We’ll have all recognized the clarinet at some point in our lives, that distinctive long and sophisticated-looking instrument that is a mainstay of most orchestras, jazz bands and various other types of music. A lot of people play the clarinet, either as a hobby or professionally.
But whether you’re a young kid wanting to boost their clarinet playing to the professional standards or you’re an experienced hobbyist who wants a clarinet that produces a higher quality of sound, at some point you'll want a better class of clarinet.
When it comes to having a great clarinet, there are a few features that we considered when compiling the following reviews. You have to think about the key system and how easy and fluid it is to use.
The material of the keys and the barrel are also important, as they affect how the instrument sounds, looks and how easy it is to transport.
You’ll also want to consider your skill level of playing as well as your budget. You’ll probably find yourself trying to offset the features of your new clarinet with the higher price bracket that some of the top range models have.
As you will see from our list, some of these clarinets come with a hefty price tag.
But where can you find the best clarinets? What features should a good clarinet have and what materials should it be made out of to give you the best quality sound? How much will a good clarinet cost you in terms of price?
Well, woodwind fans everywhere need not worry, because we’ve compiled a list of some of the best clarinets currently available on the market today.
We’ve also got a buyer’s guide that will help you discern the good woodwind instruments from the really bad ones, as well as some frequently asked questions from clarinet players.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Our first clarinet is one that is manufactured by a well-respected instrument maker that is known the world over.
When it comes to buying an instrument, reputation is very important, and you’ll want something reliable and made only for the very best musicians.
With this clarinet, Yamaha's goal was to create a consistent and high-quality instrument - introducing the Yamaha YCL-255 Standard Bb Clarinet.
The YCL-255 has a thicker key plating, with durable leather pads that will be able to tolerate years of playing, allowing you smooth and comfortable movement between the keys.
It has a conventional grenadilla wood barrel and a streamlined bell shape that will produce very rich and clear notes.
There is an adjustable thumb rest that you can augment for your particular hand shape, allowing you to play for much longer than average.
What is most important is the strap ring which will be very comfortable around your neck if you want that additional support. The touch of the key is greatly enhanced from previous models.
- The soft and padded keys will be great for a novice who wants to elevate their playing, going for much longer at a more sustained intensity.
- It has a very comfortable mouthpiece, which again will be crucial for playing longer pieces.
- Expert players will also be impressed by the fluid motion that they’ll be able to achieve with these keys. It delivers high quality and a consistent rich sound that you will already have heard in the professional orchestras.
- The grenadilla wood barrel is very resilient, which is perfect if you plan on taking your clarinet to a rehearsal room or a concert every day and don’t want it to get damaged in transit.
- Some users have complained that their adjustable thumb plate does not fit a larger hand size.
Our next model of clarinet comes from another very reputable brand and is their most outstanding clarinet, designed with premium precision.
It comes with milling holes that are drilled to the exact millimeter, with capped metal rings that prevent the wood from splitting.
The bell is shaped like an egg, which allows for great resonance and rich tones - introducing the Buffet Crampon E12 France Intermediate Bb Clarinet.
This clarinet has 18 keys and 6 rings that are forged from copper and steel, silver-plated to give it that sophisticated look while not skimping on quality.
It has flat blue steel springs and bladder pads that will give you a nice responsive feel when you play. The acoustics are orchestra level and a lot of players in jazz bands have rated this one very highly.
The composition of steel, copper and aluminum will give this clarinet its shine, with a polished wood that has a beautiful gloss. You certainly won’t be ashamed to get this one out at your next recital.
This model comes with a leather case that means you’ll be able to transport it discreetly and safely from point A to point B.
- The wood and the metal components of this clarinet are second-to-none, it will provide you with that rich resonant sound, the spacing of the keys giving you good solid control over your playing.
- There is a smaller bore in this clarinet that adds some brightness and vibrancy to the final sound. The shape of the bell will give you that warm sound most desired by professional clarinet players.
- With a leather carry case, you can be sure that you’ll be able to get your clarinet damage-free to its destination. One thing that can affect the sound of your instrument is repeated knocks and bangs.
- The overall construction of this clarinet is one of the most solid on this list, the thousands of positive reviews on Amazon and various other sites are really a testament to this instrument’s reliability.
- The mouthpiece is not included with this clarinet, which will be off putting to people who do not want to spend more money on separate essentials.
This next clarinet is one for those that are on a budget, with a warm and rich sound that you will only hear on the professional orchestral scene.
This is ideal for a student who might not want to spend too much on their first clarinet, but who still wants all the professional functions and sounds of a good clarinet - introducing the Yamaha YCL450 Clarinet with nickel Keys.
This clarinet has a grenadilla wood construction, just like the first clarinet on this list, which will produce a very grand-sounding intonation and looks just great.
It comes with double skin pads and nickel-plated keys that make for a very reliable and smooth playing session. One thing that a lot of newbie players complain about is a strain on the fingers.
This clarinet comes with a wide range of accessories, including a mouthpiece, cap, ligature, swab and cleaning, with a hardshell case.
Again this is perfect for the beginner clarinet player as you’ll want every essential piece of your clarinet, all made from durable materials and functioning to a high standard.
- This clarinet has blue steel springs that will give it a very bright and bouncy feel, perfect for giving that healthy resistance to the fingers and allowing you to float from note to note.
- The price - this is one of the cheaper units and, considering the number of features on offer with this instrument, this will be a must-have for beginners on a limited budget.
