In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
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Last updated: February 16, 2021
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The clarinet is a versatile instrument that sounds great in orchestras, marching bands, and even jazz bands. It’s a fun-to-play and gentle way to introduce students to reed instruments. While some schools want you to rent one or buy from their supplier, you can find the best beginner clarinet for a reasonable price that can actually save you money in the long run.
There are a few things to consider about a beginner clarinet when deciding which is the right one for you. To put together this list, we made sure that each of the products had the standard key and key system typically used in music schools, so all of our picks are in B-flat with 17 keys. We also considered the material that the body of the clarinet and the keys are made of. It’s also a good idea to look at what is included with the clarinet, so you know if there is anything else you need to get and how many additional costs you might have.
We spent hours and hours researching these products to put together this list, looking through manufacturer’s sites as well as reviews from professional musicians, educators, and people who have bought them for themselves or their children. First, you’ll find a table where you can compare all of our products, side by side. After that are detailed reviews of each instrument, followed by an in-depth buying guide to help you find the best beginner clarinet for you or the budding musician in your family.
For the best quality and sound beginner clarinet for a school student, check out the Jean Paul CL-300 Student Clarinet. It’s made of ebonite which is a very hard rubber that is heavy and really durable. This is a much better material than some of the thin plastic that bargain instruments are often made of.
This clarinet has nickel-plated keys that help produce a clear tone. The cylindrical bore was made to produce a smooth sound with a strong response for a wide range of tones.
A tough, contoured carrying case is included for adequate protection to and from school on the bus or for traveling with orchestra or band. This clarinet also comes with a reed, cleaning cloth, and cork grease, so you have everything you need to try it out right away. There’s also a strap ring and strap included if you need a little extra support.
A lot of the people who purchased this clarinet commented that it was the perfect instrument for their middle schoolers to learn the clarinet. It’s a better option than renting one from the school because, overall, it’s much less expensive and you don’t have to worry about anything happening to it and having to pay any penalties. Some people commented that some of the notes were off, but this was not a common experience.
What we liked:
Made of durable ebonite
Durable carrying case
Reed, cleaning cloth, cork grease included
Strap ring and strap
Great for students
What could be better:
Some users commented notes were off, but this was not common
The best beginner clarinet on a budget is the Windsor Student Bb Clarinet. It features a lightweight Bakelite body that is easy for a student to handle. The ebony finish and nickel-plated keys give it the look of a much more expensive instrument.
The keys are reinforced to help create well-rounded, precise tones. Most people who purchased this clarinet were happy with the sound considering the price. A few people said that they took it to a music store for adjustments and the sound quality was even better than it was when it first arrived.
This clarinet comes with everything you need to get started playing and perform general maintenance. You get cork grease, a cleaning cloth, reeds, mouthpiece, ligature, and cover. And it all fits nicely into a lined protective case that’s molded to the exact shape of all the parts to keep everything protected. It’s a great choice for students who are going to be traveling with their instrument, whether it’s back and forth to school or concerts or private lessons.
This is a good starter clarinet or one to keep at home for practice. Several people mentioned that it does not sound as good as their more expensive wooden clarinets, but they were still very happy with this instrument considering how affordable it is.
What we liked:
Lightweight Bakelite body
Includes cork grease, cleaning cloth, reeds, mouthpiece, ligature, and cover
Durable protective case
What could be better:
May need some adjustments at music store to improve sound quality
Our Editor’s Pick for the best clarinet for a beginner is the Hisonic Signature Series 2610 Bb Orchestra Clarinet. This is a great instrument for students and can stay with them until they’re ready to take their hobby a little more seriously. One of the great things about this clarinet is its sound. It’s suitable for most performances that students usually participate in, including orchestra, marching band, and jazz band.
This clarinet is made of ebonite, a very hard rubber that’s really durable and perfect for a student. It also features nickel-plated keys that are easy to play and create a professional look next to the dark black body. A mouthpiece, reed protector, cork grease, and cleaning swab are all included. Everything fits nicely into the plush-lined case, which makes it easy to travel with.
