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Do you dream of playing clarinet on a huge concert stage? Knowing how to find the best B flat clarinet, along with practicing, can help you get there.
By choosing the best instrument for you, you can minimize the amount of stress playing your instrument brings. Soon enough, you may be able to make your Carnegie Hall debut.
How to Find the Best B Flat Clarinet
Knowing how to find the best B flat clarinet can make a huge difference in your musical journey. Not only can you use the same tips when shopping for other types of clarinets, but you can get the best instrument for you.
While you can copy your teacher or another player, you might not like the model that works for them. Fortunately, all clarinet players can follow a few steps to help find a good instrument.
Here are some things you should do when shopping for your first B flat clarinet or an upgrade.
Start With Your Current Clarinet
If you already play the clarinet, you should take a look at your current model. Consider the brand and model name or number as well as the material and any other specs.
Then, take note of what you do and don’t like about your instrument. For example, you may like the tone but not the response or vice versa.
Knowing this will help you narrow your search for an upgrade. You can make sure to find models that have the features you like and not the features you don’t.
Another thing you should think about is the material of the clarinet body and mechanism. Beginner clarinets tend to use plastic or an ABS resin, while advanced models are grenadilla wood.
Student and intermediate clarinets also usually have a silver-plated or nickel mechanism. A solid silver mechanism isn’t necessary and can increase the price of a clarinet significantly.
But if you have a nickel allergy, it may be worth getting a clarinet with silver-plated or solid silver keys. And if you plan to play outside, you may want a plastic model so that you don’t have to worry about wood cracking.
Once you have an idea of the type of clarinet you want, you can look at prices. You don’t have to buy or even test any of the clarinets you come across, but you should look at options to see how much they cost.
Then, you can figure out how much money you’ll need to save to pay for your ideal clarinet. Beginner models tend to be more affordable, while professional instruments are the most expensive.
Still, there are variations within each level of clarinet. That means you have a bit of wiggle room if you have a small budget but need to upgrade your instrument.
Select Test Music
If you’re an absolute beginner, you can ask a clarinet teacher to do this and test models for you. Otherwise, you should choose some pieces to play when testing a new clarinet.
Make sure the music you select covers low and high notes and has loud and soft passages. You should also include something lyrical and something more technical.
The more diverse your test music is, the better you’ll be able to test various clarinets. Then, you’ll be able to get a better idea of how each model plays, and you may figure out which is right for you much more easily.
Choose Clarinets to Test
Now’s the time where you get to select a few clarinets that you want to try. You can go back to the list you found when researching the cost, or you can start from scratch.
If you live near a music store, it can help to visit that store in person to try multiple clarinets at once. Some online stores will even ship a few models for you to try at home.
However, if all you can do is buy a clarinet and return it, that works too. Either way, have a list of at least two or three models in your price range that you can compare with each other and your current setup.
Experiment with Mouthpieces and Reeds
Another step in how to find the best B flat clarinet is to test different accessories. The mouthpiece and reed can make a much bigger difference in the sound and response than you might think.
Once you narrow your search to one or two clarinets, start swapping out mouthpieces or reeds. Then, you can make sure to find the best combination for you.
In some cases, a more affordable clarinet with a good mouthpiece may sound better than something more expensive. But you won’t know that if you only swap out the clarinet body.
Record and Listen
You should have a recording device on hand when testing clarinets, even if it’s your smartphone. As you test a model, record yourself and listen back.
This is particularly useful if you can only try one model at a time. But even if you try multiple in a row, the recording may reveal nuances that you missed when you were playing the clarinet.
You can write down your thoughts along with each recording. And you can have someone mix up the recordings for you so that you don’t know which model is which. Then, you won’t let a bias toward a brand affect your opinion of it.
Fortunately, there are quite a few B flat clarinet models out there. If you don’t find your perfect match at first, you should keep looking for one that fits you better.
Go back to your budget and look for clarinets you can afford. You can even look for clarinets that are a bit less than your price range to save money.
On the other hand, you may need to raise your budget if you can’t find anything. Then, as they say in Harry Potter, the wand can choose the wizard, so the perfect clarinet can choose you.
Consider Used Models
If you can’t seem to find anything new, you may want to look at the used market. Used clarinets can be just as good as new ones as long as the seller kept the instrument in good condition.
Plus you may be able to save quite a bit of money while still getting the right model for you. I’ve bought a used instrument before and saved more than half of what it would have cost new.
However, you should never buy a used clarinet without testing it first. Then, you can make sure it doesn’t have any leaks or other issues that will cost a lot of money to fix.
Look at Rentals
Especially if you’re a beginner, you can widen your search for a B flat clarinet by looking at rentals. Many music stores have rental programs that cost $25 to $35 a month.
If you aren’t sure you’ll stick with the clarinet, that gives you a cheap way to test it out. Some stores even have rent-to-own programs that let you apply your rental payments toward the full cost of the clarinet.
Unfortunately, rentals aren’t as common at the advanced level. But you may be able to borrow a model from your clarinet teacher, and you can test it over time to see if you want something similar.
Be Careful with Cheap Models
When you shop for a B flat clarinet online, you may come across a lot of cheap models. Those clarinets can seem like an excellent deal because they’re a fraction of the price of other instruments.
However, you almost always get what you pay for with those clarinets. Now, they can be worth it if you want to try the clarinet and can’t rent one.
In general, though, I’d recommend staying away from the really cheap clarinets. Try to stick to reputable brands, such as Yamaha and Buffet.
Best B Flat Clarinets
Even if you know what to look for, it can help to know about some good B flat clarinet models. To help you narrow your search, I found some of the best options.
