Best Bass Clarinets Reviewed in Detail

7 Best Bass Clarinets — Get Used to the Best Sound from the Beginning!

22 Models Considered
68 Hours of Research
9 Experts Interviewed
195 Reviews Analyzed

When you think of a clarinet, you probably think of the common soprano clarinet seen in most orchestras. But at the end of the row of soprano clarinets, there is something different and larger – a bass clarinet.

The bass clarinet looks like a narrow saxophone in many ways, but it has an entirely different acoustic profile. It matches the tonal quality of a soprano clarinet and operates in the key of Bb just like a soprano clarinet, but produces notes that are roughly one octave lower. The best bass clarinet can be used for a wide variety of musical compositions and instrument arrangements, from symphony orchestras to quartets to marching bands to bluesy jazz bands. One of the main appeals of the bass clarinet is that it boasts among the widest tonal range of any wind instrument. The bass clarinet is capable of playing notes as low as a bassoon and as high as a Bb clarinet. Because of this range, you can use a bass clarinet for any type of music that calls for woodwind instruments, including either saxophones or clarinets.

In order to help you find the best bass clarinet, we considered a number of important factors that differentiate these instruments. First, not every bass clarinet is capable of the same tonal range. Some bass clarinets only extend down to Eb notes, while others extend all the way to low C in order to match the sound of bassoons. Depending on the range of your clarinet, the key system may also be slightly modified from the standard arrangement, potentially with more keys added. Body material – whether your bass clarinet is made from plastic or wood – is another important consideration, since this affects the sound quality of your instrument as well as its durability. Of course, it’s also a good idea to look for a warranty when purchasing a bass clarinet, since an instrument is a major investment that should last for years to come.

7 Best Bass Clarinet Reviews 2019

We spent tens of hours researching bass clarinets to find the best models on the market today. By combing through manufacturer’s details to get technical specifications and reviewing hundreds of user testimonials, we narrowed our list down to the seven best bass clarinets for every style of music and musician. Continue reading for detailed reviews of each bass clarinet, complete with pros and cons. Our buying guide covers everything you need to know about how to choose the right bass clarinet for you. Finally, we sum up our three overall favorite bass clarinets for every musician.

Editor’s Choice

A high-quality bass clarinet with system of 20 keys and full tonal range down to Bb

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9.9
Best Playing Bass Clarinet

A budget-friendly bass clarinet from Selmer with a 17-key system for students provides bright mellow sound

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9.7
Best Student Bass Clarinet

Great bass clarinet with 17 keys is a perfect choice for student due to moderate price and descent sound, which will cultivate love of art

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9.5
Best Professional Bass Clarinet

A marvelous instrument with the body made from grenadilla wood to provide excellent sound, silver plating of 24 keys, bell, and neck – all of that will make this bass clarinet a descent member of any orchestra

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9.4
Budget Pick

Inexpensive bass clarinet with silver-plated neck, bell and keys for better performance

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9.2
Best Eb Bass Clarinet

A professional bass clarinet with grenadilla wood body and silver plating for deeper sound

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9.0

Another bass clarinet from Buffet for professionals with full tonal range, grenadilla wood body and silver plating

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8.9
Features
  • Key: Bb
  • Key system: 20 keys, 7 covered finger holes
  • Body: ABS resin
  • Plating: nickel
  • Warranty: 5 years

 

VIEW ON AMAZON

This high-quality instrument from Yamaha is one of the best student and intermediate bass clarinets available.

The clarinet features a system of 20 keys and seven covered finger holes, offering an intermediate arrangement between 17-key and 24-key bass clarinets. The keys, bell, and neck are plated with durable nickel to provide a bright sound, and Yamaha designed the neck angle of this bass clarinet to be more comfortable to play while seated. Meanwhile, the ABS resin construction is designed to last for years of playing and is resilient enough even for use in a marching band.

Importantly, this bass clarinet is capable of the full tonal range down to Bb. That means that the clarinet can grow with you as you move from student to intermediate clarinetist, and you’ll never encounter arrangements that your instrument isn’t capable of.

