Clarinet, wooden or not?

Dear Sir,
I am researching a clarinet purchase for my daughter and looking for
independent opinion in this matter. My daughter (finished 6th grade)
has been playing clarinet Vito 7212 rental for about 10 months. It
looks like she is into it and we wanted to buy her one instead of
renting.
On the beginning we wanted to buy her what she rents (i.e. Vito 7212)
– she thought that since she is familiar with it it would be the best
option.
After however doing some research I realized that this may not be the
best option:
Firstly, the rental company wants more money for piece used for a
year, than I would pay from any other store (for brand new instrument,
adjusted, ready to play)
Secondly, the teacher I spoke with suggested to buy wooden piece one
step upgrade if it does not cost a fortune. Also, similar suggestion
has been made by rental comp. and they have a wooden Selmer “on sale”
that would not be much more money to buy then Vito. BTW,I would have
to pay for Vito 510$ (after rental is applied (full price was 680$)

I read your comments about cheap wood clarinets and that one should
avoid one and that the plastic is better than lower end wood models.
Would Selmer inexpensive wood model be something worth consideration?
I would appreciate if you would send me your comments. I am a complete
ignorant about clarinets, but would like to make a good decision, so
my daughter can enjoy playing the instrument.

Sincerely,
Ela
E Z , Ph.D.
Department of Pharmacology
University of Vermont
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Hello Ela:
Thank you for your inquiry. It is a question that must be on the minds of many many parents of children who play instruments at this time of the year.
It is a stimulating question because the answer is perhaps not the one you may receive by most anyone.
The first response is that wood is not the best thing to use for the making of a clarinet. It is the prettiest, that is for sure. The grain of wood, the place of wood in our entire societal structure is one of great respect, even more so within the clarinet fraternity for the very same reasons with one addition, certainly not true: that wood simply sounds better than anything else in the making of a clarinet.
This is not true and has not been true for many years. For a rising student to contemplate anything but wood for an instrument is simply unacceptable.
Yet wood is basically unstable compared to other materials. This means that wood shrinks and swells depending upon where you live and the ambient temerature, and that this instability makes for problems of adjustment and problems of tuning as well. This means that as you play your clarinet, the pitch actually changes as the temperature changes, and the warmer you are, the higher the pitch of the instrument will be, and with this goes the swelling and shrinkage of the wood as well, making for more problems of adjustment.
Plastic is more stable than is wood, but thusfar plastic has not been chosen by large maker for a fine instrument except in the case of Buffet, which makes a “Greenline” clarinet made of mostly carbon fibres with some grenadilla dust added. It is however carefully made, bored and the result is a better playing more stable instrument. But at the price of more than 3 thousand dollars making it prohibitive to most buyers.
There is however a material which is more stable than any wood or plastic . That material is rubber, or hard rubber, or ebonite, which has been proven to be one of the most stable of materials with which to make a clarinet. Not only that, but the material is plentiful, especially in Asia, where, “it grows on trees”, as the saying goes.
Machining it is far easier, and once made, the clarinet is stable. It is basically the most affordable material from which to make a clarinet or other instruments as well.
Obtaining one with the blessings of your band director will be difficult because very few know anything about ebonite and they have been heavily indoctrinated into the mythology of wood.
I have always looked for other materials that might be more stable than wood, and just a year or so past I came upon hard rubber, or ebonite used for the manufacture of the clarinet, and in such a way that purchase of the instrument if an absolute must for anyone, especially a parent looking to purchase an instrument for a child.
Sherman Friedland.

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