Like all musical instruments, the quality of manufacture of clarinets is vital
to the successful creation of music. Music is sound, and unless the instrument
easily creates a quality of sound that is pleasing to the ear, the instrument
becomes a barrier to success. Bronstein Music has spent 66 years offering instruments
of the quality required to produce beautiful music.
Clarinets come in three basic levels of quality: Student, Intermediate, and Professional.
Student Clarinets are obviously built with economy as a primary feature.
Features to look for in student clarinets:
||Very sturdy, good tone
||Less likely to break than plastic. The resin body has some ‘give’ to it so the tenons will hold up to little hands better.
|Forged Nickel keys
||Stiff with some Bendability
||Clarinet will stay in adjustment
longer than soft metal keys.
But if adjustment is needed, repairs
can be made, and will last. Soft keys
cause leaks that make clarinet
impossible to play, and are often
not repairable for the long term.
||Long lasting good tone
||Lesser pads are too soft; They create the initial seal, but are easily torn and
produce a dull tone. Bad tone is frustrating.
|Proper fit & finish
||Ease of play
||Poor fit and finish makes the clarinet
very difficult to play for players of any level. The adjustment needed to make a
poorly assembled instrument play may
cost as much as the instrument, and may
||Cast screws are less expensive than
machined screws, causing looser, more
sloppy fit. The play in the mechanism can be severe, making the clarinet to leak and
not play properly.
||Injection molded, less expensive mouthpieces don’t hold the shape of the
mold when they are extracted from the mold. Warped facings will cause squeaks
Student Clarinet features in detail:
-Should be made from ABS Resin or hard rubber. Not plastic!
ABS Resin is similar to plastic, but is denser and has elastic characteristics that
help prevent breakage. It is also denser than plastic, creating a warmer tone with better projection.
-Keys should be forged nickel silver. The forging process creates a light weight mechanism that, while it can be bent for adjustment, is hard enough to hold that adjustment. Poor quality clarinets make the keys out of copper alloys too
soft for proper repair or adjustment.
-Quality pads. This is hard for the consumer to determine, but poor pads are overly soft to create a seal, but the soft pad hinders tone production and they don’t last.
Pivot and adjustment screws:
-The adjustment and pivot screws should be machined from steel, preferably stainless steel. Quality pivot screws have carefully tapered ends to allow smooth, precise movement without binding.
The mouthpiece is vital to the sound and ease of playability. Poor quality mouthpieces can have warped facings; uneven reed rails;
and overly heavy tip thickness. The cork should be actual cork. Better quality student
mouthpieces are still made of plastic, but the rails and facing are filed and finished by hand.
Intermediate Clarinets are generally equivalent designs as the student clarinets, but are made from Grenadilla Wood.
The quality of tone produced by wood is superior to man made compounds. The quality of Grenadilla Wood can vary a great deal.
The quality is essentially determined by the density and evenness of grain. The finest Grenadilla is extremely dense, with
very little variance in the grain. Intermediate clarinets are made from the less dense Grenadilla wood, with a mechanism very
similar to the student clarinets.
Features that may influence the quality and cost of the intermediate clarinets:
- Quality of the Grenadilla Wood;
- Finer key mechanisms, Nickel plated keys, or Silver plated keys;
- Some higher end Intermediate clarinets may undercut* some tone holes to improve intonation and the evenness of tone quality;
- The quality of the mouthpiece provided;
- The quality of the case is usually superior to the student clarinets.
Professional Clarinets are superior in tone, feel, and intonation to the student and intermediate clarinets.
- The Grenadilla is of superior quality, with variances of quality available even at the Professional level.
Premium Professional clarinets usually feature the finest woods, some may use Rosewood.
- The bore taper of professional clarinets will often have more resistance than student and intermediate clarinets
to afford the player flexibility in tone changes. This actually makes professional clarinets a poor choice for the
- Tone holes are precisely undercut* by hand. This produces superior
Intonation and an even tone quality through all ranges.
- Superior keys, pads, pivot screws, and adjustment screws for a smoother feel.
* Undercut refers to the widening of the bottom of the tone hole as it opens into the bore of the clarinet.
This results in a tone hole that is wider inside the clarinet than it is at the opening towards the pad.
This procedure can be done with some automation, but is primarily done by hand.
Bronstein Music represents the following brands of clarinets.
Buffet, CXL by Jupiter, Image, Schreiber, Selmer, Jupiter, Yamaha
Because of restrictions made by the manufacturers, and because Bronstein Music feels the purchase of any musical
instrument should include some kind of personal consultation, we don’t list all of our instruments in our on-line store.
Please call for more information.
What does all of this tell me?
As you can see, there is a great deal involved with the making of a clarinet,
not to mention the actual playing of the instrument. We have just scratched
the surface of all the factors that make a good clarinet. Bronstein Music
strongly feels that the decision to purchase a musical instrument on the web
needs to be heavily tempered with the actual, hands-on playing of the instrument.
No two will play exactly the same, and while many fine manufacturers are very
consistent with their quality controls, the human body is very good at feeling
the most minute of differences. AND the factory adjustment more time than not
will be altered in shipping, through handling and changes in climate. All
woodwinds should be shop adjusted before the final sale.