The only downside of this bass clarinet is that Yamaha tuned the second version of the YCL-221 to the European A442, as opposed to the American A440, tuning standard. That means that this instrument will play sharp in many orchestras, which can be problematic if you seek to join more performance ensembles.

The Yamaha bass clarinet is relatively affordable for what it offers and comes with a mouthpiece, case, and five-year warranty.

Pros
  • Intermediate 20-key system
  • ABS resin body and nickel plating
  • Plays down to Bb keys
  • Accessible to students
  • Five-year warranty
Cons
  • Tuned to European A442 standard
2.

Selmer 1430LP Bb Bass ClarinetBest Playing Bass Clarinet

Features
  • Key: Bb
  • Key system: 17 Keys / 6 Rings
  • Body: Resonite®
  • Plating: nickel
  • Warranty: 2 years

 

VIEW ON AMAZON

This moderate price Bb bass clarinet from Selmer offers relatively free air movement through the horn, making it highly inviting to newcomers to the clarinet. The horn is designed with a single joint body that both facilitates air travel through the ABS resin (Resonite®) body and ensures that no keys are spanning joints. The 17-key system, meanwhile, is perfect for clarinetists with small hands since it is easy to move your fingers among the keys. Users found the key system to be less clunky than the 24-key systems found on competitors, as well as much quieter when playing complex pieces.

While users loved the bright and full sound of this horn, they noticed that Selmer consistently suffered quality issues when producing this bass clarinet. Many of the keys arrive loose, and the instrument is slightly out of tune, so expect to spend some time tightening things up or to spend extra money having it tuned at a music shop upon arrival. Selmer offers a two-year warranty on this bass clarinet, but the company does not take responsibility for these quality issues, and users report that the warranty doesn’t cover most other issues either.

Pros
  • Excellent air movement
  • Smooth 17-key system is good for small hands
  • Bright, full sound (after tune-up)
  • ABS resin body and nickel plating
Cons
  • Keys arrive loose and clarinet is out of tune
  • Two-year warranty is largely insufficient
3.

Jupiter JBC1000N Bass ClarinetBest Student Bass Clarinet

Features
  • Key: Eb
  • Key system: 17 Keys / 6 Rings
  • Body: ABS Resin
  • Plating: nickel/silver
  • Warranty: 2 years

 

VIEW ON AMAZON

This student-friendly bass clarinet from Jupiter offers exceedingly good sound quality for its class, at the price of only being able to play down to Eb rather than to Bb. That range limitation is okay for newcomers to the bass clarinet, but it’s worth keeping in mind that many orchestral pieces require the bass clarinet to play in the lower octave.

That said, users appreciated the simple 17-key and six-ring system on this bass clarinet as it is easy to hold and to slide your fingers over. The two-piece ABS resin body means that some keys are crossing joints, unlike for the Selmer bass clarinet, so this bass clarinet is not as rugged as some of its competitors. Users also noted that the keys could easily get stuck, although cleaning them once somewhat frequently eliminates this issue.

The sound quality on this bass clarinet is particularly notable because it hints at the darker, jazzy sound produced by professional bass clarinets. The secret behind this is that the clarinet is plated with a mix of nickel and silver, which keeps costs and maintenance requirements low while altering the reverberations through the bell.

Pros
  • The 17-key system is easy to use
  • Silver and nickel plating offers deeper, richer sound
  • Reasonable price for partial silver plating
Cons
  • Only plays down to Eb
  • Not as durable as competitors
  • Keys can get stuck frequently
  • Only a two-year warranty
4.

Yamaha YCL-622II Low C Professional Bass ClarinetBest Professional Bass Clarinet

Features
  • Key: Bb
  • Key system: 24 keys, 7 covered finger holes
  • Body: grenadilla wood
  • Plating: silver
  • Warranty:5 years

 

VIEW ON AMAZON

This high-quality bass clarinet from Yamaha is one of the more affordable Grenadilla wood clarinets on the market. That said, affordability is relative – expect to pay more than four times the cost of an ABS resin bass clarinet.

