Unless you have some experience of playing the clarinet yourself, it can be a little daunting choosing one as there is a big range of models, a lot of technical specification and prices vary hugely. Here are some things to consider what option is works for you:
This relates to the size of the player. Standard Bb Clarinets are quite large and heavy and not easily managed by children under the age of 8. The right hand thumb can begin to hurt from supporting the weight of the clarinet after a short time. If the clarinet is too cumbersome to handle the child will soon get fed up and lose interest.
The C Clarinet, a smaller scale clarinet offers a good solution and can enable children as young as 5 to pick up a clarinet. They also come in fun colours, which adds to their appeal. For more information on the C Clarinet follow the link.
2. Brand and 3. Budget
It is appropriate to look at these two considerations at the same time as they are intrinsically linked. Historically the market leaders for beginner clarinets have been Buffet’s B12 and Yamaha’s YCL255 (previously the YCL250). However, both Yamaha and Buffet have made significant increases to the price of their student instruments in recent years, pushing both models to £400+ making it quite a commitment if you’re not sure your child’s going to stick at it.
Many parents are opting for cheaper student models, with brands you might not necessarily have heard of but which offer reliability and good sound quality, two examples of which would be Sonata or Selmer Prelude– both have clarinets around the £200 mark and both are regularly purchased by Education Authorities and schools across the country.
4. Instrument rental
Rental schemes are a great idea if you’re not sure your child is going to last the course. Rentals usually offer a low monthly payment with the flexibility of being able to return the instrument if your child decides six months down the line he/she wants to be a drummer!
5. Plastic or Wood?
Many parents worry about the quality of their clarinet when the description states it is made from ‘plastic’. Nowadays student clarinets are pretty much all made from plastic or resin construction and manufacturers have perfected their technique over the years so they can produce reliable instruments with a good sound quality – obviously the clarinet’s sound is not just down to the clarinet but the player too! This means a beginner will usually start playing on a plastic/ABS/resin specification model. Wood is used (usually Grenadilla) to make more expensive intermediate and professional clarinets, aimed at players around grade 5 and above.