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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone I'm new here.
Even though this is a mostly-saxophone forum, I couldn't find any other active ones to answer my clarinet questions.

Anyways, I've played clarinet since grade 7 (as of now I'm almost done grade 10 so 4 years of playing), and I'm using a Leblanc Vito 7214WC clarinet. Despite never taking lessons (so far), I made it into a local orchestra. Since the orchestra's music will be a lot harder than band music, I'm wondering if it's worth it to buy a new clarinet. I'm not planning on majoring in music in university, but definitely still playing in the local orchestra (hopefully promoted to the senior orchestra). The model I had in mind was the Buffet E11. I figured it was a good compromise between quality and price.

I can give more information if anyone has any questions!
 

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Typically, an orchestral clarinetist needs both an A clarinet and a Bb clarinet. You should figure that into your budget, unless you'll be exempt for some reason.

Btw, why do you think orchestral clarinet music is more difficult than band clarinet music? That depends entirely on the choice of repertoire. A concert band can program easy music if the director wants to (this is often the case with student ensembles). But in a concert band playing the best literature available, the first clarinet parts will often be more demanding, not less demanding, than orchestral clarinet parts. The clarinet is a much more important instrument in a concert band than in a symphony orchestra.
 

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I began my clarinet experience with a plastic Vito and I made the switch to an E11 after a few years. A wooden clarinet in good shape will sound better than a plastic clarinet and an E11 is an excellent step up model. Find one for $400-$600 and it will most likely never lose value if you ever come to a point to sell it. I also think that a decent mouthpiece is in order before you buy a new clarinet. It's a less expensive experiment in figuring out how gear affects your playing. What mouthpiece are you currently using?
 

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I don't know what a Vito 7214WC clarinet is, but if it plays well for you, then it comes down to what you can afford to do - upgrade or stick with the Vito. Obviously, you don't NEED to upgrade.

If it is just a matter of WANTING to upgrade, then I suppose the E-11 would be a viable choice. If you were going to pursue the clarinet as a major in college, then you set your sights even higher.

I have an E-11, purchased new from Dave Kessler in Las Vegas (the E-11 made in Germany, not the one made in France, which from what others on SOTW have written before, the German version is the better instrument). I also have an R-13 and an RC Prestige, and a few others. I selected the RC new from among several, and it is a fine instrument.

My E-11 is a pretty good clarinet, in comparison to my other clarinets. But, there are other brands and I think you should explore them before making a final decision. Then, play as many examples of your final selection as you can find - they all vary. DAVE
 

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Find an old E-11 and you’ll be set.
 

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E11s are nice step up models. I also like Yamaha's intermediate models. You can get an older YCL34 in excellent condition for under $500 easily.
 

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Basically, the sound is made by a vibrating air column and the material of the container is rather irrelevant.
Consider that a top model, Buffet Greenline. Although mpingo timber dust is included in the mix of the material, it is fundamentally a plastic clarinet, with none of the properties of timber. That filler could just as easily been ground up coke bottles.

Of course the details of shape and location of tone holes is highly relevant for the particular compromises a manufacturer wants to emphasise.
But basically a well designed plastic clarinet is the same as a well designed timber clarinet, and a poorly designed timber clarinet is a lot worse than a well designed plastic clarinet.

I suggest you focus on the important issues: that your plastic clarinet is set up as well as it possibly can, and that you have a respected, professional style of mouthpiece, suitable for orchestral playing. From what I have seen, Yamaha is a better designed plastic clarinet than Vito, eg it has undercut toneholes.

It is ironic that you mention Buffet E11. WARNING! See https://forum.saxontheweb.net/archive/index.php/t-194787.html
 

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The E11 is an excellent choice for a step-up clarinet. I would also recommend looking into the D'addario (Rico) Reserve mouthpieces as a step up from your Fobes Debut. The Fobes is an excellent student mouthpiece in its own right, but the Reserve mouthpiece will take your playing to the next level. The price is reasonable, and the quality control exceptional. As a "doubler" I struggled with Vandorens for years trying to get better control in the upper register, then at the suggestion of a friend I visited Lee Livingood, a clarinetist in the Utah Symphony and one of the designers of the Reserve mouthpieces. He helped me to choose which facing and tip opening worked the best for my embouchure and level of experience and I have never been happier with my clarinet sound and facility.
 

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Given what you've said, an upgraded clarinet probably wouldn't help you much - upgrading your mouthpiece would do more for less money.

That said, if you want a wooden clarinet for its own sake, there's no reason you shouldn't get one either, assuming you aren't sacrificing something else to afford it. I don't think it would make sense to buy new in your case though. You're only playing as a hobby, no reason to make that big of an investment.

On that note, do you like the Vito keywork and how it feels mechanically?

As mentioned above the French-built E11 is not particularly good. If you like Leblanc mechanics, I'd give consideration to Noblet or Normandy models, or maybe even a Leblanc if you can find one at the right price. (All would be used models, Leblanc France is effectively out of business.) I have both a Normandy Special and a Noblet 45 which have excellent build quality; for your budget I'd search for a Normandy 4 or Noblet 40 as they will be easiest to find and the keywork design is almost identical to that of your Vito. Otherwise, the E11 built by Schreiber in Germany is a good option as well.

