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When is the time to upgrade your clarinet? Beginners normally start learning music with a plastic clarinet, which are great for starting out with. Even though plastic clarinets can survive the wear and tear from young students, they are not indestructible. When purchasing plastic clarinets, it is recommended to purchase known clarinet brands, as unmarked brands are typically comprised of low-quality materials that break easily and can make learning music frustrating. Essentially, you get what you pay for, which is why investing in a quality instrument is essential for all levels of players.

Wooden clarinets are typically performed by advanced students and professionals. These instruments are more expensive than their plastic counterparts. Wooden clarinets tend to cost a few thousand dollars, depending on the brand, and are typically made out of grenadilla wood that produces a darker and richer sound than plastic clarinets. Professional level clarinets typically include an adjustable thumb rest, added e-flat key on the lower joint, low E/F correction key, more precise tuning, among others.

As beginners become more advanced, upgrades are needed to allow them to further develop their sound. While this can be a confusing process if you are not familiar with the benefits of instrumental upgrades, reading this guide will help you learn about when you need to upgrade your clarinet and how it can affect your playing.

Private instructor recommendation. Students who take private lessons tend to progress faster than those who only take group lessons at school. There is a point where an upgrade becomes a necessity for the student in order to further progress in their sound and musicality.

Perform at a higher level and participate in music competitions. While student clarinets are great for starting and learning music in collective settings, if you want to perform and compete at a higher level, this would be a good time to upgrade.

Music majors. For students who decide to continue their musical studies at the collegiate level, an upgrade is a necessity. A professional model will allow students to have more flexibility and further improve their sound and musicality.

These are a couple of reasons to consider upgrading an instrument. Purchasing a wooden clarinet can be quite an investment so make sure you follow these steps prior to buying an instrument.

Research. If this is the first time that you are purchasing an upgrade, research different brands and models online to help narrow down your options. There are a lot of reputable brands such as Buffet, Selmer, Yamaha and more. Additionally, SeriO is a fairly new line of professional quality clarinets and are more affordably priced than some of the aforementioned brands.

Check out your local music store. Local music stores often have a selection of different models and makes. If there are local music events or conferences happening in your area, vendors bring several clarinets for participants to try, and often have representatives available to answer questions you may have.

Online shopping. There are some retailers that allow you to order trial clarinets with a return policy, choose your favorite, and return the rest. You can request for a particular model of clarinets to be sent for trial. One retailer that exclusively sells Buffet-Crampon and SeriO clarinets can be found here.

Used clarinets. A less expensive option is purchasing a used clarinet. Choosing a used clarinet can be also be difficult because used clarinets have had previous owners. You can learn more about how to select a used instrument here.

Try a selection of clarinets. It is important to try as many clarinets as possible that fit within your price range. This will also help narrow down your options. Even though students and professionals may not be able to try every instrument, they will be able to come up with a choice of what instrument works for them. If you are unsure about which instrument you prefer, contact a professional musician or teacher in your area to assist during the selection process.

Remain open-minded. Sometimes the instruments that your clarinet idols play may not work for you, which is why it is important to try a variety of instrument models. It is important to consider that there are many options other than the type of the clarinet you own. Your mouthpiece, reeds, and ligature also play a role in finding an instrument that is a good fit.

While upgrades can be costly, they are worth the investment if you want to pursue a professional career. Wooden clarinets require greater care than plastic models because the wood is sensitive to temperature and humidity and require a break-in period prior to using the instrument. Make sure to avoid sudden temperature changes to prevent your clarinet from cracking. If you live in a very cold and dry area, make sure that you monitor the humidity levels. You can find more information about how to maintain an instrument here.

Keep your old clarinet. After you upgrade your instrument, you can always keep your old clarinet so that you can have a backup instrument, or when your new one is being serviced, or when playing in an ensemble such as marching band.

Upgrading your clarinet is an investment, and while it may require time and research to look for an instrument, it is definitely worth it in the end. If maintained properly, a professional model clarinet can last you for a lifetime of use.