The construction and design of this bass clarinet beyond the wooden body are exquisite. The keys, bell, and neck are plated with silver, creating the rich, dark, and complex sound for which bass clarinets are known in orchestral circles. The keys themselves are made from nickel silver alloy, which helps to reduce tarnishing without affecting sound quality. The bass clarinet uses Boehm-style fingering with a 24-key system, which, users noted, can take some getting used to if you are moving up from a 17- or 20-key bass clarinet.

As for Yamaha’s YCL-221II, watch out for the tuning of this instrument. Yamaha has begun tuning its bass clarinets to the sharper European standard, which can render this expensive and exceptional bass clarinet somewhat useless for playing in American orchestras and quartets.

One of the other advantages of buying Yamaha is that the company offers one of the longer and more supportive warranties in the industry. Your new bass clarinet will be protected for five years, although users don’t report any quality issues with this instrument.

Pros
  • Grenadilla wood construction
  • Silver plating for deep, rich sound
  • Plays down to Bb
  • Five-year warranty
  • Fair price for grenadilla wood and silver-plating
Cons
  • Uses European standard tuning
  • The 24-key system requires practice
Features
  • Key: Eb
  • Key system: 18 keys, 7 covered finger holes
  • Body: ebonite
  • Plating: silver
  • Warranty: 2 years

 

VIEW ON AMAZON

This inexpensive ebonite bass clarinet from Band Directors Choice is one of the best cheap bass clarinets for beginners. The bass clarinet has a relatively simple 18-key system that makes it more accessible to musicians with small hands or who are transitioning from other woodwinds.

A major advantage to this bass clarinet is that the keys, neck, and bell are plated with silver. This feature is typically reserved for professional bass clarinets and gives this instrument the ability to produce surprisingly dark tones. However, keep in mind that the ebonite body still imposes some limitations on sound quality – users reported that even the darker tone sounded a bit hollow because of, the cheaper construction material.

In addition, this bass clarinet is relatively limited to beginners because of its range limitation – the clarinet only goes down to Eb, so it is incapable of hitting the low notes required by many orchestral arrangements. For this reason, it is relatively difficult for this bass clarinet to grow with musicians over time.

Band Directors Choice increases the value of this bass clarinet by including a leather case and mouthpiece, as well as a cap ligature and cork grease. While the two-year warranty is somewhat short, users did not report any durability concerns with this bass clarinet.

Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple 18-key system
  • Silver plating offers darker tones
  • Includes leather case, mouthpiece, and ligature cap
Cons
  • Ebonite construction creates a hollow sound
  • Only plays down to Eb
  • Short two-year warranty
6.

Buffet BC1183-2-0 Prestige Bass ClarinetBest Eb Bass Clarinet

Features
  • Key: Eb
  • Key system: 24 keys, 7 covered finger holes
  • Body: grenadilla wood
  • Plating: silver
  • Warranty: 5 years
VIEW ON AMAZON

This bass clarinet from Buffet is built for professionals. The body is made from a single piece of unstained Grenadilla wood, which offers a deep and vibrant sound quality. Moreover, the keys, neck, and bell of this bass clarinet are plated with silver, creating a reverb that adds complexity to your notes. Given this high-caliber construction, it should come as no surprise that this bass clarinet offers among the best sound quality of any instrument on the market.

The 24-key system requires some finger agility, but this should not be a problem for the professional clarinetists for which this bass clarinet was designed.

However, there is a significant downside of this bass clarinet: it only plays down to Eb. It’s unclear why Buffet designed such a professional bass clarinet without the lowest register, since most orchestral pieces that call for a bass clarinet use notes down to low Bb. As a result, it is difficult to use this otherwise impeccable bass clarinet in many professional musical arrangements. It can also be hard to justify the high price tag of this bass clarinet given that spending just a little bit more or opting for a different brand will increase your range and thus the instrument’s usability.