I looked for clarinets at a variety of price points and levels. And I made sure to stick to clarinets from brands with good reputations or reviews.
Give the following models a try when shopping for your next B flat clarinet.
The Yamaha YCL-255 is an excellent model for beginner clarinetists. It features an ABS resin body and a nickel mechanism, so it’s affordable and easy to play.
Yamaha models it after their more advanced instruments, so you can get the same quality. You even get a Yamaha mouthpiece, so all you need to buy separately is some reeds.
Its 65-millimeter (mm) barrel offers a good tone, and you can adjust the thumb rest to make it more comfortable. This clarinet is great for students or as a backup to your main model.
- Easy to play
- Good sound
- Nice quality
- Comes with a mouthpiece
- A bit expensive
Another beginner clarinet to try is the Jupiter JCL700N. This model features an ABS resin body, so you can play it anywhere without having to risk cracks.
It has nickel keys that look and feel good, but they can be a problem for people with a metal allergy. If you can play it, the offset trill keys are easy to reach and use.
This model sounds great, and it’s an excellent choice for beginners and advancing students. However, you will need to save a bit of money to afford it.
- Easy to play
- Good for beginners
- Nice sound
- Not for people with a nickel allergy
- Somewhat expensive
The Selmer CL211 is the first wood clarinet on this list. If you need an affordable upgrade from a plastic model, you can get a nice warm tone on this one.
It has undercut toneholes that help you get a smooth sound, even when playing fast. Meanwhile, the medium-small bore suits players of all levels.
This grenadilla model looks and sounds amazing, and it’s nice for use indoors. Just make sure you take care of it to keep the wood from cracking in extreme temperatures.
- Good sound
- Easy to play
- Not too expensive
- Works with various players
- Not for professionals
Buffet Crampon Premium
If you only ever try one clarinet brand, let it be Buffet Crampon, and let that first model be the Premium clarinet. This ABS resin model is excellent for beginners.
It features silver-plated keys to help lower the cost without triggering a nickel allergy. And it uses the same design as more advanced Buffet Crampon clarinets to make playing easy.
You will get a nice response with this model, which can help you as you learn. Then, you can smoothly upgrade to a different clarinet from the same company.
- Easy to play
- Good design
- Sounds great
- Nice response
- Silver-plated keys
- Can corrode easily
Buffet Crampon E11
A more advanced model that you may want to try is the Buffet Crampon E11. Its body uses unstained African blackwood (another name for grenadilla).
The silver-plated keys are easy to use to play different notes, and they’re durable. You can use this clarinet to get to a more advanced level, and you can even use it long-term.
Of course, you’ll need to be careful to not let the wood crack. But it’s not as expensive as some wood models, so it’s nice if you’re on a tight budget.
- Easy to play
- Good sound
- Durable keys
- Requires a bit of maintenance
Jean Paul USA CL-300
The Jean Paul USA CL-300 is a good alternative if you don’t have much money for a beginner clarinet. It’s not as well-known as some brands, but customers do like it.
You can use it to start learning the instrument, and you can enjoy the ebonite body material. Meanwhile, the nickel keys let you change notes.
Eventually, you may want to upgrade to a better model. However, this is a great instrument to use to start playing the clarinet, especially if you can’t rent one.
- Easy to play
- Good materials
- Nice design
- Not the best reputation
The Yinfente Ebonite clarinet is like the Jean Paul USA model in that the brand isn’t super popular. But this model uses ebonite and is more affordable than some of the competition.
Supposedly, this is a professional model, but based on the specs, I’d say it’s best for beginners. It has inline trill keys that can be hard for some players to reach.
But it does come with cork grease, two barrels, a mouthpiece, and a case. That means you just need to find some good reeds to start playing.
- Easy to play
- Nice materials
- Decent design
- Comes with accessories
- Not a well-known brand
FAQs about How to Find the Best B Flat Clarinet
Answer: The B flat clarinet is the most common size of the whole clarinet family. It has a soprano range, and it plays a bit lower than the flute and violin.
Compared to other clarinets, the B flat is bigger than the E flat clarinet, and it’s slightly smaller than the A clarinet. It’s also smaller than the alto, bass, and contrabass clarinets.
Answer: Having the best B flat clarinet matters because it’s usually the clarinet you learn first. If you have a good instrument, you’ll have a much easier time getting a good sound.
That can make you want to practice more, which can then help you improve sooner. As you advance, getting a better clarinet can give you more control over the sound and response.
Answer: Some B flat clarinets are of better quality than others. You’ll also find some models that are perfect for students but would be hard for a professional to play.
On the other hand, the best B flat clarinet for a professional may be almost impossible for a beginner to control. Be sure to consider quality and level to help find the best model for you.
Answer: You should upgrade your clarinet when you can no longer get the sound you want. As you advance, you may want to have more control over the tone and response, and upgrading is the best way to access that control.
However, be sure to take your current clarinet in for maintenance before buying a new one. Sometimes, all you need to get a better sound is some care from a woodwind repair technician.
Answer: Most beginners will start learning the clarinet on a B flat clarinet. However, some players will choose to focus on the E flat clarinet or bass clarinet later on.
Even then, it’s good to have a B flat clarinet in your inventory. You never know when you might need to play that model.
Final Note on How to Find the Best B Flat Clarinet
If you want to become a better clarinetist, you need to know how to find the best B flat clarinet for you. That can involve some research and testing.
I’d recommend starting with Yamaha or Buffet Crampon models. However, it’s up to you to test them out because choosing a good clarinet can be very subjective.
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