Choosing a used clarinet can be a difficult and frustrating process. Unlike choosing a new instrument, used clarinets have had previous owners. It is important to have an idea of how long the instrument had been played and how the instrument has been maintained.
For first time buyers, shop around to see the different available price options instead of purchasing the first instrument that appears to be the least expensive. Used instruments can either be purchased in a local music store or online. While purchasing an instrument online may be the most convenient and appear to be a better deal, it is more than likely that additional investments in repairs to the instrument will be needed. It is best to try to find a shop that is very selective in the used instruments they offer. One example of a shop that does this can be found here.
It is important to test an instrument for playability with a personal mouthpiece, ligature, and reeds. This will help to determine what stye of playing if the clarinet is best suited for. If choosing a used clarinet for a beginner, it is important to choose a quality instrument that facilitates an ease of playing for the student. Whether one is selecting an instrument for a student or a professional, it is important to know what a quality instrument is, or to be accompanied by someone who does, in order to check a prospective purchase before the commitment to buy.
It’s always worth it to check if there are any cracks in the bore of an instrument. A woodwind technician can examine an instrument to see if there have been any cracks throughout its lifespan. It’s never a good idea to purchase an instrument if the bore has cracked.
Keys and pads
Used clarinets made with nickel keys become tarnished through use, which make silver keys a favorable choice. Make sure that the keys are not bent and aligned properly to the tone holes of the instrument. If the keys are bent and unaligned, it will make it difficult for the instrument to function properly. Check if the clarinet pads are worn out or stained. If the pads are worn out they will negatively affect the playability of the instrument, and should be replaced by a professional woodwind technician.
The joints of the clarinet should be corked properly. If the cork looks worn or is falling apart, be sure to ask for it to be replaced before purchasing. The joints should fit so that the instrument does not disassemble itself during performance.
Check to see if the bell is not chipped or cracked. If the bell is cracked, do not purchase the instrument.
While testing multiple used instruments, be sure to play the entire range of the chromatic scale from the chalumeau to the high altissimo to check key function, intonation between registers, and overall playability. Bring a tuner and check the intonation of the instrument by playing the note ‘e1’ and then ‘b2’, then ‘b1’ to ‘f-sharp 2’. This helps to see if the instrument is in tune throughout the different registers. It is also good to play short familiar excerpts to compare the intonation and sound quality between instruments. After picking the best instrument, try comparing it with your current clarinet to see if it is better.
By considering all of these points, purchasing a used clarinet can be very straightforward. While it can be seen as a more inexpensive option to buying a new instrument, that is not always the case. If the used instrument is in poor condition, it can cost more to replace old, worn pads or bent keys than the used clarinet itself.