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Last updated: June 30, 2021
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Clarinet can be a generic word to describe a number of varying instrument types, each defined by its size, body style, tuning, and sound profiles. In fact, among seasoned players, it is common practice to switch in-between models to suit a particular music style or perhaps to better play of a specific composition. For instance, Bb clarinets are popular for jazz, swing and Dixieland while the best clarinet for classical music is the A clarinet. Eb clarinets, on the other hand, have an established place in orchestras and concert bands.
So, whether you’re in the market to get your first clarinet or a step-up instrument, it is important to get the right piece. Clarinets come with a varying number of keys as well as different key systems. Then there is the body material to consider with choices between wood and plastic and plating options between nickel and silver. New players not wishing to spend a fortune on their first clarinet may choose to go for most cost-effective options such as a plastic instrument with nickel plating while the pros may have no reservations on investing in high-end models.
To help you get the right clarinet for your playing skills and level, our experts have put together a list of the 7 best clarinet reviews available in the market. You can read a detailed description of each product and then follow up on that with our buying guide to get all the answers to your clarinet-buying questions.
Buffet has been a name long synonymous with quality and craftsmanship, creating popular instruments that have been favorites among musicians for decades.
The Buffet Crampon R13 professional B-flat is a clarinet well-liked by the professionals and masters alike and for all the right reasons. With such a vastly known positive reputation, there’s little to say about this clarinet that hasn’t been said before, making it our Editor’s Pick today.
This professional clarinet is made only with the highest-grade materials. For the richest and most focused sound possible, the body is constructed with a durable premium quality grenadilla wood. The poly-cylindrical bore allows for a more flexible variation in tone while better projecting the sound, making it suitable for any setting or large performance/symphony. The nickel-plated keys are easier to maintain than silver-plated ones and don’t take anything away from the aesthetics. This clarinet also includes an adjustable thumb rest for added comfort.
For safety when traveling, the clarinet comes with a deluxe Naugahyde-covered wooden shell case with a plush inside to protect all the components of your instrument. Because of its popularity, the R13 clarinet also has a very good resale value.
Being a wood instrument, one minor issue with this clarinet is its tendency to stick at the joints. This doesn’t affect how well the instrument plays and should be fixed with some extra greasing.
The quality of this clarinet is a far cry from others, and as a result, may be pricey or out of reach for some.
From Yamaha—a company known for its reliable quality in instruments of all levels—comes the famous YCL450 B-flat clarinet. If you’re looking for a good “step-up to the intermediate level” instrument, the Yamaha YCL450 clarinet is a choice worth considering.
This intermediate clarinet is advertised to offer professional qualities at a student-friendly price. It’s made with the materials to prove it. The body is made of grenadilla blackwood, which is known for its durability and incredibly rich and warm sound, but at the same time it may contribute to the somewhat costly price of this instrument.
Regardless, you’ll get an instrument that is justified as it truly lives up to its price. The silver/nickel plating of the key work incorporates the best of both worlds: it’ll be more durable and have the shiny appeal of silver. The quick key action combined with the rich tones allow for better control and playability, creating a more flexible and fluid sound when playing.
Also, in the package with the main purchase, you will find a 4C hard rubber mouthpiece and a case
To sum up, with top-quality materials, excellent sound and playability, and a reliable name any instructor or professional can approve of, this is the best transition clarinet you can get as you move forward with this instrument.
The Hisonsic Signature series 2610 B-flat clarinet is one that can work for all experience levels, from the beginning student to the experienced player. While being used for the first time, this clarinet pleasantly surprises many users by its quality in build and a sound that blends well in any band or large musical group.
The clarinet body is made up entirely of ebonite, which is a positive moment for your budget but sports an elegant classic appearance which is sure to impress. It produces a well-centered tone and sound projection suitable for most types of performances. It offers a very good overall sound for the money. The nickel/silver plating of the keys not only adds to the classic look but also adds a decent amount of durability when playing this clarinet.
