Tis the season to be wary, and there is absolutely no wonder.
I have been scanning the market for clarinet prices for perhaps a dozen years. Yes, the prices do rise. We have a weary, though recovering economy, constantly buffeted by increases in prices of the newer clarinets and prices which are relatively stable for some others.
Of course, one has to always consider the condition of the instrument, and even more importantly, how it will play for you.(Of course, it is the terminology used by the seller that determines if one will even look at the ad.)
Where are you in the great spectrum of players?
I have often repeated my story of an almost new French clarinet which played quite poorly, but turned into one of the better instruments with a simple adjustment of a key, and slight leakage of a pad.
Is any used clarinet a playable instrument?
We really don’t know, however this question may be asked for a”brand new”, supposedly “unused”, “near new”, or “like brand new”
Each will play differently, and each player will get a slightly different response to the instrument.
This goes for brand new instruments as well. This is the great question aked by any auction site. Clarinets play differently, depening upon both the player and the instrument itself.I once had a person send me a dozen clainets for appraisal, my personal reaction(s) Not one of the instruments was totally free of needed adjustments and none were considered to be acceptable for reason of poorly placed or adjusted pads, especially poor sealing of the notes played by the long fingers of the instrument.
Some were able to be made “tight” in less than five minutes, but instead of taking the time, I just the whole batch back to the seller. I will experience only a certain amount of suffering. The state of the repair and “techy” industry is terribly uneven, and in general, poor. If you are looking for someone who can really repair and maintain an instrument, going the inexpensive route will cost you more, has been the experience of many. Too bad.
The collision between list prices and reality is one of the more difficult choices in todays market. Do you think the newest clarinets represent a significant change from those of the past? They do not, for the most part. A case in point is the wooden Lyrique, an excellent player, simply based on an excellent example of the past, the Opus Clarinet.
And so, we are the victims of advertising. New or old materials are being used and abused by manufacturers, creating ever new sounding descriptions with prices to match.
Nobody pays the list price, is a good rule of thumb. The discounts are really all over the map, at least 20% to as much as 50%. Here is the basic difficulty: sellers of some “almost new instruments seek prices based upon the list price” Science fiction is my opinion.
Is it better to buy new?, almost new? or like new?
It all depends upon the instrument, and the seller and the player.
Some instruments are priced stratospherically, based upon a list price which never was, not in actuality. Tread carefully in these waters.
Stay well, keep practicing, and listen.
Best wishes, sherman