As a qualified Brass & Woodwind Musical Instrument Technician of many years experience I have seen many makes of clarinets come and go. Quite regular I keep getting asked questions about how, what, why etc to buy clarinets for beginners so I have wrote down some pointers and ideas for anyone who seeks some advice, and I state that this is only my opinion so here goes. Of all the student clarinets the most popular seems to be the student model is the Buffet B12 which is an excellent outfit. The Buffet B12’s RRPs is around £480 although most shops give a hefty discount and will sell them for around £250+. This clarinet would take you easily to grade 5 and beyond only needing to be upgraded when you have become proficient enough to warrant a wooden instrument. When you do upgraded you can sell your B12 for a reasonable amount usually around £100 - £175 on maybe more if you part-exchange. On Ebay besides the B12 you can get several other good makes of used and second hand clarinets for bargain prices. There is usually a good supply of them, Ex Brass and woodwind manufacturers the famous Boosey & Hawkes owned several other makes of clarinets including Besson and Buffet and so the early B & H Regent’s clarinets were the forerunners to the Buffet B12 that is why they are so good. So if you are on a budget try a plastic Regent, Edgware or Emperor and yes they did make all three in plastic as well as wood or you could try a Besson “35” they are all tried and tested clarinets and as the old adage goes “they don’t make them like they used to” is true. Also you can get Normandy Leblanc’s in plastic, then there are the Selmer’s they made quite a few including: Bundy’s, Artleys, Armstrong‘s and Vito‘s. Then we have Yamaha’s, Blessings, Marigaux and Rudall Carte but to name a few. All good clarinets at a fraction of the price, in fact some of the bargains on EBay are just too good to miss. If you can find a good serviceable one of these they will last you still a good few years even though most of these clarinets can be up to 50yrs old and over.
A Good repair technician will usually either have parts or still be able to get parts for all of these makes. The next step is not to forget that you are bidding and buying on an unseen clarinet apart from the photographs. So you must ask as many pertinent questions as possible, if you need to see more photo’s of the clarinet ask so that you can see the item clearly. Sometimes you get hazy and fuzzy photos are they trying to hide something ask. These days there is no excuse for bad photos or the lack of them. The onus is on seller if they want to sell their item they will not mind any questions and will let you have more pictures (macros if need be). If you can buy a clarinet that has just been serviced or fully overhauled that’s all the better, don’t forget a few years of use (or even non-use) and a clarinet is most likely to be in need of a service. If you're going to gamble on buying an older clarinet that has not been looked after or not been serviced then be sure to have allowed yourself enough spare cash for a service or overhaul with your local repairer. Don't rely on generalisations like 'excellent condition' or 'blows easily, ask pertinent questions before you commit to buy. Gather as much info as to identifiable faults, owner and service history; has it any damage or repairs to it old or new? The word 'mint' is subjective and can vary in interpretation - especially if it leads people to believe it's as new, with an over eager seller keen to get top dollar for it and you too eager to part with the cash can lead to tears. Buying Tactics, thanks to the Internet everyone can do some research on Clarinets so do so, but don’t forget also everyone else thinks they can make a killing with anything they can lay there hands on and who can blame them? Also some adverts state that it had an overhaul 2yrs ago and has not been touched since, just because its been stored since pads deteriorate with age and non-use and they go hard, so those pads will probably need changing again and its not so cheap to have done. You can't haggle with an EBay listed instrument so be sure you've got enough good pictures, and responses from the seller over any questions you might have put. Before you part with any money ask relevant questions:
Why are you selling it, confirm the serial numbers match? And are all the parts original to that clarinet.
Has there been any damage or repairs old or new to the clarinet.
Plastic clarinets snap and pieces come off when broken are there any breaks in the clarinet. If wood it splits and splinters so are there any splits, cracks or scratches?
The mouthpiece and case need to be included in the sale or you will have more expense?
What condition are the pads, springs, touch and tenon corks and or, when were they last changed? Do any need changing?
When was it last used, or even serviced/overhauled?
Clarinets don't always photograph too well, ask them to try pictures without flash - macro shots are useful too
Ignore subjective teasing eBayer comments like "this one's a keeper", "this is the one you've been waiting for all your life", and "blows great!" - stick to the facts and let your judgement count.
Finally - the shipping, will it be well packed? It's always a worry when you have to rely on a general delivery service to transport your prized buy. Just because a seller has a great instrument doesn't mean they're a great packer, so take steps to ensure the seller protects it, plenty of packing. My packing suppliers tell me that it's better to have a good level of cushioning around the clarinet case but not so that its so tight that any knocks will transfer through the instrument. It’s best to have layers of padding around everything and pad the case inside a bigger cushioned package too. When its packed properly it could take a while so don't forget the seller's shipping costs will be a bit higher and exceed the basic postage charge. And it’s always best to ask your seller to take out insurance on the clarinet because once it’s left the seller and is in the hands of the carrier it is not the seller’s problem. When it comes to the time that you are upgrading to a better quality clarinet don’t forget if you have looked after your instrument you will be able to put it back on Ebay and sell it and possibly get near to what you paid for it, or put it in part exchange towards your upgrade. I hope this guide has been of some help to you.
Ebay ID: geoff-53