This clarinet is easy to play, and encouraging for younger players. This model comes with few accessories including cork grease, a mouthpiece with reed protector, and a cleaning swab. The hard-shell plush-lined carrying case is a nice addition, though some have had issues with the case not always closing properly.
This clarinet is one that’s bound to impress, especially considering its true price. It’s this list’s best student clarinet as it caters to students of all levels well.
Made especially for the beginning student, the B-flat clarinet from Glory is a great affordable option that makes the most out of its materials to provide the best sound possible. It’ll be easy to upgrade given its budget-friendly price, and makes for the best entry-level clarinet on this list.
The body is constructed with a high-grade black ebonite/ABS body, which is what makes the clarinet so affordable and allows it to project sound so well. Great for student marching bands, this clarinet has a bright tone that resonates well and can be heard anywhere. The durable nickel-plated keys require little maintenance and run less risk of tarnishing. This clarinet also features an adjustable thumb rest.
Included with this clarinet is a wide range of accessories that should be more than enough as a starter kit: a hard-shell carrying case with shoulder strap, a spare barrel, a cap, 10 spare reeds, a reed holder, 8 cushion pads, and care products including gloves, cleaning cloth, cork grease and a screwdriver.
With such a focus on entry-level use and playability, the Glory B-flat clarinet wasn’t designed to last you an extensive amount of time. It comes with plenty of spare parts, but under the circumstances that some parts get damaged, it would be hard to find and replace when repairs are required.
It’s recommended that some parts, including the mouthpiece and ligature, get upgraded to make the most out of this clarinet.
The Lexington B-flat clarinet from Aileen is yet another great student clarinet choice for those moving onto an intermediate level of playing. It offers everything that comes standard with the more popular student clarinets and more with their professional grading. What makes these clarinets stand out from the others is their testing and performance gradings done by pro musicians, so you can be sure this instrument plays to the best of its capability. With its simplicity being friendly for most experience levels combined with testing from professionals, it can fall somewhere in between as a great affordable option for intermediate players.
The durable Bakelite body is finished with a wood grain effect for a classic look. The nickel-plated keys are both durable and easy to maintain. It also includes an adjustable thumb rest.
The full kit of accessories that come with this clarinet includes a reed, a mouthpiece, gloves, a cleaning cloth, cork grease, a screwdriver, and a premium hard-shell foam case with a shoulder strap for easy transport.
The sound of the instrument itself is decent, though not impeccable, and may not have that warmth that some more experienced players may prefer. To fix this issue, replacing the mouthpiece with one that produces a better tone is recommended.
Why is it special?
Inspection and testing are done by professional musicians
Yinfente is a bit of an underdog brand in the world of clarinets. Though their products are not as well-known as those of the big-name brands, they do create good quality instruments that buyers can be satisfied with. If you’re looking for a step-up clarinet for the pro level, this is the one for you.
With a visually appealing and solid rosewood body, this intermediate clarinet is capable of producing a more professional sound, with fuller and richer tones you won’t find from a plastic instrument. On top of that, rosewood is strong and durable.
The keys on the Yinfente clarinet are silver plated while the pads seal perfectly over the accurately cut holes in the clarinet body.
This clarinet comes with two barrels, an extra reed, a durable carrying case, and care products including a cleaning cloth, white gloves, a small screwdriver, and cork grease.
Considering the quality, the clarinet comes at a great value for its price (one you would find on far pricier instruments). That being said, it is more expensive than your average student clarinet.
One issue some have is that the reeds that come with the clarinet seem somewhat subpar in quality. They can be easily upgraded, though, and don’t take away from the instrument’s overall quality.
What many people don’t know is that Yinfente is a company with 30 years of experience in the field of manufacturing quality instruments. Everything is checked over for quality several times before completion and shipping, ensuring you get the best possible instrument upon delivery. The quality is reflected onto these instruments and is why the Yinfente makes it as our upgrade pick for this list.
The Eastar ECL-300 B-flat clarinet is one of the few entry-level and student clarinets that can offer affordability without sacrificing decent sound quality. It actually comes at a great value, with a wide variety of accessories.
This instrument features classic appearance with good quality, considering the price, and a bright sound that projects well.
Before shipping, each instrument is inspected for quality to ensure you have as few issues as possible. Though this doesn’t affect the durability of your clarinet, you’re less likely to get one with faulty placements or measurements.
The material construction of the ECL-300 clarinet is standard among most student-level clarinets worth considering. The high-grade ABS Bakelite body is what gives it its bright tone and projection, and the durable nickel-plated keys with Italian felt pads provide the right amount of airtightness. The body is completed with a faux woodgrain finish for a nice aesthetic appeal.
The cylindrical bore adds to the projection, making the notes clearer and the tone brighter. Though some may not be fans of the bright tone this clarinet brings, the mouthpiece can be replaced to create some extra warmth in the sound.
Included with the Eastar clarinet is a kit equipped with everything you need: extra mouthpiece connectors, a 4C mouthpiece, two pairs of reeds (one pair for practice), a basic hard-shell case, gloves, joint grease, and a small tripod stand for your clarinet.
It makes as the Budget Pick on this list for the very reason that it proves you don’t need a hefty price tag to find a decent instrument.
What makes it special?
Affordable with great value
Plenty of accessories
What cons did we find?
Sound lacks warmth
Could be more durable
Things to Consider
Clarinets are a woodwind instrument that contains one single reed. Though wind instruments have been around for a long time, clarinets date back to 3000 BC where Egyptians used to play some sort of instrument that resembled the clarinet. Once you decide to play the clarinet, you are entering a different world of instruments that is the woodwind family. Specifications, care, and playing are all different from other instruments, and if pursued properly, you may find yourself playing the clarinet for life.
Features to consider while choosing a clarinet
There are a couple of features you have to consider when getting your first clarinet. When purchasing your clarinet, there are only so many tests you can do in the store. Your love or dislike for the instrument is only after you get a good idea of how to play and care for it.
So, without further ado, here are the features you have to keep in mind when scrolling through the music store.
There are many tiny features that can help you create a better sound in your clarinet, and some of them you have control over when buying your instrument.
Your reed choice makes a huge difference in the performance of your clarinet. Beginners have 2-2 ½ inches, but then, later on, move up to reeds that are 3-3 ½ inches. Soak your reeds in lukewarm water for five minutes before you play. Do this to all of the reeds inside of a box one or two times. Eventually, you’ll find a reed that provides a more than adequate sound, and then this is your music partner.
The clarinet itself makes the difference, of course. A plastic clarinet is great for practice and is cheaper, but a wooden clarinet has a richer sound and makes playing worthwhile.
The best way to get a better sound is through practicing. The more you practice, the better you get, and the better the sound gets.
Number of Keys
Some clarinets will have a different number of keys, depending on the type that you play.
The most commonly used system, as well as the most recommended for beginners, is the Boehm system. This system has either 17, 18, or 19 keys and 6 rings. All our featured models come with 17 keys each.
Clarinet keys are generally very complicated, but their basis is this; they cover and open holes to let air through. Once the air goes through the right path, (tuned in by you pressing down on keys) it’ll make the desired sound you want/need.
There are multiple key systems which are seen on different clarinet models. These key systems have been developed over the years and have a tendency to expand and involve more keys to make new and complex notes.
There is the Albert system, the oldest system, and the Boehm system. These two systems are the best-known model systems since they are used so often and are very popular. The Boehm has a different number of keys, depending on what model you’re purchasing and from whom.
Plastic clarinets are constructed in a way to harmonize sturdiness and musical talent perfectly. Plastic models are only used for students and intermediate leveled players, who practice more than they play. Plastic models weigh less than wooden models and are better suited for outdoor performances and events as they are more weather-resistant.
