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 Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: Cimm 
Date:   2021-10-07 20:34


I don't play any woodwinds but I have an old clarinet in good shape. My son would like to try it out and possibly join the high school band next year (at which point we'd evaluate what he really needs from an instrument). The old clarinet needs pads. Or I could get a cheap newer student clarinet for not much more than the cost of new pads.

Obviously you can't compare two hypothetical instruments! But how old can a clarinet be before it's too different an instrument to be good to learn on?

Have clarinets changed enough over the last century such that a cheap modern student instrument is better for a beginner than a decent old--but functional--instrument?

Thanks!



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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2021-10-07 21:34

As you say, impossible to advise without trying it. How old is it?
My advise is usually to go with the new student model since they are very good these days and not much more expensive than decades ago when I was teaching. Plus, you now have 2 clarinets -- one as a spare if you replace the pads.

You could replace the pads later and maybe an overhaul (if it's worth it), give it a blow--have a professional try it and get an opinion.
The new student model is fine unless your son decides to make music (performing) a career or very serious hobby.
I have practiced on excellent student Yamaha clarinets and my current one, a Selmer.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus
(902)-225-3276

Post Edited (2021-10-07 21:35)

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: tyleman 
Date:   2021-10-07 22:07

I play vintage instruments, and buy and sell, and from experience I would do as Tom H has suggested. You likely could get a nice hard-rubber student model clarinet for significantly less than a repad and overhaul. I also would recommend finding out whether the old clarinet is a brand worth doing a repad, as some clarinets are really not worth the trouble. If you post the brand name of the old clarinet those of us here could advise you.

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: Cimm 
Date:   2021-10-07 22:54

Thanks!

You're absolutely right of course; a new student model is the most sensible option. It would also sound more like the other clarinets in a school band so if he does join a band, I'll be getting a new(er) instrument anyway.


I guess I wanted to see if my son would like goofing around with a clarinet enough to sign up for band before investing in a "good" one. But I don't want to accidentally hand him an instrument that will give him a bad impression of clarinets and turn off all interest. (Our area is still a little too virus wary for lessons at this time.)



My old clarinet was built in the 1920s. It's an ebonite "Harry Pedler" (not Pedler Co.--it appears to predate the Martin version of the brand) and has no serial number to date it any better than that. Worth a redo? It's clean, rust-free, and the keys look perfect. I think it's low pitch but I guess that's one more fun unknown gamble. :)

The keywork looks modern enough but it's likely that there are differences in how it functions that might not relate well to a modern instrument.

What's considered an overhaul? I know about corks and pads and springs and making things line up and go up and down when and where they're supposed to. Cleaning?

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: NOLA Ken 
Date:   2021-10-08 05:48

I bought a couple of Pedlers when I returned to playing six years ago after 35 years away. I thought I would either play around with learning to repair them or have someone rehab them for me. But then I found that most of the screws were frozen. Most techs will charge you extra to deal with frozen screws - assuming that they can even get them out without stripping them. And that is way too old an instrument. It's not worth the money it would cost to overhaul it. Even if it were in good shape your son would likely not find it a rewarding experience to be playing that instrument in a school band. I agree with everyone above, I recomment that you buy a contemporary student level instrument, or even an "intermediate" level instrument. When I returned to playing I was surprised to find that some very good instruments can be had at very reasonable prices. A newer instrument will provide your son with a more positive first experience in playing and serve him for several years if he decides to continue with it.

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: tyleman 
Date:   2021-10-08 10:25

Cimm: thanks for the additional info. If it's an ebonite clarinet - I would recommend not to bother. I am a fan and own several that I've had overhauled, but for my use, and they were both in very good condition before the work was done. However, what I paid for the work I will never recover as 1) they are old, and 2) there's a general disdain in the clarinet community for non-wood clarinets.

There are plenty of very good wooden clarinets around on the used market, and as long as you can find one in playable condition you shouldn't have to pay very much. There are bargains to be had with LeBlanc, Noblet, Selmer and Penzel-Mueller, for example. Old doesn't necessarily mean no longer serviceable; my daily player is a 100+ year old Jean Martin, and I've other older clarinets that are excellent.

A good starter clarinet is a Buffet B-12, a composite clarinet made in Germany by Schreiber.

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: graham 
Date:   2021-10-08 16:16

For kids, fitting with the peer group is important, and being the odd one out is not so good. Old case alone will compromise street cred.

Although all my B flats and As are around 90 - 120 years old, I knew what I wanted when I got them. A beginner doesn’t know, and this removes the theoretical advantages.

Of course, a used ten year old instrument is not included in the above comment.

