Appraising your clarinet

One just needs to take a look at the last few postings of this site to determine that I get many requests each day for what is finally, an appraisal of the clarinet in question. This is not an easy task, it may be impossible especially if ones want the appraisal done from afar and “in the dark”, so to speak.

Occasionally one senses an air of mistrust in the request as if perhaps the request comes from a person who is in possession of the “Hope Diamond” or some such item of incalculable value.

First of all, it’s only a clarinet, and as a rule, a clarinet doesn’t appreciate. In fact the opposite is the case. There are of course, several exceptions.

If the clarinet is reasonably new and was supposedly a “professional” instrument initially, the value increases. Many clarinets are called “professional” but the word is never defined; in fact, it needs definition.

Professional means many things: Well-made is perhaps first and foremost and includes being in tune. So, how do you tell if it’s in tune? You get an opinion, and they vary really terribly. You go to a professional , someone who makes their livliehood by playing the clarinet,and the standard is within the world of so-called Classical music. Not that there are not many jazz musicians who can hear and play well in tune. It’s really more of a tradition.

A clarinet is not like a diamond which has all kinds of variations as to color, cut, quality. While a clarinet has variations there are fewer of them than diamonds and repeating the first rule: they do not appreciate. Diamonds do.

Let us say,you need to know worth because it has been a gift to you or to your organization and you can use it some way for your taxes either as donor or donee; the best thing would be to get a statement from a professional (see above) on her or his letterhead (something that determies position, say in an orchestra, or with a University.) Then you send the letter to your tax people  making the claim for the amount of worth stated by the appraisal.

You also make comparisons using ebay, an auctionsite that has more instruments than at which you can shake a stick, and even though its unwritten motto is “Caveat Emptor”, (buyer beware), at least you can view many intsruments, more than anyplace else for general comparison.

Keeping the reputation that ebay has in your mind, (whatever you thinK it is)you begin to get a picture.


Cracks and/or the lack of them are important, however a crack does not have to be pinned any longer because many just fill the crack and seal it and it is impossible to tell. In the case of an open crack, then of course your are in “tiger country”. 

Finish is also of considerable importance, most important being wear on the rings; if the rings are worn or if pitted, you may as well forget about it because unless it was owned by Brahms or his clarinetist Richard Muhlfeld, it is practically worthless.

Clarinets made in France are in general worth more than those made in the US because few instruments of quality were and/ or are made in the US, which is basically a student market. Clarinets are always stamped with the place of manufacture, and have standard known names, like Selmer, Buffet, Leblanc, or Yamaha. Clarinet mad in the UK ar worth less than those made in France, mostly because there is a slightly different way of playing and was until a few years ago a different sound as well as different tuning.

Mouthpieces are in general unimportant, though there can be deviations from that sub-rule. If you have an old horn with a mouthpiece that says Kaspar or other known names, you investigate, but more, you play or have the mouthpice played. They are greatly over rated and there is almost a mystique around them and many students think they have found the “fountain of music” if they have one, however there is a placebo effect with a “name ” mouthpiece that is mostly all there is and it goes away fast, so all one os left with is the credit card bill and little else.

As is usual, I hope that this will offer some help.Basically a clarinet by definition does not appreciate. But keep those cards and letters coming, folks. As you know ,all are answered.

Sincerely, Sherman Friedland


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: