Frequently Asked Questions
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Are your instruments guaranteed?
We offer a three day examination period during which the instrument may be returned if it is not just as advertised. If an instrument is returned (rarely), a refund of the purchase price minus shipping is cheerfully given.
Can I send my instrument to you for repairs?
The instrument you receive will be set to go when you receive it, and shouldn't need any work for some time. For future repairs, you would need to consult a local music store.
What kind of mouthpiece should I buy?
It usually is a case of personal preference, or the preference of the teacher. Some teachers like to have everyone playing the same mouthpiece, as they think the sound will be more uniform. Beginning students usually start out on a plastic mouthpiece because it is less expensive and easier to replace if it's dropped and broken. As they advance, they will progress to a hard rubber mouthpiece, which will allow them to develop a better sound. The drawback is that they are quite a bit more expensive, and will shatter if dropped. You might want to check with your child's teacher before buying a new mouthpiece. There is always a period of adjustment and experimentation in order to get the right mouthpiece-reed combination. Some music stores will allow you to try out three or four at a time.
Is a used mouthpiece okay?
It probably doesn't matter whether it's used or new, as long as there are no chips. Sometimes, however, the better ones can change shape a little over time since they are made of hard rubber rather than the plastic that the inexpensive ones are made of. That's one reason we recommend that you not swab a mouthpiece.
Should I buy a wood or plastic clarinet?
Beginners typically use a plastic instrument because they are less expensive and hold up a little better in case they are dropped or worse. Most students start with a plastic student instrument and step-up to a wooden instrument about the third year of study when the student instrument starts to inhibit their playing, or when the band director suggests it. On the other hand, a student who is responsible and careful might start off right away with a wood clarinet. Wood clarinets get a richer and more characteristic sound, but plastic clarinets have improved tremendously over the years.
Do wood clarinets crack?
Wooden clarinets don't usually crack from lack of use, or being left in a cold room. They crack if you blow warm air into a cold instrument. So just warm the body of the instrument with your hands before playing and it should never crack.
What about the colored plastic clarinets?
The colored instruments are plastic, and band directors frown on them.
I can buy a new clarinet for about $200. Should I?
It's tempting to buy a new instrument when you can get it for the same price or less than what you would pay for a used one. However, you get what you pay for, and this will end up costing you more in the end. If I were buying a clarinet I would stick to the big four: Buffet, LeBlanc, Selmer, or Yamaha, or those names they manufacture such as Noblet, Normandy, Vito, Armstrong or Artley. The off-brands can be really poor, the so-called "clarinet shaped objects."
I hear about all different kinds of clarinets - Bb, A, Eb etc. What's the difference?
The Bb soprano clarinet is the most commonly used clarinet, and is the one you will see being played in bands, orchestras and other ensembles. It is the only kind we sell on our web site, so all of the pictures you see there are Bb clarinets.
The Eb clarinet is quite small and rarely used. It is less than 2 feet long and has a much smaller mouthpiece. Essentially, it is a miniature Bb clarinet and plays in a higher key.
The Bb bass clarinet is commonly used and plays in a lower key. It is quite large and is usually supported by a peg that extends from the curved bell to the floor. It also has a curved neck.
The Eb alto clarinet is seldom used, and is a small version of the bass clarinet. It is usually supported by a neck strap. The sound quality is not nearly as full and lush as the bass clarinet.
Another common instrument in professional orchestras is the A clarinet. It is very similar in appearance to the Bb soprano clarinet. It is a little bit longer and plays in a different key.
These are the most commonly seen clarinets. In addition, you sometimes see the Eb conta alto and Bb contra bass, which are longer in size and lower in pitch than the bass clarinets. Similarly, the basset horn in the key of F is rarely used in major orchestras. One other instrument similar in size and appearance to the Bb soprano clarinet is the C clarinet.
My child has small hands. Will he be able to play the clarinet?
Even children with small hands can play the clarinet, although it may take a little more persistance, particularly with the low notes. Adding one finger at a time helps, as well as playing in front of a mirror. Try this: hold the clarinet normally, press your finger on a hole or ring. Then look at your fingertip to see if there is an entire circle impressed on your finger tip. If there is, then you are covering the hole completely. If you get a complete circle on all six fingers and your thumb, you are all set.
I have braces, and playing the clarinet hurts my mouth. Is there anything I can do?
One of my students who had braces got something from his orthodontist to put against his teeth. It was a thin rubber like material. Vaseline might help too. Try putting a little piece of paper over your lower teeth to give a little cushion. That helps some people. Also, it's possible that you are putting too much of your lower lip over your teeth. I tell my students to point their chin and say 'eew'. Ideally, you would want your lip to sort of stand up on its own with some support from the teeth. You want to avoid biting into the lip.
The music store sells key oil and bore oil. Do I need these?
As far as oiling a clarinet, it really doesn't require much. At most, oil it once a year. Just put a few drops of bore oil on the swab and pull it through. You can get key oil at the music store in this neat little plastic bottle with its own needle. Just put a tiny drop each place metal rubs against metal. Or just spill some key oil on a hard surface somewhere, dip a needle into the oil and touch a spot where metal rubs against metal. Just keep going back and forth until it's all oiled. I would do that no more than once a year. It won't hurt anything, but might cause a little mess if you do it more.
The most important thing you can do to take proper care of your clarinet is to swab it regularly. Take the mouthpiece off, hold the clarinet upside down, and pull the swab through a couple of times. The mouthpiece should be cleaned once a week. It can be rinsed off with a small amount of dish soap and warm water. Shake the water out and dry the outside with a soft cloth. Don't dry the inside, but set it out for a little while to dry naturally.