- The grenadilla wood construction produces that rich and vital sound that will match that of the more professional players.
- This is the ideal clarinet for elevating the standard players to the level of the professionals.
- Some users have reported that the case on this particular clarinet is substandard.
Next up we have a clarinet that is designed to be played by beginners who have no prior knowledge of playing the clarinet.
This is perfect for the newbie, coming with all the basics that you need to get started: a lightweight case, a box of reeds, grease, a cleaning cloth, gloves and a stand - introducing the Mendini by Cecilio B Flat Beginner Student Clarinet.
This clarinet has a wonderful glossy finish with a rich blue color that will certainly make you stand out from the drab and dark wooden models.
It is also incredibly cheap, although some users have experienced a dip in the quality of the tuning, which might be an issue if you are trying to stay in tune with a larger band.
This clarinet comes with a 1-year warranty against any defects from the manufacturer, which will appeal to the beginner who might force the keys too hard and accidentally break the housing.
This assurance will give you a lot more confidence when you’re playing and offset certain construction issues.
- What comes with it - this starter clarinet comes with all the basics that you’ll need to learn the clarinet. You can easily clean and maintain it with a cleaning cloth or keep the keys well-oiled with your grease.
- The look - this will certainly make you stand out from normal clarinet players. However, if you prefer to blend into the background and focus on your playing, this might not be a great color.
- The warranty is very generous for a starting clarinet. You can practice hard for hours on end and not have to worry too much about damage to the casing.
- The price - this is probably the most affordable unit on this list, making it the perfect choice for beginners or experienced clarinet players on a budget.
- The sound quality - some users have reported problems with the tuning of this instrument, which will certainly pose a problem if you are playing with a larger ensemble.
Our final clarinet is a very common model and is another one that might appeal more to beginners rather than experienced players. It has a high-quality construction with a standard Bb tuning and will fit in seamlessly with the tuning of a lot of high school bands.
This will provide you with a decent sound and is more resilient than a standard plastic clarinet - introducing the jean-paul USA CL-300 Student Clarinet.
The keys on this unit might not be the strongest and are prone to bending, but they allow the beginner a fluid transfer from one note to the next.
When picking up the basics, you don’t want anything too solid or responsive, as a player’s fingers need to get used to the movement before progressing to harder playing.
This clarinet is made from ebonite and is considered somewhere between plastic and wooden clarinets in terms of durability.
It has a 17-key system, which makes it very versatile and gives you everything you need to get started.
- This is a great clarinet for beginners or intermediate players - the construction is solid enough to last you for a few years, although so hard as to prevent beginners from playing it competently.
- The keys are very soft and responsive enough to play. You can be confident in transitioning from one note to the next with this model.
- This is a common choice for student players and has hundreds of top ratings from students across the country that have improved their playing significantly because of this clarinet.
- The construction of the barrel is ebonite, which is a durable yet flexible material, lying somewhere between plastic and wood.
- Some users have complained that the metal of these kays can warp and bend if pushed too hard.
Best Clarinet Buying Guide
There’s be several things that you must consider when buying your next clarinet, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or expert player.
Having a better idea of the features and functions of a standard clarinet will certainly help you when shopping for your next one.
What Key System Does Your Clarinet Have?
There are several different key systems for clarinets, most of the ones listed above use the Boehm system, which features a ring and axle system that has additional keys for the little fingers on both hands.
This means you can articulate notes a lot easier, giving the tone and acoustics of the instrument that much richer sound.
This is also known as the French system and has been a popular choice for clarinet players all over the world.
What Is The Key Plating And Body Material?
The material of the body of your clarinet will certainly affect the overall tone. Most of the ones we have listed above are made from Grenadilla wood, which makes a great sound when blown through and is very economical to manufacture.
As we have seen, some of the choices of material are ebonite and plastic, which are both even cheaper to manufacture and buy, although it will result in a significantly less durable product overall.
If you want to have an instrument that will stand the test of time, we can recommend that you buy one made from grenadilla.
Keys made from silver or silver and nickel-plated are the industry standard, with a smooth finish and leather padding that will give you the maximum comfort that you need to be able to play longer.
The ability to play longer means more practice time and ultimately improvement at a much faster rate.
Does Your Clarinet Come With All The pieces?
Having a clarinet that comes with all the right accessories is very important. A lot of the models do not come with crucial items such as a mouthpiece, which will render your new clarinet unplayable.
Make sure that you have all the basic ingredients to be able to play and maintain your clarinet to a high standard.
A polishing cloth, cork grease, gloves and cases are all essential elements you should have to keep your instrument in decent condition.
A harder leather or plastic case will make sure that your clarinet stays protected to and from the rehearsal room.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Should You Buy A Wooden Body Clarinet?
Some clarinet players ardently believe that the only decent sound you can get on a clarinet is through a wooden barrel.
Plastic or rubber are the best options if you are watching the dollars, but when it comes to that professional acoustic sound, there is nothing better than a grenadilla wood clarinet.
Musicians and composers will also expect a clarinet to sound like a wooden instrument. People who write music with clarinets in mind will certainly be hearing a wooden, rather than plastic or metallic, fluted instrument when writing down clarinet parts.
What Is The Difference Between Nickel And Silver Plating?
Silver is generally the more durable of the two materials for your keys, as nickel-plating will tend to wear away after prolonged use.
Silver will certainly scuff and tarnish over time and you will need to keep consistently polishing it to keep it looking show-ready.