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Hello, I'm a sax player, these days mostly bari. I play with local big bands and would like to learn clarinet, so I can play big band parts and also try musical theatre. I don't know squat about clarinets. A friend suggested a beginner Yamaha model, anybody have some opinions for me?

Mel
 

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I don't know anything about clarinets either, but I would take a piece of any action that bets Yamaha makes a good beginner model.
 

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Older Wooden Selmer Signet, especially the Soloist or the Special models. Very good tone and rugged design. You should be able to find a really clean one on eBay between $200 and $400.

And get a Hite Premiere mouthpiece. These are extremely easy blowing and sound pretty good. I've got a Hite on my old Metal Clarient and I still love it. And there only like $28.00 new off the shelf.
 

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You don't need wood. It's over-rated! A lot of snob stuff attached to it. It probably does not affect sound.

Buying second hand, unless you have reliable advice on condition, could be expensive to bring the instrument up to reliability, especially for wood, which can split, and can have issues with sealing, from the grain roughness at tone hole edges..

Yamaha student is just fine. It even has undercut tone holes, which is probably a lot more significant than the wood/plastic issue.

The mouthpiece is also probably just fine, but go for Hite or Selmer (C85 120), and a huge range of others, if you want something slightly more up-market. But for you at this stage, that may equate to using teh Merc instead of the Corolla to do the supermarket shopping.
 

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Gordon (NZ) said:
You don't need wood. It's over-rated! A lot of snob stuff attached to it. It probably does not affect sound.
I gave my teacher an overhauled Bundy as a farewell gift (he always wanted a plastic thingy to fool around with, and he finds ringless bells cute), he put his mouthpiece on and started playing. I was devastated. Not only did he sound better than me (he does that all the time, to be honest), but he sounded just as good (given the acoustics in the room and my mediocre ears) as on his concert horn...he just said "it's the mouthpiece, the reed and the player that make all the difference."

You can't go wrong with a Yamaha, nor can you go wrong with a properly refurbished Vito, also a Bundy or an Amati will do well. Just get a proper mouthpiece (Hite Premiere, Fobes Debut), and the world is yours.
 

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Yes.
 

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tictactux said:
I gave my teacher an overhauled Bundy.... he sounded just as good as on his concert horn....".
I have done a lot of multi-instrumental playing in pits. Four times I have been "blown away" by the playing of the clarinetist beside me.

One of them was a plastic Yamaha with 4C mouthpiece.
One other was a plastic Boosey & Hawkes Regent (their lowest grade).

Yes, mainly the player. And a plastic clarinet has great response because it is so eqasy to get it leak-proof.
 

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The plastic Vito has been the "workhorse" of the school band clarinet section for many years. They are well made and have a good scale. I agree with Gordon that buying used older wooden clarinets can be problematic, especially the intermediate models. We usually repad the older Noblets and Signets with Valentino synthetic pads to accommodate the imperfect toneholes in the wood. If you find one with this type of pad, they can be as tight as any plastic clarinet, but be careful because the intonation can be spotty on many of these older intermediate wooden clarinets.

I can't agree that the top of the line wooden clarinets such as the Buffet R13 do not have a better tone than the plastic body clarinets with all other things (player, mouthpiece, reed) being equal. As with oboes and piccolos the wood gives the instrument a warmer and more resonant sound when played well. Of course a great clarinetist can make a plastic clarinet sound very good, but when they play their part in the orchestra, symphonic band or big band, they reach for their wooden professional model because they sound even better.
 

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jbtsax said:
I can't agree that the top of the line wooden clarinets such as the Buffet R13 do not have a better tone than the plastic body clarinets with all other things (player, mouthpiece, reed) being equal.
I did not mean to say that - I just said that under the given circumstances (just the two of us in an acoustically mediocre room) the benefits of his RC were not all that apparent. Plus, it's a matter of piece, taste and situation whether you prefer a velvety tone or a powerful honk. :D

(And I don't want to (re)start a debate whether wood or hard rubber or plastic is better, all other things (keys, workmanship, mouthpiece etc) being equal. This has been discussed too many times).
 