Pros
  • High-quality Grenadilla wood construction
  • Silver plating for deeper sound
  • Five-year warranty
Cons
  • Only plays down to Eb
  • Very expensive
Features
  • Key: Bb
  • Key system: 24 keys, 7 covered finger holes
  • Body: grenadilla wood
  • Plating: silver
  • Warranty: 5 years
VIEW ON AMAZON

Buffet’s top of the line bass clarinet comes in at a price tag that is out of reach for the vast majority of clarinetists. But, if you can look past the premium cost, there are a lot of design features to be excited about in this bass clarinet.

Essentially, the Crampon Tosca is a larger version of Buffet’s BC1183-2-0 Prestige bass clarinet, with the larger size allowing this instrument to reach the low Bb range. That’s a major advantage to professional musicians since the quality built of Buffet’s instruments can be used for a much wider variety of orchestral pieces with this bass clarinet. Better yet, the Crampon Tosca retains the same 24-key system as its smaller cousin, ensuring that you won’t be scrambling to reach notes in complex arrangements.

Sound quality is, as you should expect, incredible. You’ll experience a wide range of intonation as well as rich, deep, and complex notes, particularly in the added lower register.

The instrument comes with a five-year warranty, which is among industry leaders, and users don’t report any issues with durability. However, given the lofty price tag on this bass clarinet, it would be nice to see Buffet offer a lifetime warranty.

Pros
  • Unparalleled sound quality
  • Range down to Bb
  • Silver plating and Grenadilla wood construction
  • Excellent intonation
Cons
  • Extremely expensive
  • Not a long-time warranty for such a high price

Buying Guide

Now that you’ve learned more about our seven favorite bass clarinets on the market today, how do you choose the best one for you? In our buying guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about what differentiates bass clarinets and how to decide what features are important to you.

Features to consider while choosing bass clarinet

7 Best Bass Clarinets — Get Used to the Best Sound from the Beginning!

Bass clarinets may look similar at first glance – especially if you’re comparing them to any other instruments in an orchestra – but different bass clarinet models can feel, play, and sound different from one another. Here, we’ll highlight some of the features you need to know about when choosing a bass clarinet and explain how they can impact your playing.

Key

The first thing to think about when choosing a bass clarinet is what key it is designed to play down to. This doesn’t refer to the key that the instrument is in – like soprano clarinets, all modern bass clarinets are in the key of Bb – but rather the deepest tone that the bass clarinet can play.

The majority of bass clarinets, and virtually all professional bass clarinets, can play as low as the key of Bb or low C. Notes around this lowest range are similar to the middle to upper ranges of a bassoon, which gives your bass clarinet flexibility to fill in for a bassoon part or to play with the bassoons during certain sections of an arrangement. Keep in mind, though, that playing down to these notes requires practice on your part, and some Bb-capable bass clarinets have extra keys to allow you to reach these notes.

However, other bass clarinets like the Buffet Crampon Tosca and Band Directors Choice bass clarinets only play down to the key of Eb. These clarinets are often shorter, and thus less expensive, which makes them attractive to beginners who are just trying out bass clarinet for the first time. Beware, though, that opting for a shorter instrument can limit the number of arrangements that you can play in – especially considering that many pieces written for bass clarinet are designed to take advantage of the instrument’s extremely low range.

Key system

The key system – the system of levers, finger holes, and rings that control how air moves through your instrument and what note you’re playing – varies to a surprisingly large degree among bass clarinets. Some bass clarinets, like the models from Selmer and Jupiter, have just 17 keys, while others, like the models from Buffet, have as many as 24 keys.

No key system is necessarily better than another. Rather, it all comes down to what you are comfortable holding and what you are used to playing. If you are transitioning from one bass clarinet to another, it is generally a good idea to find one with a similar key system if possible, so you don’t have to relearn finger movements.

Plating

The plating on bass clarinet keys is most often either nickel or silver. Nickel plating is common on beginner and intermediate bass clarinets, like the Yamaha YCL-221II and Selmer clarinets, because it is more durable and somewhat less expensive. However, silver plating is typically preferred by professional clarinetists because it offers a smoother, darker tone for your instrument that is often desired in orchestral settings. Silver tarnishes much more easily than nickel, though, so if you opt for silver plating be prepared to consistently polish and maintain your bass clarinet.

