Facebook Pixel Code
 

Best Clarinets

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 13 Models Considered
  • 7 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 119 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best clarinets

    Last Updated August 2018

    If you want to learn to play the clarinet, you'll need an instrument to practice on at home. If you already have a student instrument, you might be looking to upgrade to a professional model.

    Whatever your reason for choosing a new clarinet, it can be an overwhelming decision. There are a great number of clarinets on the market, and the range of prices and variations available can be quite astonishing.

    Here's the good news: at BestReviews, we love nothing more than helping our readers find the products that make them happy. Our in-depth buying guides cut through the jargon and help you make important purchasing decisions.

    Read on for our full guide to clarinets, or head to our top five picks. Then, get read to make some beautiful music with your new instrument!

    Clarinets are sometimes confused with oboes. While both are members of the woodwind family, a clarinet has a single reed whereas an oboe requires a double reed. The tones are different, too.

    Types of clarinets

    Soprano clarinets

    • The Bb clarinet: Soprano clarinets create music in a high register. However, there isn't just one variety of soprano clarinet. The most common soprano clarinet, played by the vast majority of clarinetists, is the Bb clarinet. This is a versatile instrument that can be used for all kinds of musical styles, from classical to marching band to jazz.
    • The A clarinet: Another variation on the soprano clarinet is the A clarinet. These instruments are slightly longer and have a darker sound than Bb clarinets. And, as the name suggests, the are tuned to A rather than Bb. A clarinets are commonly used for classical music, as some classical pieces written for A clarinets are hard to transpose for use with Bb clarinets.
    • The Eb clarinet: Another common soprano clarinet is the Eb clarinet, also known as the sopranino clarinet. These instruments have a higher register and are useful for playing high-pitched melodies that would be hard to turn out on a Bb or A clarinet.

    Bass clarinets

    Bass clarinets are significantly longer and have a much larger bore (hollowed-out body) than other types of clarinets. They're tuned to the Bb one octave below soprano Bb models, which gives them a low, bassy sound. You can hear bass clarinet in a wide range of musical genres, from orchestral and classical music to jazz and pop.

    Harmony clarinets

    Harmony clarinets are designed to play harmonies rather than melodies. While they're not as versatile as other clarinets (and probably wouldn't be a clarinet player's only instrument), they certainly have their place. You can find harmony clarinets in a range of tunings.

    Quality craftsmanship

    This high-quality professional clarinet is crafted from premium grenadilla wood and renders an even tone and response. The three-step polycylindrical bore produces a full, rich sound. It’s a great choice for advanced students as well as symphony and chamber music players.

    EXPERT TIP

    Eb clarinets aren't recommended for beginning players, as they generally require the use of advanced fingerings.


    Considerations for selecting a clarinet

    Material

    Clarinets are generally made of wood or plastic. Instruments designed for beginners – often referred to as "student clarinets" – are made from molded plastic or plastic resin. Plastic clarinets are rugged, easy to care for, and inexpensive, but they'll never have the same tonal qualities as wooden clarinets.

    Wooden clarinets are the choice of advanced students and professional musicians and are predominantly crafted from grenadilla wood. Wooden clarinets have an excellent sound quality and resonance, but they do need extra TLC if you want them to last.

    Bore

    The term "bore" refers to the internal dimensions of a clarinet. Some instruments have larger bores than others. An instrument with a larger bore has better projection and can produce fuller sounds, but it is harder to play in tune. Beginners are better off with a clarinet that has a smaller bore because it will be easier to keep in tune.

    Mouthpiece

    A quality mouthpiece makes a significant difference in the sound of a clarinet. Student clarinets generally come with a standard molded plastic mouthpiece, whereas high-end clarinets have mouthpieces milled from a hard type of rubber called ebonite. Fortunately, it's easy to switch out your mouthpiece for another type, so if you find the mouthpiece that came with your clarinet isn't to your taste – or you eventually want to upgrade your mouthpiece – it’s easy to buy one separately.

    Ligature

    A clarinet ligature is the piece that holds the reed against the mouthpiece. In spite of its small size, the ligature can make a remarkable difference in sound. Most student clarinets come with a simple metal ligature, but professional clarinets have more sophisticated ligatures that aim to enhance the tone.

