Guide to Selecting the Right Clarinet

If you are purchasing a clarinet either to play as a beginner or to add to the list of musical instruments you play, there are many factors for you to consider. Clarinets belong to a specific family of musical instruments identified through their tunings and registers. This guide aims to cover the basics which will help you select the right clarinet type that suits your needs.

Anatomy of a clarinet

It is essential to begin by knowing the parts which comprise a clarinet which are:

  • Mouthpiece

  • Barrel

  • Upper joint

  • Lower joint

Materials used in the body

The body of a clarinet is typically made of wood or plastic. But there is a specific type of plastic used to create a clarinet which possesses the same durability and ruggedness appreciated in plastic while at the same time having the necessary qualities vital to producing the distinct sound of a clarinet. Most clarinets made of plastic are intended for students or beginners.

Professionals and advanced students prefer the range of clarinets made of wood. Grenadilla wood used in making clarinets is dense and produces a resonance only a clarinet made of wood can make. But in spite of the superior sound quality, wood clarinets require diligent care and maintenance which makes them unsuitable for students and beginners.

Clarinet keys and type of plating

Clarinet keys are usually plated with silver, nickel, and sometimes gold. Nickel-plated clarinets are more durable and non-tarnish, unlike silver. But silver feels warmer and nicer to the touch but will tarnish easily without proper care. If you prefer silver-plated clarinets, you’ll need to ensure that you care for it and maintain it by polishing to prevent tarnishing and to retain its shine.

Bore sizes and styles

The clarinet bore pertains to the internal dimensions of the clarinet. For beginners and students, a clarinet with a smaller bore size is more comfortable to tune and play. On the other hand, a clarinet with a larger bore has better pitch flexibility and is often preferred by jazz musicians.

Clarinet ligatures

A ligature is only a small part of a clarinet, but it plays a significant role in the musical instrument’s playability and tone. The ligature controls the vibration of the reed after attaching it to the mouthpiece. Another benefit of a quality ligature is how it helps reduce the impact of wear and tear on the reed so that you can use it longer.

Clarinet reed types

Experienced clarinet players advise that the kind of reed you use on your clarinet will affect the sound it produces. While most players choose a reed according to the brand, you can also select a reed based on its cut and strength.

Choosing clarinet tone

The ideal tone of a clarinet is bright, vibrant, and dark. The sound of the clarinet is fundamentally a pleasant mix of high and low overtones. Personal taste usually defines the combination of overtones, but in general, the clarinet should possess a smooth fundamental tone.