For parents looking for an inexpensive alternative to renting an instrument from your child’s school, this one is a good choice. The ebonite body should last a long time, and the sound quality is sufficient for someone at the middle school level. That’s not all, this clarinet is also covered by a one-year limited warranty so if you’re not happy with the workmanship, contact the company, and they should be able to help you out. Most people had minimal complaints about the instrument itself, but a few said that the handle broke off the case after only a few uses.
What we liked:
Great for school students
Durable ebonite body
Includes mouthpiece, reed protector, cork grease, cleaning swab
The Mendini by Cecilio B Flat Beginner Student Clarinet is a great choice for beginners. Cecilio has been making beginner and intermediate clarinets since 2004 and has become one of the top-sellers for bands and orchestras.
This clarinet includes everything a beginner needs to get started, including a ligature, cap, box of reeds, foldable stand, and a carrying case. You also get basic maintenance materials, like a cleaning cloth and cork grease.
Each instrument is tested at the overseas manufacturer and then again when they reach the southern California warehouse. Quality control is very important to the company, and they’re so confident in their instruments, they offer a one-year warranty against manufacturer’s defects and local service for any issues that arise in the warranty period.
What’s cool about this one is it comes in a variety of color options. While most schools or orchestras will likely insist on black, you can choose from green, white, purple, red, and more to make a statement.
Users say that this instrument is easy to play and sounds great. The lightweight material is easy to hold, and the keys are very responsive. There were some minor complaints about the cork grease not being very good and that it didn’t seem like it would hold up over time.
What we liked:
Tailored for beginners
Includes ligature, cap, reed, stand, case, cleaning cloth, and cork grease
Available in different color palette
What could be better:
Cork grease poor quality
Lightweight material may not stand the test of time
Another great choice is the Aileen Lexington Bb Flat 17-Key Clarinet. This one is in the running for best clarinet for child beginner thanks to its affordability and professional-grade testing. The Bakelite body has a wood grain finish for a more natural look, and the nickel-plated keys look great next to the matte finish.
This clarinet includes a mouthpiece, reed, screwdriver, cork grease, cleaning cloth, and gloves. Everything fits nicely into the hard foam-shell case, so it’s easy for students to go back and forth to school without having to worry about damaging the instrument. It has a shoulder strap, too, so it’s really comfortable to carry.
Most people thought that this was a great beginner’s instrument but some issues that were brought up. First, you might need to invest in a better clarinet mouthpiece. The mouthpiece has a lot to do with the quality of the sound, and some people felt that the one that was included could have been improved. Some of the pads may not line up precisely, either, which really affects the precision of the notes and overall sound. This wasn’t a common problem, but you may need to take it to a music store for some adjustments.
What we liked:
Great for students
Bakelite body with a woodgrain finish
Includes mouthpiece, reed, screwdriver, cork grease, cleaning cloth, and gloves
Durable case with handle and shoulder strap
What could be better:
Pads may not line up correctly
May need to purchase new mouthpiece to improve sound quality
Things to Consider
If you’re looking for a beginner clarinet for yourself or your child, there are certain things to keep in mind when shopping. Remember, these are basic instruments, and you should look for something that’s affordable, easy to play, and conducive to learning.
Features to consider while choosing a beginner clarinet
Whether it’s been decades since you picked up a clarinet yourself if you’re shopping for an affordable instrument for your child to use in school, there are some important things to keep in mind while you shop. Let’s take a look.
Body material matters for a few reasons. First, it’s important to be realistic. Professional clarinets are usually handmade of wood and cost many, many times as much as these beginner clarinets which are made of ebonite, like the Jean Paul CL-300 Student Clarinet, or Bakelite, like the Aileen Lexington Bb Flat 17-Key Clarinet. Ebonite is a really durable hard rubber that can hold up to a lot of wear and tear while Bakelite is a synthetic plastic that is also very hard and durable.
In addition to durability, the material also has a huge effect on sound and tone. While neither of these materials will provide the same sound quality as a professional wooden clarinet, they are both great for beginners. Especially younger students who can be a little rough with things.
These beginner clarinets are all in the key of B-flat and for a good reason: it’s the most popular member of the clarinet family. That means that these instruments can be used in just about any type of band and are suitable for playing any type of music.