Plastic Clarinet vs Grenadilla (African Blackwood) Clarinet Comparison
Grenadilla, or African Blackwood, is the ideal wood for clarinet construction. Professionals and more advanced students prefer this material since there is no sound quite like that of a wooden wind instrument. The one potential downside to these instruments is that they are not as environmentally sound as their plastic counterparts and tend to cost more. Also, you will need to take more care of these models as wood is susceptible to water damage.
Since there is a high tax to pay, taking care of a pure grenadilla clarinet, there is a subsection of clarinets that are 95% grenadilla and 5% carbon fiber to withstand temperature and humidity better.
Silver plates require more maintenance. They are prettier and have a more appealing visage, but they tarnish easily. They also feel nice while you are playing your instrument. If you are willing to pay for the extra money and maintenance, then you can go for the silver-plated keys. The Yamaha YCL450 Clarinet and the Buffet Crampon R13 Professional Bb Clarinet both feature nickel/silver plating adding to aesthetic appeal.
Plastic is cheaper than wood, and nickel is cheaper than silver, and smaller is cheaper than bigger.
Plastic models can come around $100 while wood models come for $3,000 to even $4,000.
Your warranty is the best part of your purchase. How come? It ensures you can always go back to find the right clarinet for you. Whether there’s a flaw in the clarinet itself or it just doesn’t work for you, most clarinets come with a free return policy. The policy lasts for, most commonly, 30 days. The models we have featured here including the Yinfente Eb Clarinet, the Glory Bb Clarinet, the Aileen Lexington Bb Clarinet, and the Eastar Bb Clarinet all come with the basic 30-day money back guarantee.
To keep your clarinet in peak condition, you have to maintain it. This ensures your clarinet still sounds great after years of practice and use.
Firstly, it’s best to purchase a proper clarinet care kit. This way, you have all you need to care for your clarinet without the chance of your cleaning materials ruining it.
The first part of the clarinet to clean is the mouthpiece, with a mouthpiece brush and some warm water. Next up would be the keys of your clarinet, since these are the most contacted parts of the clarinet. it’ s better not to let any water or liquid cleaner touch the keys since it can ruin the padding. Instead, use a polish cloth to clean the keys.
To clean in between the keys, use a small brush and perhaps a damp cloth. To oil your keys, dip a toothpick in oil and trace the pivoting points of the keys with this. Depending on the condition of your swab, you can either wash it or replace it with a new one.
For a clarinet made from wood, it’s better to coat it with bore oil so the wood doesn’t crack and chip from the inside. Just dampen a cloth with oil and lightly run it through the interior of the clarinet. Make sure you don’t rub over the pads, otherwise they will get ruined.
The best sound comes from clarinets made from trees. After all, this is a woodwind instrument. Grenadilla, or African Blackwood, is one of the better woods used to construct a clarinet. It’s also the traditional material used to make classic clarinets.
The Albert system came first, and it has 14 keys on it. The Albert system is simpler than the Boehm system in the sense that it has less keys, but it’s not as practiced as the Boehm system is now. The Boehm’s tone is more focused, and comes out louder than the Albert. The Albert is still found in jazz, and used preferably by Greeks, Turks, and Jewish klezmer musicians.
The best clarinets to take to the orchestra are classically constructed wooden clarinets. They have the loudest sound and they project their notes phenomenally. They are also favored by professionals, so it’s better to consider taking the pros’ first choice to the orchestra.
Overall, we were pleased with the Buffet Crampon R13 Professional Bb Clarinet the most. Greatly admired by those who know the brand, this intermediate and above instrument has it all: quality grenadilla construction, full and rich sounds, durable nickel keys, and its wooden shell case all make it the perfect package for ardent clarinet players.
The Yamaha YCL450 Clarinet comes at a close second, also featuring grenadilla construction, silver/nickel plating and a brand name to back its performance. Also included is a 5-year warranty that impresses as a promise of quality and customer service at its best.
For an affordable option that you can bring to any performance setting, consider the Hisonic Signature Series 2610 Clarinet. It’s definitely one of the best clarinets at its price range, and its well projected sound along with elegant appearance is sure to impress.