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.
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.