Purchasing a used clarinet does not have to be a difficult task. There are a few pointers to consider when purchasing used instruments of any kind, especially clarinets. Knowing the source is one of the most important tips for understanding how the clarinet has been used. Another useful tip is to shop around and compare prices rather than buying the first used clarinet that appears to be reasonable. Finally, learning enough about clarinets to spot any problems or flaws, or having it played or inspected someone who can certify it as a quality instrument, is a good idea.
A used clarinet can sometimes be found for a very low price. In this case, knowing the instrument’s history may be especially important. Buyers can learn how many owners the clarinet has had, how it was used in the past, and how old it is. A clarinet used in a marching band, for example, will be subjected to more wear and tear than one used in an orchestra. Clarinets used primarily children are frequently subjected to harsher treatment than clarinets used adults.
Within the clarinet family, there are several different types of instruments, so make sure the one for sale is the right one for you. The B flat clarinet, for example, is the one that most children play in school bands, and it is also the one that is easiest to find used. Someone looking to buy a used clarinet should be familiar enough with the instrument to recognize the type and spot any obvious flaws; otherwise, have someone familiar with clarinets inspect the instrument.
It’s also a good idea to practice playing the clarinet before buying one, or have someone else do it for you. To safely test a clarinet, a person shopping for one should bring a clarinet mouthpiece and reed, or at the very least a reed and some kind of antibacterial mouthpiece wipe. It’s critical to inspect the instrument for obvious chips or cracks. Similarly, a shopper should check beneath each key to see if there is a pad in place.
Because the clarinet is a single-reed instrument, replacing a cracked mouthpiece is much less expensive than repairing a problem with the instrument’s body. Because the mouthpiece, bell at the bottom, and barrel just below the mouthpiece do not have keys, they are much less expensive to replace than the first and second joints, which contain all of the moving parts and pads.
It’s possible that the clarinet needs new pads or keys if it sounds airy or squeaks. Such replacements can sometimes be more expensive than the entire used clarinet. Replacement costs for old, cracked pads or bent keys can be quite high, and should be factored into the total cost.