- Best Clarinet Overall
- Best Student Clarinet
- Best Bass Clarinet
- Best Student Bass Clarinet
B-flat soprano and bass clarinet are the most commonly played members of the clarinet family, finding their way into orchestras, wind ensembles, jazz bands, small ensembles and solo performance. The best overall clarinets we’ve listed here are manufactured by reputable brands, built of high-quality, industry-standard materials designed to facilitate great sound production, accurate tuning, and smooth key action. Each clarinet comes with a case, mouthpiece, ligature, at least one reed and a cleaning swab, though performers will most likely want to customize their mouthpiece setup. For more help selecting the best clarinet for your needs, check out our buyer’s guide below.
Best Clarinet Overall:
The B-flat soprano clarinet is the most commonly played member of the clarinet family having found its way into orchestras, wind ensembles, jazz bands, small ensembles and solo performance. Professional level clarinets are constructed out of Grenadilla wood or a similar dense wood which produces a dark, desirable sound. Wooden clarinets require extra care because their wooden body swells or shrinks with changing temperatures and humidity.
At the professional level, personal preference for tone and feel of the instrument are very important and vary between clarinet manufacturers. When purchasing a professional instrument, it’s a good idea to play instruments from several different reputable brands to find the best fit for the individual musician. Within the last few decades, a number of well-known clarinet companies have merged, limiting high-level clarinet options to a few long-standing names.
The best overall clarinets recommended here are manufactured by professionally reputable brands, built of high quality, industry-standard materials to facilitate great sound production and accurate intonation, as well as professional-level manufacturing practices.
Each clarinet comes with a case, mouthpiece, ligature, at least one reed and a cleaning swab, though performers will most likely want to customize their mouthpiece setup.
With a reputation as being a leading clarinet maker since 1825, Buffet Crampon clarinets are one of the most sought after brands by professionals. Manufactured in France, the R13 clarinet is the best pick for clarinetists looking for an exceptional instrument. Read Full Review
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Manufactured in Japan, Yamaha clarinets have a well-established reputation among professional clarinetists and educators of all levels. The Yamaha YCL-CSV clarinet is a high quality instrument for the professional musician, offering a flexible sound and consistent intonation. Read Full Review
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Selmer Paris makes some of the most sought after woodwind instruments in the world. The exceptional quality indicative of Selmer Paris instruments includes the Selmer Paris Recital Model clarinet. Read Full Review
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Buffet Crampon already has the R13 on this list, but they also offers an advanced clarinet which goes beyond their standard professional models. Designed in collaboration with expert clarinet makers and top performing artists, the Tosca Model demonstrates Buffet Crampon’s most advanced clarinet manufacturing techniques. Read Full Review
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Best Student Clarinet:
There are several varieties within clarinet family. They range in size and pitch from the very small, higher-sounding sopranino clarinets to very large, low-pitched contra-bass or contra-alto clarinets. The clarinet most beginners start on is the B-flat soprano clarinet because of its manageable size and common use in orchestras, bands and smaller ensembles.
When purchasing a student-level clarinet, it may seem best to seek out the least-expensive instrument. However, especially for a beginner, lower quality instruments may present mechanical difficulties which make learning frustrating and unnecessarily difficult. In addition, poor quality clarinets are prone to major or frequent repairs, repairs which are often costly or near impossible to fix. While intermediate and professional level clarinets are made of wood, at the student-level the body of the clarinet is most commonly constructed of plastic resin for added durability and to avoid the extra care wooden instruments require.
All of the best student clarinets featured on this list are manufactured by reputable, educator-approved brands, use quality materials which facilitate good tone production and intonation (The ability to play in tune), as well as durability for the beginning player. In addition, each of the following picks comes with a sturdy case, mouthpiece, ligature, at least one reed and a cleaning swab, all the essentials to play and care for the clarinet right out of the case.
The Yamaha YCL-255 is the best pick clarinet for the beginner. Yamaha constructs their instruments from beginner to professional with the same level of care and have a very positive reputation among musicians and teachers. The YCL-255 is the most reliable, reputable and recommended clarinet for playing in tune, having a great sound and the durability to provide years of use. Read Full Review
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At the professional level, Paris manufacturer Buffet Crampon is one of the most sought-after brands for their reputation as a leading clarinet maker for over 100 years. Buffet’s B12 student level clarinet is one of the top choices for beginning clarinetists looking for an exceptional instrument. Read Full Review
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Conn-Selmer is a respected clarinet brand and many artists play on professional Selmer instruments. The Prelude CL711 clarinet by Conn-Selmer capitalizes on this tradition of expertise with this reasonably priced student clarinet built for quality performance. Read Full Review
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Bundy brand instruments, including the BCL-300 clarinet, have a reputation as sturdy, reliable student clarinets since the 1960’s. Bundy caters almost exclusively to beginner musicians with these instruments designed for lasting playability long after students have upgraded to higher model instruments. Read Full Review
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Amati clarinets are reliable, affordable instruments born of the Czech Republic instrument making tradition. The Amati ACL-201 beginner clarinet uses a combination of student-geared features and hand made adjustments to create a clarinet ideal for beginners. Read Full Review
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Best Bass Clarinet:
Much larger than a soprano clarinet, the bass clarinet slightly resembles the curved design of the saxophone. The bass clarinet is used in orchestras, bands and small ensembles to fill out the mid to lower range of the clarinet section. Professional level bass clarinets are constructed out of Grenadilla wood or a similar dense wood to produce a deep, desirable sound. Professional clarinets require extra care because the wooden body will swell or shrink with changing temperatures/humidity and can crack if not handled properly.
When looking for a professional bass clarinet, personal preference for tone and feel of the horn are very important and vary between bass clarinet brands. Ultimately, the final decision will be based on what each individual is looking for but it’s important to choose a high-caliber instrument.
The best bass clarinets recommended here are manufactured by professional, reputable brands and constructed from high quality materials which facilitate great sound production and accurate intonation. These picks feature a low C-key, desired at higher levels of performance, to extend the lower range of the instrument. Each of these bass clarinets also come with a case, mouthpiece, ligature, at least one reed and a cleaning swab (though performers will most likely want to customize their mouthpiece, ligature and reeds).
Having a reputation as the leading clarinet maker for over 100 years, Crampon clarinets are highly sought after by professionals. Manufactured in France, Buffet’s 1193 Prestige bass clarinet is the best pick for bass clarinetists looking for an exceptional instrument. Read Full Review
Selmer Paris instruments are some of the most sought after woodwind instruments in the world including their clarinets. The exceptional quality indicative of Selmer Paris instruments include the Privilege Selmer Paris Model 67 bass clarinet. Read Full Review
Manufactured in Japan, Yamaha bass clarinets have a well-established reputation among professional clarinetists and educators of all levels. The YCL-622II bass clarinet is a high quality instrument for the professional musician, produced for flexible sound and consistent intonation. Read Full Review
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Leblanc has specialized in clarinets since the early 1900’s. Now manufactured under the care of Conn-Selmer's United States branch, Leblanc carries their history of clarinet expertise into their Model 60 bass clarinet. Read Full Review
Amati instruments are known for creating reliable, affordable instruments. The Amati ACL-692 bass clarinet uses a combination of professional level manufacturing techniques and hand made adjustments to create an alternative, affordable option for bass clarinet players. Read Full Review
Best Student Bass Clarinet:
The bass clarinet is a lower-pitched instrument in the clarinet family, played by resting it on the floor with a peg and is used to fill out the mid-to-bottom range of the clarinet section in orchestras, bands and small ensembles. Constructed with a plastic/resin or wood body as well as a metal bell and neck, the bass clarinet is much larger than a soprano clarinet, slightly resembling the curved design shared by the saxophone family. While intermediate and professional level bass clarinets are wood, at the student level the body of the bass clarinet is constructed of durable resin or plastic.
When looking for a student-level bass clarinet, the instruments should be manufactured by reputable, educator-approved brands, use quality materials to facilitate good tone production and intonation (The ability to play in tune), as well as being durable for the beginning player. In addition to these qualities, each of the following picks for best student bass clarinet also reach a pitch range to a low E-flat, and come with all the essentials to start playing the bass clarinet right out of the case: a sturdy case, mouthpiece, ligature, at least one reed and a cleaning swab.
Made in Japan, the Yamaha YCL-221 is the best bass clarinet for the beginner. The YCL-221 is the most reliable, and reputable bass clarinet for playing in tune, producing a great sound and durable enough to withstand years of consistent use. Read Full Review
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Selmer is a respected woodwind instrument manufacturer, and many professional clarinetists choose Selmer instruments because of their strong reputation. The Selmer 1430LP bass clarinet, manufactured by the U.S. branch of the Selmer brand, capitalizes on that tradition of expertise with this reasonably priced student clarinet built for solid, quality performance. Read Full Review
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Leblanc has specialized in clarinets since the early 1900’s. Now manufactured in the United States, Leblanc carries their history of clarinet expertise into their 7168 student bass clarinet. Read Full Review
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Made in Taiwan, Jupiter instruments have a growing reputation as reliable choices for students and professionals alike. Accordingly, the Jupiter 675N bass clarinet is an exceptional bass clarinet for the beginning musician. Read Full Review
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Allora instruments are manufactured by GTRC, a large, well-established chain of instrument retailers, including Guitar Center, Woodwind & Brasswind, Music & Arts, Music123 and Musician's Friend. Tested and developed in part through GTRC’s extensive network of professional musicians and teachers, the Allora AABC-304 provides students an affordable beginner bass clarinet with acceptable performance. Read Full Review
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Clarinet Buyer's Guide
The clarinet is a fun and rewarding instrument to play, but as with many instrument choices, finding the right one can be daunting. While there several kinds of clarinets, this buyer’s guide focuses on two of the most common, soprano and bass clarinets. These clarinets have prominent roles in orchestras, bands, chamber ensembles and as solo instruments.
