Choosing Your Clarinet

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Choosing your first clarinet

If you have no previous experience of hiring or buying a musical instrument, choosing an instrument to hire can seem like a minefield. There are so many makes and models on offer and such a range of prices that you may feel that you need some guidance.

If you already have a teacher, it is well worth asking for their advice. It isn’t much fun to arrive for your first lesson to find that the teacher doesn’t like the instrument you have hired!

In this article we will look at the three best student clarinet brands around.

Clarinet Brands

Buffet B12 - Choosing Clarinet

Buffet B12 Clarinet

Level – Beginner to intermediate
Age – Adult & Child
Grades – 1 – 5

Buffet make up a huge part of the clarinet market, they make everything from student to professional clarinets and they are a big feature in many professional orchestras. Build quality doesn’t stand out from the Yamaha but people would argue they just have that little something extra “more magic”.


Great instrument, good all-rounder for both classical and jazz. Children often find it easier than the Yamaha.

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Yamaha YCL 250 - Choosing Clarinet

Yamaha YCL250 Clarinet

Level – Beginner to intermediate
Age – Adult & Child
Grades – 1 – 5

Yamaha have some serious heritage and respect within the music industry, and as with most Yamaha products there is more human involvement in building them than you would think. As a brand they are up there with the best and are known for producing a strong and stable sound with fantastic build quality.


Known for their build quality they do sometimes feel slightly heavier in the hand. Not always easy to play straight away for a younger player.

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Jupiter JCL631 - Choosing Clarinet

Jupiter JCL631 Clarinet

Level – Beginner
Age – Adult & Child
Grades – 1 – 3

Solid construction and easy to play, they are easily the best clarinet within the price range. The company producing Jupiter are called Kung Hsue She (KHS) which means a company helping schools and culture, which is exactly what they do. They are easy to blow from the off but will not take you as far as others.


One of the most popular beginners instruments we have seen. Slightly restrictive once the early stages have been accomplished.

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Which clarinet should I hire?

For most young beginners, a Yamaha YCL250, Buffet B12 or Jupiter JCL631 will be the ideal instrument. We find that some young players and most adults appreciate the tone quality of better instruments quite soon after starting to play, and may therefore consider after a few years (around Grade 5 standard) starting on a wooden instrument, such as the Buffet E13or the Yamaha YCL450S.

As you look through the range of hire clarinets, we would generally say that by paying more for the hire of your first instrument, you would expect:

  • Better build quality
  • Better tone quality


There are still many expensive instruments available which don’t perform as well as you might expect. We have confidence in the brands we hire, and consider them safe choices that offer the best value for money.

How we choose

We get shown new models and brands all the time. Our hire stock has been chosen using three main sources of information.

Firstly; our repairers - regardless of what anybody else thinks of an instrument, if it doesn’t meet the approval of our repairers then we don’t stock it – full stop. We need to be able to look you in the eye for years to come, so if our repairers are going to criticise it when it needs attention, we can’t hire it!

Secondly; our customers - we have listened to many clarinet teachers and players over the years. We know what they like and why. Their input mainly concerns practical issues relating to playing such as tone quality, tuning, feel and positioning of keywork.

Finally, we use our own commercial expertise. We address issues such as; is it good value for money? How long it will last? Will it be the right instrument for someone learning to play? Our job is to ensure that we have given you all the information necessary to help you choose the instrument that will best suit your needs.

Hire or buy?

Many parents of children learning for the first time, and some adults who have never played before are understandably unsure of buying until they are more confident that they will cope with learning the instrument, and indeed enjoy the experience. Our instrument Hire Scheme can provide the ideal introduction to the instrument for a comparatively small outlay. The main advantages of our scheme are:

  • It is economical. You pay monthly, and you can cancel at any point after the first 3 months – simply return the instrument to us.
  • Our rental instruments are all serviced, set up, and top quality. Many players are put off by the experience of playing on poor quality instruments.
  • It is convenient. You don’t have to worry about buying and reselling it if it doesn’t work out. You simply return the instrument to us.

Reeds and Mouthpieces.

Reeds & mouthpieces play a vital role in producing a good sound on a clarinet. It is well worth while starting from day one with a good quality reed. Each one of our hire clarinets comes with a single reed to get you going. The majority of our teachers prefer their pupils to use Vandoren or Rico Royal reeds. A better quality reed will help the player to produce a good tone, and will usually last a bit longer.

Reeds are usually graded in strength from 1 to 5, in half steps. Depending on the mouthpiece fitted, most teachers will start a child on a 1.5 strength reed, and an adult on a number 2. As the player develops a better embouchure, the teacher will suggest that a player progresses to a slightly harder reed, such as 2 or 2.5. The harder reed enables the player to produce a clearer tone, and makes higher notes easier to sound. Worn reeds become soft and lose their tone quality.

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