Some of the factors that you may want to consider when changing clarinet barrels include the sound characteristics you want to achieve, the look of the completed instrument, and the cost. The type of wood or plastic and the finish of the inside bore affect the tone and the cost, and typically the most expensive clarinet barrels are custom made to match the clarinet's mouthpiece and instrument section. A few companies allow you to test a new barrel and return it for a full refund if you are not satisfied; therefore, you should check on any seller's return policy and warranty. Generally, a person chooses a barrel that will work with the mouthpiece and the instrument to give crisp articulation, focused intonation, and a stable bore that will resist warping.
Music instrument manufacturers are constantly redesigning and improving their products. To ensure that you are buying the best clarinet barrel, you should research what sellers have to offer in the current market. Most of the barrels are mass-produced, but even with strict manufacturing specifications, there are small variations in the barrels that will affect the sound. Some sellers allow buyers to try out two barrels for one to two weeks to choose which one is best. Other sellers have flexible return programs that will allow you to test the barrel's sound quality.
Student clarinet barrels are typically made of plastic, such as delrin, and are the least expensive barrels. One of the advantages of a plastic barrel is that it is warp resistant. Varying temperatures and humidity cause warping, and wood barrels are more likely to warp. If you are seeking a stylish barrel with good sound quality, you should consider a wood barrel.
Different types of woods give different sounds, such as a clear, bright sound or a full, bold sound. Read what other clarinet players have said about the different woods, but keep in mind that some people describe sounds in ambiguous ways. Some of the woods that you may want to consider include Central American cocobolo, Asian ebony, or African blackwood. Barrel makers use hard woods because they resist warping.
One factor that people consider when buying clarinet barrels is the shape of the barrel. Some common shapes are conical, cylindrical, and reverse tapered cone. Another factor is the bore lining, which may be a synthetic, vulcanized rubber or other material.
When considering different clarinet barrels, you should choose the right size for your instrument according to the manufacturer's recommendation. The bore dimension, the mouthpiece exit bore size, and the barrel length affect the sound. Another factor to consider is that the barrel wall may absorb some of the sound frequencies. For example, some woods or linings absorb the higher frequencies, giving the music a darker tone. This is another reason that professional clarinetists like to test a barrel before buying it.