Plastic musical instruments have been around for quite some time; remember that plastic recorder that you got as a stocking-filler one Christmas, or how about that toy saxophone you had as a toddler? Well, unsurprisingly, plastic instruments have made their way into the homes of professional musicians. The late great Charlie Parker himself played a 1950 fibreglass Grafton alto sax. They are more lightweight, cheaper and look great!
What instruments are available in shiny, fun, colourful plastic, I hear you ask? One of the first plastic instruments to break into the wood-only market was the Bb Clarinet; nowadays, most clarinetists begin on a plastic model. Fun fact? Most plastic clarinets, recorders and ocarinas are made of ABS plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, for the scientist among us), which is the same material that Lego is made from! As well as clarinets, recorders and ocarinas, you can now find plastic flutes, trombones, saxophones, trumpets and even guitars!
Not only can you get instruments made entirely of plastic, but you can now also get plastic mouthpieces for brass instruments. The leading brand, Jim Kelly Mouthpieces, make theirs from Lexan polycarbonate resin (that’s what bulletproof glass and safety eyeglass lenses are made from!) – they’re virtually indestructable!
So, what would you be expecting to pay for a plastic instrument? Well, prices greatly differ depending on quality and model. You can pick up a pink, green or blue recorder in a music shop for £5, but if you’re after the very best a Grenaditte flute, you’re looking at forking out £1,395 (which is still relatively cheap, bearing in mind that the best metal flutes can cost upwards of £10,000!). You can pick up a Nuvo Student Flute for £139, and most of the other plastic instruments seem to be priced fairly around £300 – £450.
If you’re interested and would like to learn more, check out Richard Llewellyn’s article, “Plastic Fantastic” in the August 2014 edition of Music Teacher Magazine.