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: NOLA Ken 
Date:   2021-10-08 22:04

High school can be a weird time in band. Some students are still playing student level instruments while some others may have been playing long enough and have well-enough resourced parents to already be playing pro level instruments. I have a strong recollection of the time in high school that I expressed my desire to challenge the first chair clarinetist for her seat. Me with my plastic Bundy and her with her Buffet R-13 (the only wood instrument in the section as I recall). The band director just sort of laughed at me. Our high school was very large and the only one in town, so it drew from a very large and varied pool of families.

I think tyleman's comment about the prejudice against non-wood clarinets has a lot of truth to it, despite the fact that there are now some very good, even pro-level, hard rubber (ebonite) instruments on the market. You don't know what the band director's own prejudices are in that regard. You might query her or him on that if you have the opportunity. If he or she endorses non-wood clarinets with any enthusism it widens your options on the instrument prejudice issue.

Although I have acquired several pro level clarinets since returning to playing, as low-priced student level wood clarinets go I have been impressed by the Leblanc France VLC (not the Vito VLC, which is similar but of lesser quality) I acquired in my early enthusiasm. It is grenadilla wood and can be had used for a song, although some may need a repad. It would be a great first clarinet, and you wouldn't be out a lot of money if your son decides not to pursue it or wants a more expensive one in a year or two. Others may have some other good ideas for good wood student clarints.

However, if the high school band is also a marching band or plays a lot in the outdoors, I would highly endorse a good non-wood clarinet unless the band director objects or you want to buy two clarinets. Wood clarinets do not stand up well to the weather. In the non-wood category, a former Navy Band clarinetist who has played in local concert bands showed up in a community band I play in with a Backun Alpha, a student-level composite clarinet that he picked up on closeout for under $500. He pronounced it a pretty good clarinet. Backuns have a pretty good reputation, although I cannot say that I have ever played one. There is also the Ridenour 576bc. It's a hard rubber instrument designed and marketed by Tom Ridenour, a former Leblanc clarinet designer. It's just under $1000 direct from him, and you have the added advantages that you can communicate directly with him, he will accept returns if you find the instrument unsatisfactory, and will do repairs on it if needed. He also checks the instruments out and tweaks them before selling them. I have one of his Lyrique Libertas models (the pro model) for a backup to my wood clarinets and really like it. Just some ideas. I sure others can come up with other good ideas for getting your son started with an instrument that will inspire him.

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2021-10-08 22:41

Not very helpful, but I got this idea from a fellow clarinetist years ago who mentioned a top pro doing it. I keep my student Selmer under my chair for our concerts (outdoor or indoor). If my Buffet R13 loses a pad or some other problem, I can quickly assemble it and continue. This is especially important as I am the principal chair in the band. I would trust the Selmer to finish the concert with no problems, even for solos. I'm surprised this isn't a common practice.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus
(902)-225-3276

Post Edited (2021-10-08 22:42)

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: Bennett 2017
Date:   2021-10-08 23:32

Have you considered renting? Maybe your son will hate band/clarinet.

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: LFabian 
Date:   2021-10-09 00:00

You can switch out the barrel and bell to grenadilla. It works out fine.

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: Cimm 
Date:   2021-10-09 00:48

Thanks all! I appreciate the perspectives very much.

I'm familiar with the school's band director and the "culture" of the band and school because I already have a band kid. Weird is in. :) The kids don't care and the band teacher is flexible. But I wouldn't actually send my kid to school with the old clarinet...if he decides to actually play, he WILL get a good instrument.

If I had this one repadded, it would just be so the kid could try it out before signing up for band, not necessarily to actually USE for band. But on the other hand, having it as a spare is a nice idea IF it is an acceptable instrument which seems unlikely. My current band kid has taken to leaving her old student trumpet at school and using her more "professional" horn for lessons, practice, and concerts. That's just out of laziness but I'm glad she isn't lugging her good instrument to parades and football games.

Luckily, there are no screws frozen in this clarinet and it's been well cared for. I don't think it needs much more than pads. I guess I won't give it to my kid as a test but I am a little bit tempted to get it fixed anyway!

(I don't expect my son to really get into clarinet. He is very dedicated to playing piano and is only considering band to satisfy some graduation requirements. He is interested in clarinet only due to its relatively petite SIZE. I have not revealed to him that the band director likes to take beginners that don't much care off the popular trumpet/flute/clarinet and plop them in the unloved low brass sections...)

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-10-12 01:59

Hi Cimm,

When my son got a notion to play the french horn we rented one for him. It was £40 a month. It was really good for us, as it meant he didn't get too comfy and feel that he was a "horn owner", and instead had to actually engage with the question of whether he would really play it. By the time he had played it enough to earn his own instrument, he was kind of already in a steady relationship with the instrument, if you know what I mean.

He doesn't play a lot now, just a bit now and then, but I think that in his soul he is a horn player, and I like that he has that.

Jen

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 Re: Are vintage clarinets bad for beginners?
Author: Cimm 
Date:   2021-10-13 21:57

Thanks Jen. It makes sense. :)

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