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 Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: hirundo 
Date:   2019-05-06 20:36

Hello from a new forum member. I'm about to start playing clarinet (I'm a 50-year-old biologist who plays piano), and I'm considering a Yamaha YCL-255. I'm a little hesitant to buy used, and I've seen new 255s for ~$875 on eBay. For a little more money, though, I could get a new Ridenour Lyrique 576. I'm not rich, but I don't mind spending a little more than bare minimum for a good instrument.

Here's my question: Is it a bad idea to start with a pro or semi-pro clarinet? I've seen articles describe the "easiness" of playing this or that clarinet--is that real or marketing? How much harder to play would a Lyrique 576 be compared to a YCL-255? I have a teacher lined up to help me learn.

Thanks for your time! -Robert

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: hans 
Date:   2019-05-06 21:29


It may be wise to rent an instrument before deciding on a purchase. After you have acquired some playing ability, you will be able to compare instruments more effectively.

And pay no attention to the glowing descriptions of "dark, free blowing, great projection, easy playing, etc.". These are probably created from a long list of adjectives in manufacturers' marketing manuals and chosen randomly depending on the day of the week. The main issue is how well it plays for you :-)

Good luck,


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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2019-05-06 22:38

HI, Robert:

Since you have a teacher already lined up, I would--if possible--take up the subject with them before buying a clarinet.

Some teachers would much prefer that you get started on a particular make and/or model of instrument.


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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: Ed 
Date:   2019-05-06 22:58

FWIW- the student line Yamahas play great. You can often find older ones like the YCL20 for a very good price.

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-05-06 23:04

Some pro and student instruments are easier to play than others, and you want something relatively easy to play. The two main reasons not to get a pro horn right off are that you might not stick with it long enough to make the expense worthwhile, and you don't know yet what kind of horn you most like playing on, so it will be easy to buy something that, if you do stick with it and improve, you won't be that happy with. The advice to ask your prospective teacher is good.

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-05-07 01:22

All things being equal, a better horn will play better. It sounds though like you want things at or under $1000. There are a number of issues that can come up with used having "set up" problems such as the need for new corks (silencing bumpers) or pads. A few students I've seen came in with the "starter" Backun Alphas which are pretty darn good and play like regular clarinets (Backun's website lists them for just under a grand). The Ridenours are good too, but they are a bit unique in resistance and tuning. You won't find another clarinet that responds quite like it so they don't make as much sense to me unless you plan on sticking with them.

...............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: nellsonic 
Date:   2019-05-07 09:01

Renting for the first few months is smart. You never know how you are really going to take to something until you give it a try for awhile. Hopefully playing the clarinet will be everything you hope it to be and then you'll be ready to invest with confidence.

Definitely consult with your teacher on this. S/he will help you avoid pitfalls and may perhaps be able to connect you with a better deal. The mouthpiece and reeds you use in the beginning are crucial and a qualified teacher will have specific advice for you there as well.

Starting from the beginning with a teacher is the way to go. It takes minutes to initiate a correct habit. It takes weeks (or more often) months to fix a bad one.


Post Edited (2019-05-07 09:02)

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2019-05-07 09:30

I'd personally start on a new "student" instrument. It can take a while to learn how to hold/manipulate/assemble/maintain/care for the instrument without putting undue pressure on the keys/posts/knocking it off the chair/etc...general care/maintenance stuff.

Equipment can hold a person back (whether in sports or in music), but it takes a little while to achieve that point.

When the time comes for you to move up to a new professional clarinet, you might like it to be new and in top shape - lacking any of the damage/use/wear it might have otherwise experienced while you were at the beginning stages.


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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: Green Henry 
Date:   2019-05-07 10:31

Hi Hirundo

Good question. I started three years ago when I was 57. Here's my two pence worth:
- I started by renting a Yamaha 255. As people say above, you never know whether you'll like it; I found out quickly that I love it (not the same as finding I was particularly good at it!) and I bought the 255, which I still have. It's well made and I still play it. As a beginner a new instrument from a reputable maker was a good move for me, I think. Anything like a small leak in a clarinet will make it almost impossible to play and a beginner is likely to blame themselves and be tempted to give up. (As an aside, Fuzzy above mentioned accidentally damaging the instrument and you really should get someone to show you how to assemble it without risking bending anything right at the start: they are weirdly intricate and clumsily bending a key is all too easy!)

- That said, I upgraded to the Yamaha 455 model a while ago. It feels identical in the hands and to play though as it's wooden it feels heavier. I think it sounds better, but it can be really hard to tell!

- I have a need for two instruments as I spend time in two locations and play in ensembles in both, and as a 60th birthday present / reward for passing the ABRSM Grade 5 exam recently I'm going to upgrade the 255, ideally leapfrogging the 455. It's really difficult to choose an instrument, even though I'm confident enough now to try second hand. I'm trying out a second hand Buffet E13. I think it sounds better (sweeter) but can't really make my mind up.

- Right at the start I expect you will find it difficult to get a consistent note out of it, but if you can, one tip is to play facing a wall. You hear the sound bouncing off the wall better than if you are in the middle of the room. The sound mainly comes out of the holes, not the bell (I think).

- The sound is significantly affected by reeds and mouthpieces. That's a very deep rabbit hole to dive into though. For the current quandary I spent an hour yesterday recording myself play three different short pieces on each of two instruments with two mouthpieces and two reeds. Eight versions to compare! And there are hundreds of types of reed and mouthpiece. I think it's added to my confusion.

- Practice is a magical thing: spending half an hour trying unsuccessfully to do something, with no apparent progress, then finding the next day that you can do it somewhat better. So if one instrument seems better at first, the other might be better after you've practised with it for a while.