Body Material

Bass clarinets are typically made out of either plastic, rubber, or wood.

ABS resin is a plastic and rubber composite that mimics the qualities of wood while being much less expensive and much more durable. Because of this, many beginner and intermediate clarinets like the Yamaha YCL-221II, Selmer, and Jupiter bass clarinets are built from ABS resin. However, plastic can’t fully mimic the sound qualities of wood, so expect the sound from these instruments to be slightly less full and resonant than notes produced by a wooden bass clarinet.

Ebonite, which is used to make the Band Directors Choice bass clarinet, is a less common alternative to ABS resin. This material is somewhat less expensive than ABS resin but offers a somewhat hollow sound quality in comparison.

Wooden clarinets can be made from a variety of woods, but Grenadilla wood is by far the most common type used for body construction. That’s because this wood is very smooth and dense, resulting in a brilliant and balanced sound. Grenadilla wood construction is common in upper-intermediate and professional clarinets and is often paired with silver-plated keys as for the Buffet clarinets.

Price

As you might expect, bass clarinets are something of a musical investment. These instruments range widely in price depending on their construction and key range. Our budget pick, the Band Directors Choice bass clarinet, costs around $1,500, while the three beginner- and intermediate-friendly ABS resin bass clarinets that we reviewed cost more than $2,000. Prices jump quickly for Grenadilla wood and silver-plated bass clarinets: each of the professional Buffet clarinets cost more than $10,000.

FAQ

Key systems are inherently a compromise in how easily you can control your instrument. A 17-key bass clarinet will be easier to move your fingers along, but the diversity of notes that you can play will be somewhat more limited, especially if you are trilling. A 24-key system can be harder to adapt to and may make it more difficult to move between notes. But, you have more freedom for trilling notes and for putting inflection on specific keys.

Boehm and Oehler key system differ primarily in how you move your pinky fingers along the bass clarinet. Boehm key system, which is widely used in the US, UK, and France, force you to use alternating pinky finger keys. Meanwhile, Oehler key system, which are common in Germany, force you to slide your pinky fingers from key to key in order to play different notes. Keep in mind that most Western countries stock components for Boehm clarinets since they are more prevalent.

If you’re a beginner, you’ll want a bass clarinet that is durable, friendly to play, and reasonably inexpensive. Those characteristics point towards a clarinet that is made of ABS resin or Ebonite rather than Grenadilla wood and that is plated with nickel rather than silver. While it might be tempting to opt for an Eb bass clarinet rather than a Bb clarinet since there are fewer notes to worry about, keep in mind that this can place limitations on the arrangements you can play. Especially if you plan to stick with your first clarinet for a number of years, it is well worth opting for a Bb clarinet.

Bass clarinet reeds can be hard to find in stock at many music shops since this isn’t a very common instrument. So, you’ll need to plan ahead and order bass clarinet reeds. On the other hand, you can use wooden alto saxophone reeds, which virtually every music shop carries in stock, in a pinch.

Our Verdict

Our three overall favorite bass clarinets on the market today are the Yamaha YCL-221II, the Selmer 1430LP, and the Jupiter JBC1000N. All three of these bass clarinets feature student- and intermediate-friendly key systems. Users liked the Jupiter bass clarinet for its excellent sound quality, which is imparted by the inclusion of silver in the key and bell plating. However, this clarinet is slightly limited by the fact that it only ranges down to low Eb. The Selmer bass clarinet has some issues upon arrival, but once tuned offers among the best sound quality of any bass clarinet in its price class and can play notes down to low Bb. Still, we feel that the Yamaha instrument is the overall best bass clarinet for most non-professional musicians because of its range down to Bb, durable design, and affordable price, all combined with a sound quality that punches above its class.

7 Best Bass Clarinets — Get Used to the Best Sound from the Beginning!

9.9/10 Total Score
Yamaha YCL-221II Standard Bb Bass Clarinet - Editor's Choice
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