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Whats a good student clarinet.

3082 Views 19 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  simso
Hi folks, Im learning the sax and the wifes learning the clarinet, weve purchased a couple of second hand units and a new unit and are curious whats a good unit. We started with a cheap no name brand bought at the local music shop here $250 and after the wife kept getting frustrated with not being able to make sounds we decided to chase a cheap student plastic brand name unit. So we purchased a second hand yamaha 20 and it sounds nice and clear and crisp but the lower fingering your struggling to get a sound out, so Im assuming it needs pads even though they look okay. If we put the yammy moutrh piece on the local new one she bought it sounds fairly good, so Im assuming the problem with the local one is the mouthpiece and not the unit, ive ordered a vandoren b45 to hopefully fix this. We have also purchased a selmer bundy unit second hand from the states as well, but it hasnt arrived. My question if anyone doesnt mind answering is are the yammy 20 and selmer bundy decent student units and are they worth paying the money for to get them repadded. Local cost is 260 each. Our end goal is to have two nice quality student units for her to use.
Any one got some ideas or suggestions
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In good condition both the Yamaha plastic and the Bundy should be good instruments, and the ones I played would be good as two student level instruments. You say it cost 260 to repair.... what... $US? Euros? Because of your post I assume Euros - and that sounds like a high price, but it depends on the condition of the specific instruments so impossible to know. Prices also vary a lot in different countries.
Thanks, thats australian dollars, exchange rate is 1 dollar aust buys 85c USA. So about 230 us dollars each for clean and repad, standard price. Plus extras such as recorking ect if required. I said to the wife Id repad them myself but she thinks shell get a better job at a local service centre, I can buy the pads for 6 bucks us for a complete set. Persopnally I couldnt find any adjustments on these units so it basically is a spring loaded pad. But thats life. If there both good quality student units then Ill definetly get them fixed up. Another quick question if I may, people say that the copy cat clarinets are either selmer style or buffet style """whats the difference"
The problem with the "servicing" prices is that they are the same for a pro instrument or a student-grade horn - the amount of work for a repad is the same, after all. So while it appears to be a reasonable investment for a 2000$ instrument, it can make you scratch your head a bit when you compare that to a 20$ Bundy off That Auction site.
Unless you find a repairer who has "student rates" for student horns, your only option is to ask for a partial overhaul a.k.a. "make it playable". Or you do it yourself; however, be prepared for a busy weekend the first time (and maybe a second set of pads because you ruin the one or other pad at the first attempt). A good eye, common sense and a working specimen to compare with certainly help in that process.

Having said that, both the Yamaha and the Bundy should "do" just fine - with a decent mouthpiece, that is. (Hite Premiere and Fobes Debut are excellent choices for a beginner or hobbyist and won't break the bank)
Thanks for the info, Ill probably give it a go repadding it myself to start with, after all a set of pads are only 6 us. If I go wrong then I can hand it over afterwards. Ive aactually removed a few of the keys to see what was involved and it doesnt look very hard. The only question would be what do you use to stick the new pads down with. The sax's use melted shellac, is this similiar or is there something else anyone can recommend. The pads are made of pressed felt and sheep urinary bladder. Sounds grose.
you can do less than a complete overhaul. Just replace pads as needed and leak check/adjust, and it shouldn't cost more than $100.

I went to a site that showed you how to leak test each component and how to create a vacuum within the component, and I tried the test on the wifes yamaha 20 and it seals pretty damned good, you can create a vacumm and it slowly bleeds of. I wouldnt imagine that you could create a perfect vacuum. Ill repad it anyway and see what it does. I cannot however find a single adjustment anywhere on the whole clarinet so even if something was out of alignment there would be no adjustment to be able to reset it, unless you removed the key and hand bent it or maybe shimmed out the pad.
Anyone ever adjusted a clarinet
I adjust by how the pads sit in the cups, but also a lot, by bending alignment of cups over tone holes, and bending parts involved in linkages. and venting... MANY adjustments. It takes experience, because one has to over-bend, then back, to relax the metal to a stable state.

Same on saxophone. I imaging that all manufacturers (who actually adjust!) do it too.

I do not remove keys to make these adjustments, but have a range of specialised tools, both bought and home-made/adapted, to facilitate the process.