- At first half an hour was as long as I could manage to play, but again, as if by magic, I now find I can play for 90 minutes without getting too tired.

- A warning: when I retired learning the clarinet was one of quite a few things I was going to do - maybe a Masters in maths? maybe a lot of travelling? Cycle tours, walking trails? Uh oh. I've become obsessed with playing the clarinet! Lesson, practice, four ensembles, bit of swimming and housework - it fills up the week.

- I'm glad I have though: along with all the frustration you get moments of real bliss. As soon as you can, join an ensemble and play with other people. You will improve faster and you will get that wonderful feeling of the whole being more than the sum of the parts.

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: RKing 
Date:   2019-05-07 16:57

If you are taking lessons through a music store, it might be wise to rent a clarinet first. Many stores allow you to build credit with the rental and apply that toward the purchase of a new instrument later. I also suggest that you talk to your teacher and get their advice as well.

If you are determined to buy a clarinet, I suggest you buy a new instrument instead of a used instrument. With the new instrument, you should have a warranty and return period with which to test play and see if the instrument suits you.

They don't pay me or give me any free stuff, but I would be happy to recommend the Yamaha 255 as a good place to start. Yamaha has a well-deserved reputation for quality control and every Yamaha I have ever tried played great right out of the box. I bought a Yamaha 255 to use as my "outdoor" horn and it plays very well.



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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: Erez Katz 
Date:   2019-05-07 23:04

For a beginner, an instrument must be in perfect working condition.
A clarinet is not a complicated instrument, but the few places where things can go wrong - do get wrong.
A teacher that has an established relationship with a technician is the best way to verify an instrument's condition. If the instrument is old or new, it does not matter much.

I think it would be best if you asked your teacher to go with you to a music shop and pick an instrument for rental, consider the next step later. The market is flooded with instruments, new and old, don't rush.

Once an appropriate instrument is found, your teacher can help you choose a good mouthpiece, ligature etc.

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: Ashle TK 
Date:   2019-05-07 23:13

FWIW. If you are looking for a ycl 255, You might want to look at the Yamaha 200adII At the beginning of the school year, you can find new ones for under 600. They are the same as the 255, but have a nicer case. I currently play a Yamaha Csvr, but have a 255 also for outdoor use.

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: NOLA Ken 
Date:   2019-05-09 06:03

As a late-life returnee to the clarinet, I heartily concur with Erez's statement about things going wrong - or just getting out of whack. I cannot stress enough how important it is to find a really good clarinet technician - preferrably one within reasonable driving distance. It's even worth paying a bit more in purchase price to buy from a store that either has a really good tech on staff or a really good relationship with one. Consult with your teacher and if possible with other clarinetists in the area as to who the good ones are.

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: hans 
Date:   2019-05-09 07:34

Re: "A clarinet is not a complicated instrument, but the few places where things can go wrong - do get wrong. "....
It may not seem complicated in some respects, but a quick glance in my repair manual describes more than a few places that are ruled by Murphy's Law.


Post Edited (2019-05-10 00:44)

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: TomS 
Date:   2019-05-10 08:34

Not big on the YCL-250/255 because they play a bit sharp for me. The YCL-400 is a dandy, IMHO. I own a YCL-650, and it's nice too, a bit bright, but tunes well and great response.

If you have the bucks, I'd go for a full professional Yamaha, like the CSVR. It just makes life easier for the beginner and advanced. Why not start with the best and never worry about upgrading?


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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: hirundo 
Date:   2019-05-19 05:02

Thanks for all the excellent advice. Renting wasn't really an option (long story), but I went with a Yamaha YCL-255, which I found new online for only ~$550. My teacher approves, and the one music shop in my small town deals only with Yamaha clarinets, so it seemed the best move. I'll work out what nicer clarinet I want to get in a year or two if everything goes according to plan. Thanks again!

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: bmcgar 2017
Date:   2019-05-19 19:49

I haven't read all the posts, so someone may have mentioned this, but if you decide to quit playing and sell whatever instrument you bought, you'll recoup a larger percentage of your investment by buying a beginner or intermediate instrument.

Pro instruments, for some very odd reason, depreciate a lot the first time you blow into one, just like new cars do (so to speak). Maybe has something to do with the higher demand for lower-end horns.


Post Edited (2019-05-23 02:13)

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 Re: Start clarinet on a pro instrument?
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-05-24 20:28


I started on a very old, kind of shabby instrument, with a beautiful tone. I then upgraded to a pro-ish (Yamaha Custom CX) after my grade 1 exam. It definitely made it easier for me to make progress having a really good clarinet. It also meant that I was able to keep the lovely tone that that brought me into it originally from having started on a vintage instrument.

I think that if you have the money to buy a really good instrument than there is no reason not to, just because you are a beginner. However, I do think it's essential to go to a shop and try several for a good long time to compare. I found the Yamaha really good, but the more expensive Buffet models and even the more expensive Yamaha models really didn't light my candle. The shop people said maybe only a professional could get the best out of those instruments, but I visited a professional who had bought a really high-end one and regretted it, wishing that they had bought the CX. I think that it is a hugely personal decision and well worth making yourself, based on having actually met the specific instrument that you are considering buying.

Also when you visit the shop, take an electronic tuner, to check whether you need to buy a shorter barrel, because you might not be able to play up to pitch yet. I play a short barrel and it is fine.

I think that buying a good clarinet quite quickly is something that is maybe more common with adult beginners, because they may have more money, and know their own mind better, and know that they really want to work hard and make fast progress. Relative to a 10 year old started, for example.

Hope that helps.

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