When looking for a clarinet, it's likely that you will have been faced with choosing between wooden and plastic. The standard rule of thumb is that beginners use plastic clarinets and intermediate/advanced players will play a wooden one. To help you choose, we've put together a short guide of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Whilst keeping this in mind, the most important thing to consider is which one suits you!
Plastic clarinets are ‘synthetic’ instruments, but can be made of different materials. The most popular being hard rubber- ABS or 'resonite' which is a trade name for the tough plastic. These clarinets are typically used for beginners, for travelling and for those gigging outside.
- Cheaper to make and therefore cheaper to buy
- Hardwearing – they do not break as easily
- Not as sensitive to temperature (or changes in temperature)
- May let air blow out easier, potentially causing fatigue over time
- Mass produced and less aesthetically pleasing
- The tone produced is substandard to wooden clarinets
Wooden clarinets are normally made from exotic woo, such as African Blackwood (Grenadilla), Honduran Rosewood, or Boxwood. These clarinets are generally used in orchestral bands and for recording.
- Better sound – fuller bodied and mellow
- Better intonation and control
- Heavier and therefore easier to grip
- Aesthetically better looking
- More expensive to make making them more expensive to buy
- Susceptible to water damage and sensitive to temperature
As the points describe above, the plastic clarinets are cheaper so often appeal to young children and beginners but can also be utilised for playing in unstable climate conditions so suit musicians on a budget. Wooden clarinets do sound much better but do require more care and a bigger initial investment. The best way for you to know which type is the best is to play them. Here at Normans we have a dedicated live room for you to test the instruments that are best for you. If you’d like to come and visit us, contact our sales team to let them so that they can get the instruments ready for you.