Resin body construction with a matte finish to simulate wood grain. Features a Boehm 17-key system. Warm tone. Good for marching band, when you don't want a more expensive instrument outside. Includes carrying case, bari mouthpiece, Rich H ligature, cleaning cloth, and other extras.
Composite construction may not please veteran players.
Constructed with high-grade black ebonite and nickel-plated or lacquer keys. Includes a hard-shell case, additional barrel, cap, reeds, and a care kit. Included accessories make this a great buy for beginner musicians.
May not be as high-quality as others on our list.
Features a classic, timeless style. Built with high-carbon steel, ebony, and nickel-plated keys. High quality for the price. Boasts a bright and warm sound. Specifically designed for beginners and learning musicians.
Buyers recommend finding a better mouthpiece.
An attractive, easy-to-play clarinet that won't break the bank. Nickel-plated keys feel nice to use due to high-carbon steel springs. Distinctive sound. Kit includes mouthpiece, ligature, cap, hard case, clarinet stand, and various cleaning accessories. Available in 6 bold colors.
Requires more air pressure than higher-end clarinets.
Offers high-grade black ebonite with nickel-plated keys. Comes with a carrying case, second barrel, reeds, cleaning kit, and glove. Buyers praise it for its great tone and the quality you receive for the price.
May not be as high-quality as more expensive clarinets on the market.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.