Finding the best matched clarinet for a player’s needs often requires testing several options.
When choosing a clarinet, especially beyond the beginner level, the final decision often comes down to personal preference in terms of tone and feel to the player. This buyer’s guide will help point you in the right direction to purchase a clarinet best suited for your needs.
While there are several sizes of clarinet, the two most commonly played are the B-flat soprano and bass clarinet.
The B-flat soprano clarinet finds a place in orchestras, bands, small ensembles, for solo performance and even in jazz, as the most commonly used clarinet. Students typically begin on this clarinet, and the techniques learned transfer to any other type of clarinet.
Rounding out the lower pitch register of ensembles, the bass clarinet finds its way into orchestras, bands and even jazz ensembles. Much larger than the soprano clarinet, the bass clarinet has curves at the neck and the bell, nearly reaching to the floor when played from a seated position. The bass clarinet is played by resting the instrument on the floor with an adjustable peg.
Clarinets are manufactured for a variety of abilities, including student, intermediate and professional.
Clarinets for students focus on affordability, reliability and ease of playing. They are typically constructed with a plastic body, as plastic requires less maintenance from beginning players.
A transition level instrument, intermediate clarinets provide some upgrades from student clarinets such as a wooden body while remaining at an affordable price range. For those looking for a long term investment, avoid the intermediate category altogether and simply invest in a professional-grade horn.
As the highest quality instruments, these types have all the extra features standard for upper level performance, including a wooden body for excellent tone quality. Professional bass clarinets have a low C-key, desired at higher levels of performance, to extend the lower range of the instrument. Manufacturing at this level focuses on optimal sound, response, accurate tuning, and swift key action. Well-maintained clarinets from reputable manufacturers can last decades or even passed down through generations of players.
Regardless of clarinet type or level, a buyer’s options are similar. The clarinet features outlined below provide an idea of choices musicians have.
Soprano and bass clarinets can be constructed out of several different materials, based on the level of the instrument, desire of the instrumentalists and clarinet use.
Typically reserved for student instruments, plastic clarinets are affordable and durable for beginner players. Requiring less care than wood, student players don’t need to worry about their instrument cracking from weather extremes. Plastic clarinets are also popular for use in outdoor music activities such as marching bands.
Grenadilla or a similar dense wood producing a dark, desirable sound, is the industry standard beyond beginner instruments. Wooden clarinets require extra care because their wooden body swells or shrinks with changing temperatures and humidity. Without proper care, the body will crack, ruining the instrument.
Manufactured from a combination of grenadilla powder, polycarbonate fiber and epoxy resin, Greenline clarinets are relatively new. Offered on some professional level instruments, the density of the material mimics hardwood without the usually susceptibility to weather conditions as their wooden counterparts. For players whose instruments may often be exposed to extreme environmental conditions, greenline clarinets may be a wise choice.
Both soprano and bass clarinets disassemble into several separate pieces; the barrel on a soprano/neck on a bass clarinet, upper, middle and lower joints, and the bell. Beyond these parts, the mouthpiece, ligature and reed are also essential to proper clarinet playing.
Clarinets include a stock offering, but many musicians customize their mouthpiece. Classical, ensemble or solo performance informs mouthpiece choice, and many players use different mouthpieces for different musical styles. The shape and cut of the mouthpiece alters the tone quality of the clarinet. Differences such as a round or square chamber on the inside of the mouthpiece, or the measurement of space between the mouthpiece and reed, provide different tones and responses.
A ligature straps the reed in place against the mouthpiece. Ligatures come in many different designs, such as inverted, single or double screw, and in many materials, including various metals, leather or string. Companies provide their own stock mouthpiece option in most cases, but players often choose ligatures based on personal preference. The material and tightness of the ligature against the mouthpiece affects how freely the reed vibrates against the mouthpiece, contributing to a clarinet’s sound.
These are specially shaped pieces of thin wood, attach to the flat surface of the mouthpiece using a ligature. When a musician blows through the mouthpiece, air passes between the slight opening between the tip of the reed and the mouthpiece. The reed vibrates against the mouthpiece, creating the clarinet’s tone.
Clarinet reeds are available in different brands and strengths to provide more or less resistance and various sound qualities, based on individual preference. Reeds are a consumable product and need to be purchased regularly. Clarinetists will want at least 3 reeds on hand, if not more.
While pricing on instruments vary between type, brand and ability level, in general, price reflects clarinet quality. Be wary of instruments significantly less expensive than their peers, as inexpensive clarinets can result in avoidable repairs, poor tone quality or tuning, and the need for quick replacement. Sticking with reputable clarinet manufacturers or through consultation with trusted educators and professionals will ensure you a reliable, long-term investment.