Clarinets are used in a wide variety of settings, from solo music to orchestra ensembles, from chamber groups to Dixieland bands, to marching band. When it comes to playing clarinet in high school or college marching band, the instrument you choose is vital.
A marching clarinet needs to go from band room to bus to football stadium without the danger of cracking. It must withstand all weather conditions and possibly some rough treatment without damage. Some aspects to consider are material, intonation, response and mouthpiece.
If you’re looking for a clarinet to use in marching band, remember that not all clarinets are the same.
Features of a good clarinet for marching band
Clarinet quality and tone
When it comes to marching band, a top priority is that your clarinet plays in tune. You want to be able to match the intonation of the other clarinets, woodwinds and the entire ensemble. Then you can play your part in helping the whole group sound good.
It’s a good idea to find an instrument that responds easily and isn’t stuffy sounding. If you’re a newbie, you may want to ask your band director for help in testing the intonation of an instrument.
The clarinet needs to project well. You have enough to think about while marching without having to work hard getting the instrument to respond.
Clarinet build for marching band
When you’re in a marching band, you and your clarinet will be in a variety of environments: in the band room, on the football field, in the stands, on the bus… Your instrument may be exposed to extreme temperatures, rain and possibly snow.
It’s generally advised to choose a plastic clarinet over a wooden one. While wooden clarinets are generally considered to be better instruments, they are more sensitive when it comes to exposure to the weather.
Extreme or sudden changes in temperature or humidity can cause a wooden clarinet to crack. Plastic can withstand rain, high and low temperatures and changing humidity much better.
Marching band clarinets are used in places where they might be handled roughly. It’s important to choose one that is durable.
This is especially true when it comes to keywork. Beginner student clarinets often feature keywork that is built with durability in mind.
If buying a used clarinet, check for information about the pads. Try to find a clarinet with pads in good condition. It’s best to find an instrument that doesn’t need to go to the repair shop before you can play it.
If you also play in a concert band, think about getting a second clarinet that’s a higher quality instrument. Wooden clarinets are best for concert and there are quite a few affordable new and used models out there.
It’s a good idea to use the same mouthpiece for concert band and marching band. Your embouchure will be able to develop consistency this way.
You will want a good quality mouthpiece so that you can sound your best. Vandoren has a broad line of good mouthpieces which are affordably priced. The B45 has probably been the most popular Vandoren mouthpiece for many years.
While many people love it, however, others find it to be too stuffy. The M13 and M15 are also excellent models that have an easy response and play well in tune.
Budget for a marching band clarinet
Used clarinets can make great marching band instruments. Consider searching websites like Guitar Center, Amazon, Ebay, and Reverb to see what is available.
If the clarinet is in good working condition, it probably has years more life to it. As mentioned above, try to find one that doesn’t need repairs to be playable.
When purchasing a used instrument from an online seller, look at instruments that have a trial period so you can return it if it doesn’t play well. It’s very difficult to assess the quality of a musical instrument by pictures alone.
Next, we take a closer look at 4 great clarinets for marching band.
#1 clarinet for marching band: Yamaha YCL-20
A few years ago, Yamaha redesigned it’s YCL-20 clarinet and it’s now the YCL-255. But you can still find many used YCL-20 clarinets for sale.
Many band directors recommend the YCL-20. They especially like its intonation. It’s also a very durable clarinet for marching.
This clarinet is made of ABS resin, a strong plastic. It also has durable nickel-plated keys which can stand up to a little rough treatment.
It has a uniform response throughout the range of the instrument. Response is easy and it produces a good tone.
You can find used YCL-20 clarinets for sale online for about $200-$300.
#2 clarinet for marching band: Selmer Bundy Resonite
When the Selmer Bundy clarinet was still being manufactured, it was a staple in bands across the country. It’s a plastic instrument that was built to respond easily.
The keywork is well made to have a quick response and to be durable.
Some people feel that the intonation on the throat tone notes (G4, G#4, A4, Bb4) is sharp. It’s possible to adjust the intonation with slightly altered fingerings.
There are many used Bundy clarinets for sale online starting at around $200. A good model to look for is the BCL-300.
#3 clarinet for marching band: Leblanc Vito 7212, 7214 or 7242
At one time, Vito clarinets were a standard in the band room and the used instruments still are. Made of resotone (durable plastic), models 7212, 7214 and 7242 are very popular.
Many feel that the intonation on these clarinets is better than on the Bundy instruments, especially on the throat tone notes.
It’s also felt that the keywork has less extra play than other plastic model clarinets.
Used Vito clarinets currently sell online for $200-$400.
#4 clarinet for marching band: Ridenour Lyrique 576
Tom Ridenour specializes in making clarinets and clarinet mouthpieces. The Lyrique 576 brings a different type of instrument to the market. It’s made of ebonite (hard rubber) rather than plastic or wood.
Ridenour feels this material is superior to wood because it has a beautiful tone and it remains stable in different environments. This makes it a great choice for use in marching band.
Ridenour hand finishes his clarinets himself, ensuring high quality for each instrument. He works to make the response and tone quality consistent throughout the range of the clarinet.
Most who have played the Lyrique 576 feel the intonation is excellent. It is consistent throughout the instrument and is much better than the three models of clarinet listed above.
Ridenour’s Lyrique 576 is meant to be a high quality clarinet that is more budget-friendly than a top-of-the-line Buffet level instrument. Used Ridenour clarinets are available ranging from $375 to $960.
You can find the Lyrique on Reverb.
Do clarinets belong in marching band?
There is a long standing debate on whether clarinets, or any woodwind instruments, belong in a marching band.
Many say that all you can hear in marching bands are the brass instruments and the drums. Those opposed to including woodwinds often argue woodwind instruments aren’t heard and don’t add anything to the sound of the ensemble.
Some feel band directors only use clarinets during marching season to have the players available when concert band season comes around.
Others feel it depends on how woodwinds are used in the marching band. When arranged properly, the woodwind sections can be vital to the sound of the ensemble. They can bring warmth to the overall tone of the group.
Woodwinds are also able to be played quite fast and high. This adds texture to the music that would be missing without them.
Overall, marching band directors who choose to include woodwinds have additional tools to work with for building a great sounding band.
Featured image: “Walton HS, Marietta, Georgia” (CC BY 2.0) by Thank You (20,5 millions+) views
(2) “The Pride of the Dutchmen Marching Band” (CC BY 2.0) by Thank You (20,5 millions+) views