Should I buy an Amati bass clarinet?
Here's a question from the mailbag:
Hi. I am saving up for an Amati acl 692 bass clarinet (I am 12 so this my take a while but this year through whenever I have enough money for it, I am going to ask for money to be put towards it instead of stuff from Christmas and my birthday) but anyway, I have three questions.
1: have you ever heard of /used this brand?
2: can you please do a video on keeping care of granadilla wood bass clarinets and stuff like bore oil, when to use bore oil, how to break it in, what to do if you live in a cold (in the winter) areas like Wisconsin (I live in Wisconsin) and what to do in the summer.
3: I want to get a bass clarinet that I can play through high school and college and then another5-10 years after college which is why I picked out the Amati. but after that I want to get a buffet or something like that so I can play it professionally. but I would like to get some professional things like a professional mouthpiece, bell, etc. can you possibly send me a couple of ideas of things I could get? thanks in advance.
Thanks for your note. So here's what I have to say...I have good news and bad news.
Amati bass clarinets are not going to take you where you want to go. They are Chinese-made student model bass clarinets. The key work is very bad, so you will have your bass clarinet in the shop (or with a repairman) all the time. In fact ALL student-level bass clarinets have bad keywork. The keys themselves need to be forged from an alloy that is expensive to make, and the lower-cost bass clarinets simply can't use them and keep the price down. As a result the metal tends to bend a lot, and because the rods and keys of a bass clarinet are so long, and have to withstand so much torque (look up "torque" if you don't know the word), that they soon start to bend, and then your bass clarinet is out of adjustment. The repairman will bend them back, but then they're even weaker metal because of the movement and twisting, and they bend again...this time sooner.
That's the bad news: there are no good student-level bass clarinets under $8,000. Now I know that's out of your price range, so I think you might want to consider a couple things: you can get a student model bass clarinet (and I'd recommend a Ridenour Lyrique over the Amati) and expect to sell it in a few years once you get serious, and hopefully have saved enough to get a Selmer. (Forget Buffet. Seriously. We Bass Clarinetists prefer Selmer horns. Bb Clarinet doublers like the Buffet because it feels more like a clarinet. You sound like a bass clarinetist).
Regarding Bore oil, I've done some testing, and you may be surprised to know that it doesn't help. I left a clarinet barrel soaking in bore oil for A YEAR, sawed it in half, and it hadn't penetrated that wood at all. Not one little bit. It was slippery though.
Now, breaking in a wood bass clarinet is important. You cannot play it more than 15-30 minutes a day for the first month or so. Winter is the worst time, because it's so cold and dry, it has a much better probability of cracking. You must keep it very consistent temperature-wise and humidity-wise. And, you need to swap religiously.
Now the good news: it's smart for you to be thinking about mouthpieces now. But Mouthpieces are a very personal thing. People have such different preferences. I play a Vandoren B50 and it's great. But you do NOT need a different bell (even though I have one). It's simply not something you need to get right now.
Hope this helps. Thanks for the questions.