Meri’s Musical Musings

Some tips on testing a clarinet you’re about to purchase (or hire a teacher to help you purchase an instrument)

Posted on: September 24, 2013

Note: These are also good to use when you are getting your clarinet back from a repair job

  1. Check the tuning of the lowest 4 notes on the clarinet (written lowest E to G#). Best if it’s no more than about 10 cents sharp, maximum 15-20. These notes can be very sharp on some clarinets, especially lower-quality student grade instruments.
  2. Check that the bridge key that links the upper and lower joint work and are not bent (in really low end clarinets (generally new clarinets sold by retailers other than stores specific to musical instruments and equipment), this key is bent or broken or does not work for some reason, and because of the low quality metal on these extremely low end instruments, are difficult if not impossible to fix, and many reputable instrument repairers will not fix them.
  3. Check that there is no delay in using the left hand little finger keys for the same notes using the right hand fingering. The lowest F on the left hand side is common, though fairly easily fixable, problem, as is the lowest E
  4. Check that the bridge key link of the 1-1 first line E flat/ high clarion B flat works solidly and does not have a fuzzy tone, and is no more than slightly sharp.
  5. Check the tuning of the throat tones, first space F sharp to third line B flat. On student models they can be extremely sharp, on better intermediate and most professional models they are usually approximately in tune, especially in recent years.
  6. Check that the pads of the lowest little finger keys do not stick to the tone hole.
  7. Check the tuning and key function of the side key first space F sharp (thumb F plus the bottom 2 side keys on the upper joint)
  8. Check the screws in and around the G sharp and A key on the top of the upper joint. These screws have a tendency to come loose on some instruments.
  9. Check the tuning on the sustain/trill fingering for third line B flat and third line B. Should be a little sharp, but much better tone than the standard B flat fingering.
  10. Check that the tuning of the lowest four clarion register notes (third line B to fourth line D sharp) are either in tune or even a tiny bit flat.
  11. Check that the high C above the staff is very close or in tune. (it can be very sharp on some clarinets, particularly on A clarinets)
  12. Check that the high C sharp above the staff is in tune.
  13. Check that the high D above the staff is in tune.
  14. Check the overal tuning of the instrument, with the barreljoint slightly pulled out (2-4 mm), the instrument should generally be in tune with itself and little fluctuation in the overal tuning of the instrument. DO NOT buy an instrument that is overall more than 10-15 cents sharp or flat; it will be difficult to tune with a piano or in an ensemble. If it’s an instrument you already own, it’s likely a leak or crack that’s developed in the instrument.

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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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