I guess most technicians do the same.
Thankyou for that, I appreciate it, I was pretty sure that it would require bending if it was to seal correctly if it wasnt already simply because there are no adjustment screws ect. Ill try and find someone whose a bit better priced as I want two units repadded and adjusted the yammy 20 and the selmer bundy. If I cannot get them done for a reasonable price and Im assuming about 300 for both here then Ill do it myself, but thats a last option
Thanks Steve
I'm not a fan of the vacuum method - after all, this just sucks the pads into their tonehole beds, and this doesn't say a lot how well it will seal while actually blowing. I slip a (kid's party) balloon over the bell side tenon, close all and start inflating the balloon through the mouthpiece. You then have a lot of time to find eventual leaks; and it makes a good lung exercise. If running out of fingers, do the same with each joint separately.

Per the glue used: I haven't got any shellac at hand but use hot-melt glue; the type I found melts at roughly the same temperature as shellac. With the knife I cut small chippings of the glue rod, put them into the cup and use a lighter to melt it from below (key cup) and above (directly over the glue). I let it cool just a bit, place the pad on it (don't press yet!) and mount the still warm key. Some more heat with the lighter, lightly close the key and the pad should slip into place more or less by itself. The trick is not to use too much nor to little glue - the pad should sink into the cup without squeezing out excess glue.
If the pad is too thin compared to the original, I cut a cardboard backing (greeting card thickness), re-heat the key, remove the pad and glue its back right on the cardboard disk, then put the assembly back into the key - you'll get the hang of it. Fortunately, except from straightening bent keys, I didn't have to do any "in situ" bending yet.

I might get scolded over this: If you fear you might "bake" a pad to a premature death, you can also use PVA (aka plain ol' white) glue; it takes roughly 15..30 minutes to set and you have plenty of time to re-adjust the pad once the key is mounted. It can reasonably easy be removed - heat the cup, pry out the worn pad and get the remaining goo out with a toothpick. Put the glue only along the rim of the pad's back, and don't overdo it! I know, it doesn't look professional, but it worked for my own clarinets, and I've done a number of horns where former repairers used unusual glues and cements (window putty, for example) in the key cups...once you have acquired the dexterity, you can still switch to hot melt glue or shellac.

Adjustment comprises new damper corks and sanding them down to appropriate thickness. Springs are carefully bent if they prove too stiff or too soft (happens on badly abused horns, and I'm pretty tolerant)

Final action is a 1 hour play test to get the new pads worn in a bit. Occasionally, a pad or two have to be readjusted in that process.

Disclaimer: I work on student-grade clarinets only. Pro instruments deserve pro treatment.
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Wow thank you for the explanation, I have a detailed overhaul book on woodwind instruments which also detail the clarinet, but your explanation was very good. I say this because with the yammy 20 I can do the suction vacuum method on the lower section and it seals air tight but if I simply shine a light up in the centre I can see light leaking around the lower keys, but under vacuum they seal fine, so this means to me either the pads arent on properly or they need shimming out. This instrument also has problems hitting those lower notes. The pads on these keys look absolutely perfect and undamaged so me thinks there noty touching properly at all.
I appreciate the info, will definetly give it a go if I cant get it done locally
simso said:
... I can buy the pads for 6 bucks us for a complete set. ..
$6 Austr? What sort of pads are those? I know of no supplier who sells even mediocre pads anywhere near that cheap. I suspect they are really poor quality and maybe very difficult to work with.

No idea on the quality but theey make and sell there own instruments if you take the link to there website
I don't like sucking either.

For clarinets, I block the end of a section, block the back of my throat, and "squirt" a mouthful of air gently into the instrument. Loss of pressure inside the mouth indicates leakage.

If I then blow hard (from my lungs) the offending pad will often be the first to lift, as air nosily escapes.

However, I, like most technicians, eliminate leaks as every pad is installed, using a thin membrane "feeler", testing for differences in closing pressure around the pad. When the repad is finished the "squirt" test should show little or no leakage, especially on a plastic clarinet.

There are MANY approaches to installing clarinet pads. Mine is as follows:

I use glue-gun type glue in amber pellets, from J L Smith. I put one or more pellets - quantity is critical - into the key cup, and heat the key cup over a Bunsen burner (off the instrument) until the first visual sign of softening of the glue. This means that this particular type of glue is soft enough to move and to stick. (You need the right glue to rely on this sign!)

Then I gently place the pad in. Then squirt a spray of water (from a spray bottle) onto the (doubled-up) smock covering my thigh, and wipe the back of the key cup over this until there is no longer any audible sizzle - a couple of seconds. This means the glue is at the right temperature for "massaging" the pad firmly, into the pad cup, ensuring it is evenly level all the way round. (BTW pads must not project too far beyond the cup, or you will have stuffy sounding notes from poor venting!)