    Keywork

    Clarinet keys – or "keywork," as they're usually referred to – are made from a metal alloy (commonly nickel and brass) and are plated with nickel, silver, or gold. The most basic of clarinets generally have nickel plating, whereas pricier models are more likely to have gold-plated keywork. Silver-plated keywork can tarnish, but it looks great when cared for properly and is a better choice than nickel, which can cause allergy issues with prolonged use. Plenty of student clarinets feature-silver plated keywork, so the cost shouldn't be prohibitive.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some professional instruments have a polycylindrical bore, which means the bore is wider in some places than others. A polycylindrical bore gives a clarinet a brighter tone.

    Clarinet prices

    • Less than $400: Like most musical instruments, clarinets aren't exactly cheap, but you can find some reasonably priced models if you're not looking to play professionally. In fact, you can find very basic clarinets designed for new players that cost as little as $50 or $100. That said, we strongly recommend starting at the $100 to $150 mark. With a clarinet that costs less than that, you’d probably end up wanting to upgrade within a couple of months.
    • $400 to $1,000: Intermediate-grade clarinets tend to cost between $400 and $700. If you want something a little better than basic for a child or adult who is serious about the clarinet, you may wish to invest this much. For a player who isn’t yet fully committed to the instrument, however, you may wish to buy something with a lower-tier price.
    • $1,000 and up: Professionals will want to look into an instrument that costs at least $1,000. For the very best in pro quality, however, be prepared to spend a lot more. High-end professional-grade clarinets can cost in excess of $8,000.

    Solid student model

    If you're looking for an affordable student clarinet that offers quality at a nice price, the Yamaha YCL-255 is an excellent choice. The ABS resin body might not have the depth of tone of a wooden clarinet, but for beginning and intermediate-level students, it works just fine. Yamaha is known for crafting quality instruments, so you can be sure you're not getting a sub-par model.

    Tips

    • Choose a clarinet that suits your level of playing. There's no point starting out on a $5,000 clarinet if you're not sure you'll take to the instrument. Likewise, an advanced player wouldn’t want to rough it with a $50 clarinet.

    • Make sure your chosen clarinet isn't too large or heavy for you. If you think you'll struggle with the weight, use a strap to help even out the weight distribution.

    • Think about what kind of music you'll generally be playing. A Bb clarinet won't be much use to you if 90% of the songs you'd like to learn are written for an A clarinet.

    • Check the return policy of your chosen clarinet. Make sure whatever clarinet you buy has a comprehensive return policy, just in case you don't like the way it sounds or feels when it arrives.
    Extreme hot or cold temperatures can cause a clarinet to crack or warp. Don’t store your instrument in a cold car, a hot attic, or other areas with extreme temperatures for this reason.

    FAQ

    Q. What type of clarinet is best for young players?
    A.
    A child must be able to comfortably hold a clarinet and reach all of the keys before he is ready to play. If your child is keen to learn the clarinet but isn't yet big enough to hold a Bb clarinet, you could start him off with a smaller model, such as a C or Eb clarinet. However, some professional clarinet teachers would recommend waiting until he’s grown a bit. In the meantime, you might introduce him to the recorder, a low-cost plastic woodwind instrument that resembles a clarinet.

    You can also find clarinets with reduced keywork. These are designed with younger players in mind. Many young clarinetists may also benefit from using a sling until they can comfortably and correctly hold the instrument.

    Q. Does the type of reed change how a clarinet sounds?
    A.
    Yes, both the cut and strength of the reed will affect how your clarinet sounds. Reeds can have either a regular or French-file cut. French-file reeds have quicker response, but they cost more and are unlikely to make a huge difference to beginner players.

    The strength of a reed is rated between one and five, with one being the softest and five being the hardest. Harder reeds render a richer, fuller sound, but softer reeds are easier to play, making them suited to beginners.

    Q. Do I need any accessories for my clarinet?
    A.
    Perhaps the most important clarinet accessory is the case. Fortunately, the vast majority of clarinet purchases include a case. You'll also need a pull-through and a polishing cloth to keep your clarinet clean. Cleaning your clarinet regularly will increase its lifespan and playability.

    Cork grease is another useful accessory that will help you more easily assemble the clarinet.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Kristin
      Kristin
      Writer
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor