The 9 Best Clarinets

Updated February 09, 2018 by Jeff Newburgh

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We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Whether you're a beginner or ready to unleash the untapped Benny Goodman from within, one of these clarinets is certain to help you on your way to woodwind greatness. While we can't promise they'll transform you into a legendary Carnegie Hall performer overnight, their responsive keys and high-quality materials will give you plenty of confidence to produce a rich sound in almost any environment. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best clarinet on Amazon.

9. Hisonic Signature Series

The Hisonic Signature Series is characterized by a crisp and even tone that resonates nicely both indoors and outdoors, making it an ideal choice for performing in marching bands, orchestras, and jazz ensembles alike. However, the included case is rather flimsy.
  • relatively easy to play
  • comes with a reed protector
  • stiff cork makes assembly difficult
Brand Hisonic
Model 2610
Weight 4.1 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. Cecilio Mendini

Offering a choice of several colors, the Cecilio Mendini comes with just about everything needed to get your child started, including a box of 10 reeds, a fully-illustrated reference manual with fingering guide, and a foldable stand that fits conveniently inside the bell.
  • includes a pair of cleaning gloves
  • price is affordable
  • tends to produce a squeaky sound
Brand Mendini
Weight 4.1 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

7. Kaizer 1000 Series

In addition to a low-maintenance design with a metal-reinforced bell for withstanding heavy use at the beginner's level, the Kaizer 1000 Series comes with a lifetime warranty that includes free parts replacements, making it a practical choice for transitional use.
  • available in 7 different colors
  • steel springs for a rapid response
  • the included reed is rather brittle
Brand Kaizer
Model CLE-1000
Weight 3 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

6. Jean Paul CL-300

Available at an affordable price and leveraging the Boehm 17 key system, the easy-to-play Jean Paul CL-300 is capable of producing a wide range of evenly-balanced tones, making it a reliable option for band students who are just starting to learn the fundamentals.
  • comes with reeds and cleaning swab
  • is factory bench-tested
  • mouthpiece isn't the best quality
Brand Jean Paul USA
Model CL-300
Weight 3.9 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

5. LJ Hutchen 4216

While it's not a professional-grade instrument, the sturdy brass keys, satin-finished Ebonite body, and double-bladder Lucien pads on the LJ Hutchen 4216 provide superior durability and comfort that can withstand the daily rigors of extended practice sessions.
  • 2-year warranty
  • comes with cork crease
  • requires tuning pretty often
Brand LJ Hutchen 4216
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. Yamaha YCL-650U

The Yamaha YCL-650U features ergonomic sculpted keys that help deliver superior tonal balance and a smooth response, regardless of one's skill level. The resonance chamber in its bell facilitates a consistent and far-reaching projection of sound in the low register.
  • natural-looking finish
  • cylindrical bore design
  • takes a while to break it in
Brand Yamaha
Model YCL-650U
Weight 5.2 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. Buffet Crampon E11

Ideal for the mid-level student, the Buffet Crampon E11 is equipped with undercut tone holes for improved pitch accuracy. The use of stainless steel springs will ensure smooth, precise, and responsive movements for all of its fully-forged keys during live performances.
  • unstained african blackwood
  • comfortable fish skin pads
  • hand-treated and lacquered
Brand Buffet
Model E11
Weight 5 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Yamaha YCL-255

Modeled after high-end instruments, the Yamaha YCL-255 is a dependable entry-level option with an attractive ABS resin body, matte finish, and a warm sound, all of which mimic the look, feel, and superior intonation experienced with a natural wood model.
  • nickel-plated silver keys
  • very durable construction
  • lightweight design is easy to hold
Brand Yamaha
Model YCL-255Y
Weight 5.5 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

1. Buffet Crampon R13

Perfect for students, professionals, and all budding musicians in between, the Buffet Crampon R13 is made from high-quality grenadilla wood with a 3-step polycylindrical bore that produces rich and deep tones in all registers. A silver-plated metal ligature is included.
  • adjustable thumbrest
  • deluxe leather-covered case
  • 66-millimeter barrel
Brand Buffet Crampon
Model BC1131-5-0
Weight 5.6 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

Understanding The Clarinet

Clarinets have a single reed and a cylindrical bore. Most people are generally referring to A- and B flat versions when speaking about clarinets, but there is actually a wide family of clarinets ranging from tiny E flat models all the way up to super deep-sounding bass clarinets, which are nearly nine feet long.

A standard A- or B flat clarinet, also known as a soprano clarinet, is roughly two feet in length, which is twice the size of a standard recorder. Clarinets are composed of a mouthpiece, barrel joint, upper and lower joints, a bell, and hardware like the keys and ligature. Most clarinets come with two barrel joints, a longer one and a smaller one. Nearly every clarinet can be disassembled for easy transport and storage.

Clarinets can be made of metal, plastic, or wood. The keys and other hardware are generally silver or nickel coated metal. Professional-quality models are most often made from grenadilla wood with silver-plated keys, while the entry level models are composed of some kind of synthetic material like ABS with lacquer-coated keys.

Clarinets look similar to oboes, but have a wider mouth and just a single reed as opposed to an oboe's thin double reed. Their cylindrical bore runs the full length of the instrument and is the same diameter throughout, except for the lower end of the bell. This contrasts with most wind instruments which have bore diameters that vary in size.

The tonal range of a clarinet is the widest of any wind instrument and every type can play as low as an E, with the majority reaching notes as high as c7. This is nearly a four-octave range, which is almost double the two-and-a-half octave range of a standard saxophone, and one more than the three-octave range of most flutes. This allows a single bass clarinet to play all of the notes that a baritone, tenor, and alto sax combined can play.

A Brief History Of The Clarinet

It can be said that clarinets have their roots in a single-reed instrument from 2700 BCE called the zummara, which was played in Ancient Egypt. While it was also a single-reed instrument, it actually had a double bore. There have been a number of single-reed instruments such as the alboka and the arghul. Various forms of these were played in Ancient Greece, the Middle East, and Europe in the Middle Ages, all of which can be considered precursors to the modern day clarinet.

The most recent ancestor of the clarinet is a Baroque instrument that was known as the chalumeau. It was similar in size to a recorder, but played with a single-reed mouthpiece and consisting of a cylindrical bore, as opposed to a recorder's conical bore. It didn't have a register key and was played solely in its fundamental register. It also had a very limited one-and-a-half octave range.

The clarinet was invented in 1690 as a modification of the chalumeau. It is unknown whether German instrument maker Johann Christoph Denner, or his son Jacob Denner, first made the modification, but whoever it was decided to replace two of the chalumeau keys with register keys. This increased the instrument's range by over two octaves. They went on to further modify the chalumeau by improving the bell and mouthpiece.

In the same year the clarinets were invented, the Duke of Gronsfeld ordered two for his musicians. Years later in 1712, four boxwood clarinets were bought by the Nuremberg Town band. It wasn't until 1740 that a third register key was added, which allowed clarinet players to hit the low E note. In 1750, the fourth and fifth keys were added by Barthold Fritz. Around this same time, clarinets were being used in operas and orchestras.

Clarinets In Music

A variety of ensembles utilize clarinets in their bands. They are often associated with classical symphony orchestras or harmonic orchestras, which will employ three or four clarinet players, but they can be found in many other types of music. The majority of military bands and marching bands use anywhere from one to four clarinet players.

In both Tango and gypsy orchestras, ensembles are small and clarinet players are responsible for lengthy solos. Chamber music also makes use of clarinets, usually in quintet with a horn, flute, bassoon, and oboe. Chamber music bands will often play a range of music types from modern to classical, which is one reason many consider this one of the most demanding types of music. It is usually reserved for true musicians dedicated to the art.

Clarinets are also heavily utilized in jazz and big band genres. Clarinet players in these styles of music can expect to perform solos one minute and then in harmony with a larger wind section the next. This is a great way for clarinet players to enhance their skills and open themselves up to a broader range of playing styles. They can also sometimes be found in pop and rock bands, usually in an electronic format.

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Last updated on February 09, 2018 by Jeff Newburgh

A dedicated writer and communications professional spending his days lost in the intricacies of both proposal and freelance writing. When not sharing the knowledge of both fully and self-insured medical benefits to employer groups of all industries within California, Jeff Newburgh can be found at home spending time with his family and 3 dogs, pondering the next chew toy to be thrown, while kicking back and relaxing with a nice glass of red wine.

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