Purchasing a musical instrument is more like purchasing an extension of the player’s body than a kitchen appliance and as such must be done carefully. Please purchase or rent an instrument from a music store or based on recommendations from a player of that instrument. Instruments from other retailers (Costco, Fred Meyer, etc.) are always of poor quality and can discourage young players because they don’t work or cease to work after a few months. Good repair folks refuse to work on these instruments for legal and ethical reasons, so once they have a problem, they’re useless. Also, a clarinet from a pawn shop, garage sale, or attic might be a good deal–but only after it’s been taken care of by a good repairperson. Older instruments can be good (or really awful) depending on the condition and brand of the instrument. Please get advice from an unbiased player of that instrument before purchasing to avoid getting a lemon.
A decent mouthpiece can make the difference between despair and love of an instrument and is MORE important than the choice of the instrument. MOUTHPIECES MUST BE TRIED OUT BEFORE BUYING THEM, unless the player is a beginner. Here is a list of good mouthpieces for each instrument listed from the least expensive to the most expensive.
CLARINET: Genusa GE* student, Behn overture, Yamaha 4C, Genusa pro, Reserve (x0 or x5), Vandoren M13 and Profile 88, hand-finished mouthpieces (Greg Smith 1*, Lane, Behn, Backun), Clark Fobes, etc.
BASS CLARINET: Hite Premier, Selmer C*, Pomarico crystal, McClune S1 (classical) or S2 (jazz/louder), Clark Fobes
ALTO SAX: Yamaha 4C or Custom, Meyer 5 or 7 (jazz), Jazz Select (D'addario), Selmer C* (classical), SR, Jody Jazz, Mouthpiece Cafe, Caravan
TENOR SAX: Yamaha 4C, Jazz Select, Meyer 5 or 7, Otto Link 5 or 7, Vandoren Java t55 or 75, Selmer S80 e, Selmer s80 d or s90 190 (classical), Selmer scroll shank F (my mouthpiece), Bob Carpenter custom, Jody Jazz, Caravan, Mouthpiece Cafe
BARI SAX: Highly variable. Use the mouthpiece that comes with the horn until player is advanced enough to choose one.