I started learning how to play the clarinet when I was in the fifth grade. My dad gave me his old clarinet. Many of the kids at the school rented their clarinets. I knew that instruments could be expensive, but I didn't know exactly how expensive until last year.
My husband and I went to the music shop because he wanted to learn how to play a wind instrument so he could be in the church orchestra with me. The church "orchestra" is something of a joke because I'm the only person that plays in the orchestra, alongside the piano and the organ. He wasn't sure which instrument that he wanted to play. He checked out the saxophone, but he eventually settled on the violin.
It was at that point that I realized how expensive musical instruments could be. When you rent a musical instrument, you end up paying a small amount per month towards the instrument until you eventually own the instrument (after paying about $1000, which could be more or less depending on the instrument). Buying a musical instrument outright was pretty expensive as well.
Then I discovered that you could get fairly inexpensive used instruments on eBay or even on Reverb. Will you want these less expensive instruments as a professional? Probably not. They can, however, work well when you are learning how to play an instrument. Less expensive instruments are especially good for children who might not know how to take care of an instrument in the best manner.
The Buffet B12 Student Clarinet, shown above, is not the cheapest instrument that you can buy, but it provides a great sound and is still less expensive, in the long run, than renting.
Many parents like to rent instruments for their children, or even for themselves if they're learning an instrument. If you actually rent the instrument until you own it, you could end up paying quite a lot of money for an instrument that might not be that great; however, if you or your child doesn't know exactly what kind of instrument that you want to play, you may end up buying an instrument that you don't really end up wanting to learn.
My husband, for example, rented a saxophone, but after a week or so, decided that he didn't like it. He was able to turn that in, and I think he tried the horn next. He didn't really like that either, so he turned in the horn for a violin. He decided that he liked that instrument.
In our case, renting was a good choice initially, because my husband wasn't sure which instrument he wanted to play. Once we realized which instrument he wanted to learn how to play, we found an inexpensive violin on eBay. We purchased it new for about $100. I'm sure that it's not a Stradivarius, but it works for him.
I would suggest that you buy an instrument if you want to keep it. You don't have to get the most expensive one, but you'll end up paying quite a bit if you rent to own it.
Hisonic Signature Series 2610 Bb Orchestra Clarinet
This is an inexpensive Bb Clarinet that will work well for most students. This student clarinet is less expensive than most that you can find, yet still sounds fine. It is the most highly rated used clarinet out of the clarinets in its price range.
This is another popular student clarinet on the market. It doesn't cost a lot, and is suitable for a beginning clarinet student. Again, you're not buying a professional quality clarinet, but this is great especially for younger students that might be hard on their clarinets.
If you have a little more extra money to spend on a clarinet, you might want to go for one of these more expensive, nicer sounding clarinets. They get better reviews on the market, although they do cost a little more.
This clarinet does cost a little more than the Conductor or Hisonic clarinets, but it is the lowest-priced clarinet to have an average of a 5-star rating. Even band directors that commented liked this instrument! If you're looking for a nicer student clarinet, this might be a choice that you want to go with.
This is another clarinet that is popular with students, but costs a little more than the bargain instruments. It is not as highly rated as the LJ Hutchen clarinet, but is well-reviewed by most.
The Buffet E11 Wood Clarinet is a very popular musical instrument with teachers and with students. It does, however, cost quite a bit more money. Would you want to spend this kind of money on an instrument that your fifth grader could lose? That really depends on you. If the higher price doesn't deter you, you might want to get this instrument. This might be the right instrument for a high school, college, or adult student who doesn't want to buy something cheap. This instrument is still cheaper than renting to own.
Buffet E11 Wood Clarinet
As I did my research on these student clarinets, the one instrument that I kept seeing recommendations over and over again for was this Buffet E11 Wood Clarinet. It's not cheap, and you might not want to buy this for a beginning student, or for a young person, but if you want a quality student clarinet that will last for quite a while, this might be the clarinet for you. My clarinet is not a Buffet clarinet, but it is a wood clarinet.
Clarinet reeds all have numbers that range from 1 to 5. The higher the number on your reed, the nicer the sound it will produce, but the harder it is to play.
Most students will want to start out with a #2 reed. This is the reed that I decided to buy when I started to play the clarinet again after not playing for a couple of years. Now that I have been playing regularly again for quite a while, I will probably upgraded it with a #3 reed.
Most people won't need to buy #5 reeds; I'm not even sure if they would help with the cheaper clarinets. As a beginning student, I recommend playing with the easier reeds and moving up as you progress. If the #2 is too hard, try a #1.5.