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.
Buffet Crampon R13 Professional Bb Clarinet
Buffet Crampon Tosca Bb Clarinet
Yamaha YCL-CSGII Series Professional Bb Clarinet
Yamaha YCL-255 Student Bb Clarinet
Buffet Crampon B12 Student Bb Clarinet
Prelude CL711 BB Clarinet
Buffet Crampon 1193 Prestige Low C Bass Clarinet
Amati ACL 692 Professional Low C Bass Clarinet
Selmer Privilege Bass Clarinet 67
Yamaha YCL-221 Low Eb Bass Clarinet
Selmer 1430LP Bb Bass Clarinet
Jupiter Bb Bass Clarinet 675N
The Buffet Crampon R13 clarinet was created in 1955 by Robert Carre and continues to be a favorite among professionals today. It boasts flexibility in tone production and great response for a wide range of ensemble and solo performances. The bore of the clarinet (The inside shape of the instrument body) uses a polycylindrical contour which focuses the sound and adds additional resonance. Undercut tone holes provide a consistent, even tone throughout all ranges of the instrument. The blue steel springs which help operate the keys allow for quicker key action.
An adjustable thumb rest allows the player to customize their hold on the instrument while double skin pads ensure the keys completely cover the tone holes to avoid leaks. The tenons between the pieces of the clarinet are reinforced with polycarbonate fiber to make them stronger. This clarinet is available with either nickel silver or silver-plated keys, each of which provides a slightly different tone. Designed for a dynamic sound across all registers of the instrument, the Buffet Crampon R13 is a top flight clarinet.
Buffet Crampon’s Tosca Model clarinet is designed for a warm, creamy sound and superb intonation. Greenline clarinets are constructed out of a combination of Grenadilla wood dust/shavings and a special glue-like epoxy which expertly mimics the density and quality of Grenadilla wood. This model clarinet is available with either a Grenadilla wood or Greenline composite body.
Two barrels (The topmost part of the instrument into which the mouthpiece is inserted) come standard with the instrument. Barrels can be interchanged for more flexibility in tuning and tone quality based on the player’s personal preference. The Tosca Model also boasts a left-hand E-flat lever to make tricky note combinations more convenient to play and a low-F correction key to stabilize notes in the lower register of the clarinet. While this clarinet model may be at the very top of the price range, the environmentally-friendly Tosca provides all the bells and whistles Buffet Crampon offers.
Yamaha YCL-CSGII Series Professional Bb Clarinet
The Yamaha YCL-CSGII eliminates as much metal as possible, allowing the clarinets wooden body to resonate freely and naturally. This allows for more reverberation of the instrument and rich sound thanks in part to the additional ringing of overtones from the unencumbered wood body. The focus on natural wood includes removing a metal ring in the bell of the instrument, further enhancing the natural beauty of the instrument’s sound.
Hand-crafted for precise placement and consistent shaping, a series of undercut tone holes help even out the sound across the entire range of this instrument. The bore has been designed to give the player more flexibility in tone color while a low E/F correction lever has been included in the key system to stabilize notes in the lower register of the clarinet. Available with silver-plated or Hamilton plated keys (Gold-like in color), the Yamaha YCL-CSGII presents another great option for the professional clarinetist at a slightly higher price point.
Yamaha takes their professional level clarinet and adapts it for beginner musicians with the YCL-250 model with an adjustable thumb rest allowing students to customize the clarinet to their hand size and comfort. This clarinet has silver soldered rings which reinforce the fragile tenons and joints between the pieces of the clarinet and make the instrument much more durable. Yamaha also outfits the YCL-255 with Valentino pads which are resistant to humidity and temperature changes and consistently cover tone holes to avoid leaks.
Aesthetically, the body of the clarinet has a matte finish to look more like wood but the plastic/resin material ensures a lighter weight horn which is easier to hold. This includes the bell which is designed with a resonance chamber to enhance projection of the sound and aides in intonation in the lower range of the clarinet. The barrel, the topmost piece of the clarinet where the mouthpiece is connected, is similar to Yamaha’s professional clarinets for a focused sound. Designed for a warm, resonant tone, the Yamaha YCL-255 is an excellent caliber instrument for the beginner.
The Buffet Crampon B12 clarinet has a resin/plastic body buffed to look more like wood with the durability and consistency needed in a student clarinet to resist damage. The construction is clean, lightweight and easier for young players to hold and also features an adjustable thumb rest for customizing the holding position of the instrument. The keys of the instrument are cold-forged for consistency and attached via induction soldering making them stable and accurate each time they’re pressed. Buffet also uses long-lasting double fish skin pads so the keys seal and cover the tone holes while avoiding leaks. Following the tradition of excellent sound and quality construction, the Buffet Crampon B12 clarinet is a great choice for the beginning musician.