From what I have seen, Yamaha is a better designed plastic clarinet than Vito, eg it has undercut toneholes.
Vitos have undercut toneholes on the lower joint.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hey everyone, (not sure if anyone will see this still but here goes)
So I've had my vito one since june 2016. Now some of the keys are getting sticky (specifically the right hand trill keys and the left hand C key). I've looked into repair/adjustment options at local music stores and they're all about $90ish if I want anything done to my keys. Also I was a dumb kid in the 2016 school year so the plating is kinda coming off my keys. I thought getting a new clarinet might just be a better option as opposed to repairing a lot. One of the nearby stores had a new Buffet E11 on sale for ~$1200 (compared to this other store selling for $2019)

Also through some digging online I've found that the Buffet E11 is getting mixed reviews. It's working awesome for some but it's falling apart for other people?? I guess it'll depend on the comprehensiveness of the warranty provided.
 

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$100 is reasonable for an annual checkup and cleaning - especially since you KNOW you did something stupid to the horn.

Throwing another $1000 down the rat hole is a loser’s way out. Consider a better mouthpiece, play the heck out of the horn, and then keep it around for a marching/pep band instrument if you stick with it. If you don’t stick with it, you saved $1000.
 

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Like I said, the German-made E-11's seem to have a better reputation on this site than do the French-made E-11's. Mine is the German version E-11 and it has been a good instrument. Could it be that the E-11's receiving poor reviews are the French versions? We'll probably never know. DAVE
 

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That said, if you want a wooden clarinet for its own sake, there's no reason you shouldn't get one either, assuming you aren't sacrificing something else to afford it. I don't think it would make sense to buy new in your case though. You're only playing as a hobby, no reason to make that big of an investment.
Well, I don't know about that. I think it depends more on how long and how seriously the horn will be played, whether the owner is a pro or not. A good clarinet can be a lifetime or most-of-a-lifetime instrument, and the OP here is very young. There's plenty of time to get a great ROI in terms of musical satisfaction alone. I didn't play too much clarinet or sax while in law school and for a few years afterward. But after I got more settled financially and domestically, I soon bought a new Buffet C12 (about a half-step below the R13) to replace my plastic Bundy. I still enjoy playing that clarinet decades later, even though I'm primarily a saxophonist now.

Used horns in great condition are the best values around, but buying one generally requires more time, care, and expertise. A new instrument can be a good fit if you intend to keep it and play it for a long time.
 

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Keep your clarinet, keep it in its best condition, spend your money on a good mouthpiece (and maybe a barrel) and budget for an A clarinet. A good mouthpiece upgrade will do far more for your playing than moving from a Vito to an E11, etc. Fobes has a range of excellent upgrades, as do a number of other makers you see mentioned here.
 

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Unless your current clarinet is broken, don't waste your money. My very first clarinet, a plastic Leblanc Claritone (before the Resotone) played and sounded better than the new R-13 that I got while a student. What a waste. I still use that plastic clarinet on gigs where a wood clarinet is not feasible. "Step-up" clarinets can play better than some pro models of the same make, but I'm not getting into that now. A mouthpiece upgrade might be what you need.
 

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.... I thought getting a new clarinet might just be a better option as opposed to repairing a lot...
In my experience almost every new clarinet needs significant work done on it to improve venting, amke f/C and E/B pads close correctly, and make it reliable into the future. Do not assume that new means that it does not need servicing.

... One of the nearby stores had a new Buffet E11 on sale for ~$1200 (compared to this other store selling for $2019). Also through some digging online I've found that the Buffet E11 is getting mixed reviews. It's working awesome for some but it's falling apart for other people?..
Have you not read the link I provided above. The E11 made in France is a totally different animal to the E11 made in Germany. You cannot lump the two together. The French E11 is fine, AFTER a huge amount of time is spent dealing with the manufacturing issues to make it reliable - a lot more than $90-ish! This is an outstanding example of new not meaning that it does not need servicing.

... I guess it'll depend on the comprehensiveness of the warranty provided..
Yes. l Another can of worms. If a dealer dealt with all the issues - warranty issues, seeing the manufacture is substandard - of a French E11 then he would make no profit on sales. I think there would be very few dealers who would willingly carry out such warranty issues. They would try to mask or band-aid the issues until out of warranty. (It is because of issues like this that I am not a dealer! If I brought every instrument I sold up to the condition my customers have come to expect after servicing, there would be no profit in sales. I'd say at least 50% of my servicing work is dealing with manufacturing inadequacies.)

There is plenty of encouragement in this forum to buy a respected-model, second hand instrument. You really do need to know its service history and who did the servicing and their reputation and what restrictions might have been placed on them... Or get it thoroughly checked by a top technician who you trust, and who has no ulterior selling motives. Otherwise you are taking a large gamble. A gamble of buying a lot of service work needed to make the instrument play well AND RELIABLY.
The same situation as for a second hand car if you were buying a car WITHOUT a warrant of fitness.
 

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If you are looking at an E11, make sure to check if it's made in Germany or if it's the E11 France. The latter is one of the worst clarinets ever made. They play fine, good even, but there is a huge design flaw in the post mounting system. Buffet had the largest release of any model ever made, with its own special website, only to discontinue it and remove any trace of that advertisement they could not long after. If it was a different industry it might have been a recall.
 
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