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jbtsax said:
I can't agree that the top of the line wooden clarinets such as the Buffet R13 do not have a better tone than the plastic body clarinets with all other things (player, mouthpiece, reed) being equal. As with oboes and piccolos the wood gives the instrument a warmer and more resonant sound when played well. Of course a great clarinetist can make a plastic clarinet sound very good, but when they play their part in the orchestra, symphonic band or big band, they reach for their wooden professional model because they sound even better.
I also agree that a top of line wood clarinet such as the Buffet R13 most likely sounds better than a much lower quality plastic model, but how about same quality synthetic material clarinet, for example the Buffet Greenline? Several of the top professional clarinetists in the world play Greenlines.

Like tictactux, I don't want to restart the debate about clarinet materials, but the difference is, I don't mind restarting it :D ;)
 

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Perhaps one of those threads, with most of what is to be said on the subject, should be a "sticky" thread, to direct indoctrinated newcomers to.
 

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About 90 % of the people I know started on the Buffet B12 (myself included). In fact, I remember being sent right back to the shop when I turned up to the first lesson with a Bundy to go back and get the B12. I'd been offered both, but chose the Bundy because it was shinier...
 

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marcg said:
I remember being sent right back to the shop....
Talk about prejudices...sometimes I have the impression schools and teachers are receiving the one or other sort of compensation for advocating brand X over brand Y. From a marketeer's perspective, this makes a lot of sense as many people stick to the brand they started with (whatever activity is involved, it's not only instruments).
The downside is that there is a considerable amount of "brand pressure", as seen on schoolyards. Being an adult I am more immune to that, but when kids are singled out because their parents can't afford to buy an RC or an Opus etc then this is bad, bad, bad.
(I do think it's useful to warn buyers against saving money in the wrong place, though.)
 

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I started on a King Tempo model with a decent mpc. This worked fantastically for years until I got a 10-10 Sympnony. I then progressed to a Selmer centered tone, Selmer series 9, then a Buffet R13 and finally an RC. There were other flirtations with Normandy's, LeBlancs, etc.... but it was the RC that was the one for me until it was stolen earlier this year out of the back of my car. I had had that RC for 20 years.

As for starting clarinets, provided the instrument is in good working order then any of the cheaper brand used clarinets will work well for a student in the beginning. Iit is when they progress on a little that you need to look towards the better clarinets. A decent mpc will do much better for a new clarinet player than a better clarinet will.
 

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tictactux said:
Talk about prejudices...sometimes I have the impression schools and teachers are receiving the one or other sort of compensation for advocating brand X over brand Y...
I don't think it was an issue of commission in this case - that first teacher hated teaching the clarinet and eventually managed to focus on his main love, recorders.

Having moved to university and met clarinettists from other parts of the country it seems the Buffet B12 is just the standard beginner instrument for the most part in the UK, with people then moving up to a Buffet E13 and potentially on to an R13.

This may of course reflect what their teachers are playing, certainly my teachers played on Buffet instruments. It may however reflect that teachers just want their students to go down the route of instruments that had been tried and tested and proved to be reliable, consistent and easy to play. In the same way virtually everybody playing alto sax started on (what was then) a YAS-23. I suppose teachers want to spend their time teaching rather than having to fiddle around fixing small problems and the like.

As an aside, when I upgraded from my B12 I was able to try both the E13 and the Yamaha equivalent, the 34IIS (equivalent nowadays to a 650, I believe). I went with the Yamaha as I found it more free-blowing. I've since regretted it many a time, mainly due to the weak throat notes and everybody else in my quartet having to tune to me due to it being slightly flatter (although that may just be my playing). I've never got round to upgrading as I spent my money on harmony clarinets (which, incidently, are Buffets) and saxes. Should I have stuck to what my teacher suggested? I often think so, but part of me is aware that it's probably me blaming the equipment for my inadequacies!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thank you, I took your advice, Yamaha 220 plastic clarinet and Fobes Debut mouthpiece. I'm using Legere 2 3/4 reeds and all is well. I'm getting a decent sound without killing myself, can play it in tune. I'm happy. Now it's just a matter of getting used to the mechanics of clarinet. It's driving me INSANE!! :)

Mel
 

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i started on a vito -then used a selmer signet solost for 20 yrs-got a leblanc LL then finally a buffet r13 . bootman -whats the bosey& hawks 10-10 like ? never got to play one
 
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