There are other keys available, including A, E-flat, D, and C as well as bass clarinets, contrabass, and soprano versions, too, but these are much less popular and only used by high-level professionals. So, don’t worry, a standard B-flat instrument like the Windsor Student Bb Clarinet is just right to get started.
The key system refers primarily to the fingering positions and mechanisms of the keys, but the dimensions of the barrel and the material play a part as well since they affect the sound quality. This is a much more complicated thing on a professional level instrument; for beginners, it’s quite simple.
Since all of these clarinets are in the key of B-flat, they’re all pretty standard and use the traditional 17-key system. As we mentioned, there are some versions of the instrument in other keys, and some of these can have around 20 keys or so. The difference often lies in the buttons used by the pinky fingers when playing notes at either end of the range but that’s not something you really need to worry about at the beginner level.
The case is always important but is worth keeping in mind when you shop for a beginner clarinet, particular if it’s going to be used by a school student. Transporting the instrument back and forth from school to home can be a nuisance, so make sure the case provides enough protection but that it’s also something your child is willing to carry.
Also, consider the type of group your child is playing in. Middle school orchestra may provide a locker to store the instrument when not in use while younger students are probably going to be bringing their clarinet to and from school on a school bus. If your child is in marching band, their instrument is likely going to be transported to and from performances in a big truck, so it’s very important to make sure you get a case that is going to provide the right level of protection.
Some of these clarinets come with everything you need to get started playing right away. If you’re trying to figure out additional costs, here are the things you should consider.
Does the clarinet come with any reeds? Generally, if a reed is included, you only get one or two so you will need to get extra, particularly for a new player as they can be hard on reeds when learning.
Proper care and maintenance are also really important, so you will need to make sure everything you need is included. Generally, you need a cloth to wipe the surface of the clarinet, a weighted cloth for the inside, and a brush to clean the mouthpiece. Cork grease is also important.
Price and Warranty
These clarinets are exceptionally affordable. They range from just under $100 to about $170. If you have a child that wants to play the clarinet and their school is trying to get you to rent or buy from their suppliers, it makes much more sense to purchase one of these on your own. There’s really no reason to invest in a more expensive instrument at this point, especially for a kid who isn’t sure how long he’s going to keep playing.
You should clean your clarinet after every use. Take all of the pieces apart and remove the reed. Start by using a polishing cloth to clean the surface and all the keys, making sure to clean off all fingerprints and any visible dirt. Use a brush to clean the mouthpiece really well, inside and out. It’s very important to do this as an unclean mouthpiece can harbor a lot of germs and potentially get you sick if left for too long. Use the cleaning cloth to clean out the inside of each piece by dropping the weight into the clarinet, and using it to pull the cloth all the way through. Do this as many times as needed to get all the built-up spit and condensation. After the clarinet is clean, apply cork grease to keep the cork from drying out. The cork is essential for assembling the clarinet and it’s important to prevent it from cracking. You may need to do this more frequently during the winter when the air is dry. Put your clarinet back in the case when you’re not using it and never set it down, so it’s standing vertically.
One of the most obvious signs that it’s time to replace the reed it if there are physical signs of damage, like cracks or chips along the edge. If you notice any discoloration or if the sound quality is dropping, it’s time for a new reed as well.
Yes, only in that they should stick to the basics. 17-key clarinet is the most common and a good choice for beginners. Most of the clarinets that use other key systems are made for professionals, people who want to take their playing to a professional level. For students, particularly school students, sticking with the basic 17-key system is best.
Our pick for best beginner clarinet to buy is the Jean Paul CL-300 Student Clarinet. The ebonite material is tough and durable, which is great for a beginner, particularly a young student. Everything you need to start playing right out of the box is included.
Another great choice is the Windsor Student Bb Clarinet. This is a great budget option that sounds as good as any other option on our list while costing under $100. This is a great starter instrument and comes in a lined, protective case that’s easy to travel with.
Finally, we like the Hisonic Signature Series 2610 Bb Orchestra Clarinet. It’s also made of durable ebonite and comes in a protective case, both of which are important for students traveling on a school bus. The sound quality is great and appropriate for jazz band, orchestra, or marching band. A mouthpiece, reed, cleaning swab, and cork grease are included.