The Prelude CL711 clarinet is constructed with a hard rubber body instead of plastic. A lesser-used but ideal material, hard rubber provides both the durability needed in a student instrument and a darker, warmer sound similar to professional, wooden clarinets. This model instrument is constructed with larger tone holes which add volume to the sound. Designed for easy play with crisp articulation and clarity, the Prelude CL711 is designed for good tone and is also the most affordable instrument on this list.
Buffet Crampon's 1193 Prestige bass clarinet carries on Buffet's tradition of excellence featuring great sound and projection with the body of this bass clarinet designed for a warmer, focused tone. This bass clarinet has undercut tone holes, providing a consistent, even tone throughout all of the instruments ranges. To facilitate better intonation and overall playing comfort, the neck is made in two adjustable pieces to suit the style of the individual performer. Silver-plated keys add a slight amount of weight for richer sound while making the keys more durable. To make playing tricky or special note combinations easier, this instrument also has an E-flat/A-flat lever, a low G resonance, and double and triple D spatula keys.
Amati ACL 692 Professional Low C Bass Clarinet
The Amati ACL-692 is designed to have a round tone quality and accurate intonation. The keys are silver plated, providing a slight amount of additional weight thereby adding more roundness to the tone. Additionally, keys are arranged for comfort and easy to maneuverability while an automatic octave key system for pitch register allows for improved handling. The Amati ACL-692 is also the most affordable bass clarinet on this list, offering a professional-grade option for the price-savvy musician.
Selmer Privilege Bass Clarinet 67
Manufactured in France, the Selmer Paris Model 67 bass clarinet is designed for a beautiful tone appropriate for all types of bass clarinet playing in any size ensemble or solo. The key springs are made out of blue steel for improved key action while the instrument keys themselves are constructed of durable nickel silver with silver-plating adding a slight amount of weight to the bass clarinet for a full body sound. Additionally, the bell and neck of the instrument are silver-plated and the leather pads have added boosters for enabling better projection of sound.
Though the body of the bass clarinet is two pieces, requiring extra care during assembly, a two-piece body means a compact, easily transported carrying case. With overall improvements to key design and intonation from their previous model, the Selmer Paris Model 67 bass clarinet is a great (Though pricey) choice for the professional musician.
The Yamaha YCL-221 takes the professional level bass clarinet and adapts it for beginning musicians. The adaptation starts with the neck of the bass clarinet, the same angle as Yamaha’s professional models, for a playing position which eliminates strain. A matte finish has been applied to the resin body which gives the clarinet a wood-like appearance while maintaining its lightness, durability and affordability over wooden counterparts. The tone holes on the instrument are carefully placed to facilitate accurate intonation with a rounded design making the keys sturdier.
Leather pads (Like those found on saxophones) are used on this bass clarinet. These pads have a longer life and are better suited for closing tone holes completely on the larger bass clarinet rather than traditional clarinet pads. Rubber rings on the joints of the instrument also help prevent leaks and make the instrument easier to put together. Designed to have a resonant, warm sound, easy-blowing response and great intonation, the Yamaha YCL-221 is the top pick student bass clarinet.
The Selmer 1430LP bass clarinet features a single-piece body, including the low-E flat, so keys don’t overlap joints thereby reducing likelihood of fragile keys being damaged when the instrument is assembled. The keys are designed for light, quick action, comfortable for smaller hands while the neck, bell and keys are made of wear-resistant nickel silver. Leather pads ensure accurate covering of the tone holes by the keys to avoid leaks and a larger bore gives this bass clarinet a deep, resonant sound. The clarinets high-impact resin body makes the Selmer 1430 bass clarinet both durable and a decent sounding instrument for the student musician.
The Jupiter 675N is designed to produce sound colors for blending in with an ensemble while allowing for a stand out sound when featured solo. This bass clarinet has undercut tone holes, a professional-level manufacturing technique providing an even, consistent tone throughout all of the instruments sound ranges. The keys are durable nickel silver and though the body of the bass clarinet is in two pieces (Requiring extra care in assembly to avoid bent keys) the two-piece orientation allows for a more compact carrying case. The Jupiter 675N bass clarinet provides a worthy alternative for the student bass clarinetist.
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.