The 8 Best Clarinets

Updated August 21, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

8 Best Clarinets
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We spent 37 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Unleash your inner musical genius or maybe your kid's untapped talent with something from our selection of clarinets. We've included models priced for beginners who aren't yet sure if this is the right instrument for them, as well as high-quality instruments built for professional concert performances. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best clarinet on Amazon.

8. Lazarro 150-BK

The Lazarro 150-BK is a budget-friendly option with a load of handy accessories to help you get started. It comes to you in a lightweight carrying case that protects the instrument well, while also providing adequate storage.
  • care kit for easy maintenance
  • stylish and fun model
  • difficult to assemble
Brand Lazarro
Model 150-BK
Weight 4.5 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. Mendini MCT-R+SD+PB

This Mendini MCT-R+SD+PB is designed for those just picking up the craft, so it isn't made of high-quality materials. It comes in seven different colors to suit your taste, and also has a portable folding stand that stores inside the bell.
  • arrives with a box of 10 reeds
  • includes cork grease
  • produces a squeaky sound
Brand Mendini
Weight 4.1 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. Hisonic Signature Series 2610

The Hisonic Signature Series 2610 is a Bb soprano instrument that is ideal for marching bands, orchestras, and jazz ensembles. It has a strong, well-built body, and produces a surprisingly good tone for its inexpensive price.
  • reinforced hinged edges on the case
  • american-made prestini pads
  • some keys can be sticky
Brand Hisonic
Model 2610
Weight 4.1 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

5. Buffet Crampon E11

The Buffet Crampon E11 will help you develop your talent with its easy key response and remarkable accuracy. It is constructed using traditional methods in dedicated German workshops, resulting in a quality that will last for years.
  • stained african black-wood body
  • comfortable thum brest cushion
  • suffers from slight air leakage
Brand Buffet
Model E11
Weight 5 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Yamaha YCL-255

The Yamaha YCL-255 is an outstanding entry-level instrument, the design of which is based on more professional models. Its attractive ABS resin body boasts a matte finish that simulates the actual grain of wood, while providing better durability.
  • includes a cl-4c mouthpiece
  • has a warm resonant tone
  • keys are not attached very well
Brand Yamaha
Model YCL-255Y
Weight 5.5 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. Yamaha YCL-650 Bb

The Yamaha YCL-650 Bb is made for serious musicians. Its tapered tone holes are patiently undercut by hand for precise intonation and superior tonal balance, and a resonance chamber in the bell aids in the instrument's projection.
  • high-quality craftsmanship
  • cylindrical bore design
  • regulated by master artisans
Brand Yamaha
Model YCL-650U
Weight 5.2 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Legacy CL750

The Legacy CL750 is an excellent choice for a student or intermediate player on a budget. It comes with a zippered canvas case that converts to a handy backpack in less than a minute to protect against rough handling to and from class.
  • brushed finish resists fingerprints
  • 2 different size barrels
  • premium italian-made pads
Brand Legacy
Model Legacy-CL750
Weight 3.6 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Buffet Crampon R13

The Buffet Crampon R13 is a top choice for professional musicians. It's made of premium-quality grenadilla wood with 6-ring, nickel-plated keys, and it has a fine quality French-made HB ligature that provides a round, centered, and brilliant sound.
  • adjustable thumb rest
  • deluxe naugahyde-covered case
  • consistent and even tone
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, a barrel joint, a upper joint, a lower joint, a bell along with 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 easier transport and storage.

Clarinets can be made of metal, plastic, or wood. The keys and other hardware are generally silver or nickel coated metal. The higher end models are most often made from grenadilla wood with silver-plated keys, while the entry level models are often 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 varies 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.

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 other 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 it had 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 unsure 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 its range by over two octaves. They went on to further modify the chalumeau by improving the bell and the 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. Then in 1750 the fourth and fifth keys were added by Barthold Fritz. Around this same time, clarinets started being used in operas and orchestras.

Clarinets In Music

A variety of ensembles utilize clarinets in their bands. Most often they are 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 Tango orchestras 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 music. 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 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 August 21, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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