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Which clarinet should my child to have? Beginner or Professional Clarinet ?

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

When should clarinet students start to use professional instruments?

When it comes to clarinets, there are generally two main categories: professional clarinets and student line instruments. These categories are based on the quality of construction, materials used, and overall performance capabilities. Here's a breakdown of the key differences between the two:

  1. Construction and Materials: Professional clarinets are typically made from high-quality materials such as grenadilla wood (African blackwood) or synthetic alternatives like hard rubber or resin. They are meticulously crafted with precision keywork, and the components are often hand-fitted to ensure optimal performance. Student line instruments, on the other hand, are usually made from more affordable materials like lower end of wood, ABS plastic or resin. They are mass-produced and may have less refined keywork.

  2. Sound Quality: Professional clarinets are designed to produce a rich, resonant, and nuanced sound. The high-quality materials and craftsmanship contribute to a more complex and colorful tone. Student line instruments, while capable of producing sound, may lack the depth and tonal variety found in professional clarinets.

  3. Playability and Response: Professional clarinets are engineered to offer enhanced playability and response. They often have improved key mechanisms, allowing for faster and more precise finger movements. The keys on student line instruments may require more effort to operate and may not offer the same level of agility and control.

  4. Intonation and Stability: Professional clarinets are carefully tuned and adjusted to achieve excellent intonation across the instrument's range. They are typically more stable in terms of pitch and require less frequent adjustments during playing. Student line instruments may have intonation issues, requiring more attention to embouchure and technique to maintain proper pitch.

  5. Price: Professional clarinets are significantly more expensive than student line instruments. The higher cost reflects the quality of materials, craftsmanship, and performance capabilities. Student line instruments are more affordable and are aimed at beginners and intermediate players.

From my 35 years of teaching experience, I know many students start to develop bad performance habits and learning techniques due to the poor quality of student-line instruments of any brand. Some of the young students even developed tendonitis because of the wrongly designed thumb rest position on most of those instruments.

All my top high school students, such as All-Staters and first chairs, play top-of-the-line professional instruments. It is because these instruments provide a premium tone and excellent tuning. It is even more essential for young seventh- and eighth-grade students who are committed to the band program to have a professional-line instrument that also helps them to develop good learning habits such as correct tongue position and good hand position. The difference between professional and student instruments is t like driving in the snow with four-wheel drive vs. two-wheel drive–a lot more capable and responsive. The downside is that they are very expensive ($4500-$9500) brand new) and need good care at all times. However, considering what students can get out of them, they are worth it. In the past, I have helped top students locate used professional clarinets in great condition to purchase, so they could achieve their music goals, such as successfully being a first chair or all-stater.

When should clarinet students start to use professional instruments?

Ideally, ASAP or before they enter the high school program. For more details, please contact Dr. Qian ASAP.

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