Install the key on the instrument, and use appropriate tools to adjust the alignment of the key cup over the tone hole such that the pad, as tested by the feeler, is closing evenly all the way around the tone hole. (No reheating and adjsuting the pad crooked in the key cup!) Then press the key cup firmly with my thumb, and give final check. Done. Sometimes I "iron" a pad with a pad slick to flatten the surface more, and improve the "immediacy" of the closing.

It is worth noting that a repadding job is very seldom just a repadding job, because a repadding job is useless unless tone holes are level and blemish-free, posts are securely mounted, springs (especially throat A) operate freely, pivots are not sloppy, pivots are free of excessive friction, springs have appropriate tension (and the amateur is likely to muck it up for a few of them!), silencing materials are doing their job properly AND reliably, linkages are accurate and reliable, linkages are free of friction, etc, etc, etc. This is where the expertise of a good technician is invaluable.

Aust$260 is cheap. Either the instrument is in excellent condition, or the technician is likely to skimp on the job, either by choice or by ignorance.
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Yeh dont worry Ive been waying it up, for the price of two refurbishments plus initial purchases, she gets two good quality student clarinets for a cheaper price than a new single of the shelf unit. Its just a case I guess now of finding a good reputable person here in western australia to do the overhauls for me on the yammy and bundy
Okay Ive sent some emails of this morning to loacl repair centres and hopefully Ill get someone willing to take the job on at a fair price. I agree that the work to overhaul a student unit is not a lot less than a professional unit, but it does hurt a bit when new student clarinets are cheaper than the overhaul of a brand name student unit. That being said, Ive tempted them the repairers with extra work, We currently have in our home music arsenal 5 saxophones and 5 clarinets. Three of the saxes need repadding a tenor a alto and a soprano all good brand name units not chinese cheapies and along with the two student clarinets we also have two student bundy alto clarinets which need overhauling as well but there just simply stored away there tarnishes and got corrosion on the keys ect so there a big job. So Ive given the lists of what I need to the techs and said this is what I also need overhauled in the next 6 months as my budget allows me. hopefully I get some responses
Didnt get any replys today, not very impressed with the service being offered in our area. Gordon if I may, what happens if you can get really good air pressure inside the housing and have to blow really really hard to get a pad to pop. Example the yamaha head piece or top section I cannot get a pad to pop open regardless of how hard I blow, but on the bottom if I blow really really hard I can get a pad to just pop open on the back side of the lower section, not actually leak around the pad but pop the key open just. I cannot make it leaak even used smoke to see if there was a haze just in case my mind was playing games. Will a repad achieve anything here or could it be that the pads are actually pretty good on this one
Blowing hard is not a good test for leaks. I can open pads on ANY clarinet by blowing hard. It is a way of indicating where a leak might likely be IF there are leaks. As I think I explained. The mouthful of air GENTLY squirted is a reasonable test.

Of course if the bridge key linking the two sections is not adjusted right, then a leak will appear only when the instrument is assembled.

And for any blowing or sucking test, the player tends to press down really hard. In real life playing, players do not press this hard. If players have to press hard, then the instrument fails more and more as the player plays faster.

If you press gently during this test then the air is likely to leak along your fingerprint grooves from the ring key holes. This probably also happens a bit during play!

However if you can detect no leaks, then a technician may actually not make it play any easier. He may improve the action of the mechanism though, and increase reliability, which you are probably not testing.

Note that these comments are very superficial. Valid diagnosis is really only made with the instrument present, and a lot of experience.
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simso said:
Example the yamaha head piece or top section I cannot get a pad to pop open regardless of how hard I blow, but on the bottom if I blow really really hard I can get a pad to just pop open on the back side of the lower section, not actually leak around the pad but pop the key open just. (...) Will a repad achieve anything here or could it be that the pads are actually pretty good on this one
The Eb key will usually "let go" first under pressure. This is normal; you don't want to have to push down the Eb touchpiece as hard as when opening a lyre clamp! So the spring tension there is a compromise between keeping the key shut and allowing the player to open it. Similar keys (eg Ab or Register key) on the upper joint don't open that easily because their pads and tone holes are much smaller.

So...if you have to blow really hard until it's opening, it's probably okay.
Hey thanks for all the info guys, thats a really valid point you make that we press harder when leak testing than we would when playing. I actually hadnt given that any thought. Im hoping these folks will get back to me but if not. Well ////. Im an aircraft jet engine mechanic by trade and have access to a full electroplating shop so it is possible for me to do it, I also have a mill and lathe here at home with reamers ect so I probably am capable of doing it but Im happy now to give it to a professional. The one thing that you guys have pointed out to me is there is a bit more to the unit than simply throwing a set of pads on.
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