipline is in the learning by listening.

No, you cannot do it by listening to records.

The clarinet, whether it be “pop clarinet” or “legit” (as many elderly players used to call classical playing) has a method of holding the instrument within the mouth that is really quite dynamic and requires training … end of story. Artie Shaw never took a lesson, but he was a genius with an incredible ear, and even more quest for perfection. Get a teacher, one who impresses you when he plays.

Don’t buy “used”. I get letters all the time from people who buy off the Internet. They do not know what they are buying and it is just as easy to throw away 75 bucks as it is to throw away 500 or so. Don’t buy used.

Here are the most accessible lines of instruments.

1. Yamaha … more instruments available from beginner to professional and the professional instruments are very high quality, as is the whole line in my experience.

2. Selmer … French company with an affiliate in the US, very high quality student instruments, just about the standard, professional instruments, sometimes highly controversial, usually quite good, but sometimes throughout my life I have wondered if they are worth all the effort. (I was a Selmer clinician for years).

3. Buffet, owned now by Boosey and Hawkes, an English parent company who makes clarinets in England, but definitely the French benchmark clarinet.

All of these clarinets are available in student instruments and in plastic or wood. Your teacher should be able to guide you in this area. Or you can do it on the net.

Good luck and Happy New Year


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