Choosing a used clarinet can be a difficult and frustrating process. Unlike choosing a new instrument, used clarinets have had previous owners. It is important to have an idea of how long the instrument has been played and how the instrument has been maintained.
For first time buyers, shop around to see the different price options instead of purchasing the first instrument that appears to be the most inexpensive. Used instruments can be either purchased in a local music store or online. While purchasing an instrument online may be the most convenient and appear to be a better deal, it is more than likely that additional investments in repairs to the instrument will be needed if it has not been tested by the buyer. It is best to try to find a shop that is very selective in the used instruments they offer. One example of a shop that does this can be found here.
It is important to test the instrument for playability with your mouthpiece, ligature, and reeds. This will help to determine if the clarinet is suited for your way of playing. If choosing a used clarinet for a beginner, it is important to choose a quality instrument that creates an ease of playing for the student. Whether it is selecting an instrument for a student or a professional, it is important to know what a quality instrument is when choosing a clarinet, or to be accompanied by someone who does, so they can confirm that it is a quality instrument. The following is a guide to how to select a used clarinet.
Bore. Be sure to check if there are any cracks in the bore of the instrument. Consult a woodwind technician to examine the instrument to see if there are any cracks throughout its lifespan. If the bore has been cracked, do not purchase the instrument.
Keys and pads. Used clarinets made with nickel keys become tarnished through use, which make silver keys a favorable choice. Make sure that the keys are not bent and aligned properly to the tone holes of the instrument. If the keys are bent and unaligned, it will make it difficult for the instrument to function properly. Check if the clarinet pads are worn out or stained. If the pads are worn out, this also affects the playability of the instrument and should be replaced by a professional woodwind technician.
Joints. The joints of the clarinet should be corked properly. If the cork looks worn or falling apart, be sure to ask for it to be replaced before purchasing. The joints should fit so that the instrument does not disassemble itself during performance.
Bell. Check to see if the bell is not chipped or cracked. If the bell is cracked, do not purchase the instrument.
While testing multiple used instruments, be sure to play the entire range of the chromatic scale from the chalumeau to the high altissimo to check how the keys are functioning on the instrument, intonation between registers, and overall playability. Bring a tuner to check the intonation of the instrument by playing the note ‘e1’ and then ‘b2’, then ‘b1’ to ‘f-sharp 2’. This helps to see if the instrument is in tune throughout the different registers. It is also good to play short excerpts that you are familiar with so you can compare the intonation and sound quality between the instruments. After picking the best instrument, try comparing it with your current clarinet to see if it is better.
By considering all of these points, purchasing a used clarinet can be very straightforward. While it can be seen as a more inexpensive option to buying a new instrument, that is not always the case. If the used instrument is in poor condition, it can get costly to replace old, worn pads or bent keys that can cost more than the used clarinet itself in total. It is also useful to also work with a professional near your area that would be able to help you determine if the instrument is good or not.
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