The 9 Best Student Clarinets

Updated May 04, 2018 by Melissa Harr

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We spent 47 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Whether your youngster is just starting out on a musical journey or needs a replacement for the upcoming year, one of these student clarinets should fit the bill nicely. They are specifically crafted to be easy for beginners to play and hold so that learning is frustration-free. And best of all, they’re priced lower than pro models. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best student clarinet on Amazon.

9. Lazarro 150-BK-L

Good for lessons, concerts, and marching, the Lazarro 150-BK-L is made from a durable resin, so it can take a lot of abuse from less-experienced players. Each instrument is professionally hand-checked in the USA before arriving at your door.
  • built to international standards
  • gloves and screwdriver are included
  • thumb rest is a bit flimsy
Brand Lazarro
Model 150-BK-L
Weight 3.8 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

8. Mendini by Cecilio

Equip your fledgling musician with all the accessories he or she will need when you invest in the Mendini by Cecilio. It’ll arrive with 10 reeds, a study reference guide, and a foldable stand that fits directly inside the instrument's bell when not in use.
  • reasonable price
  • inline trill keys
  • plastic construction is not sturdy
Brand Mendini
Weight 3.6 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. Hawk WD-C212

With its modern-style ligature, nickel-plated keys, and high-grade Ebonite body, the Hawk WD-C212 delivers a rich and warm tone that allows it to shine both literally and musically, particularly in the instrument's upper register. It's available in several colors, too.
  • includes a reed and mouthpiece cap
  • cork could be stronger
  • tuning can be difficult
Brand Hawk
Model WD-C212
Weight 4.2 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

6. RS Berkeley UCL-12

The RS Berkeley UCL-12 is a free-blowing instrument that produces a strong, full-bodied, and rich tone that is sure to delight both student and teacher. This model comes with two barrels, one long and one short, and a lined, hard shell case for protection.
  • 2-year manufacturer's warranty
  • blue steel springs
  • hard rubber body is crack-resistant
Brand RS Berkeley University
Model UCL-12
Weight pending
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. Etude ECL-100

With the Etude ECL-100, you can expect a sturdy construction, along with nickel keys, a plastic body, and a smooth responsiveness that will keep an absolute newbie from becoming frustrated and wanting to quit before they can learn the joy of this woodwind instrument.
  • trusted name in beginner models
  • fine quality for the cost
  • comes with ligature and cap
Brand Etude
Model ECL-100
Weight 3.9 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

4. Buffet Crampon Prodige

Although the Buffet Crampon Prodige is on the higher end of the price spectrum for beginner models, it is both dependable and seemingly effortless to play, which should help it last beyond the first few years of use into the intermediate stage.
  • doesn't require constant repair
  • balanced intervals between notes
  • on the more delicate side
Brand Buffet Crampon
Model 2541-2-0
Weight pending
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. Yamaha YCL-255

Modeled after its pro-quality cousins, the Yamaha YCL-255 offers a matte resin body, an adjustable thumb rest, and a neck strap ring designed to make it easy for students with smaller hands to hold it comfortably while improving their playing techniques.
  • nickel-plated silver keys
  • barrel helps deliver a focused tone
  • pads withstand temperature changes
Brand Yamaha
Model YCL-255Y
Weight 5.5 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Jean Paul USA CL-300

The Jean Paul USA CL-300 is competitively priced and provides a novice with a responsive key action and smooth playability thanks to a cylindrical bore built for wide tone projection, which allows even a neophyte to sound like a professional.
  • standard boehm 17-key system
  • cork grease included
  • great for marching bands
Brand Jean Paul USA
Model CL-300
Weight 4 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Buffet B12

For the ultimate in ease and reliability, the Buffet B12 will not disappoint. Its undercut tone holes offer accurate tuning and response, which is important for budding players who are new to the instrument and building their confidence.
  • made from high-quality abs resin
  • resembles genuine grenadilla wood
  • double-skinned pads for strong seal
Brand Buffet
Model BC2540-5-0
Weight 3.6 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Differences Between Student And Pro Clarinets

If you’re just jumping into the world of buying a clarinet, you might be wondering what, exactly, makes a beginner instrument so much different from a pro model. After all, those in the latter category can cost more than 10 times what an entry-level clarinet costs, yet they look incredibly similar. Although much of the variance, such as playability, is best appreciated by a musician, there are a few differences that anyone can see.

For instance, the materials used for each type are usually not the same. A student clarinet generally has a hard rubber or plastic body, whereas a pro version will often feature a body made from premium wood. This is because beginners, especially those who are younger, may not be ready to care for more sensitive materials, which require careful maintenance and regular cleaning. The keys and pads on a student clarinet can also usually take more abuse while requiring fewer adjustments.

Manufacturers choose tougher materials for student clarinets not just for durability, but also because they're more cost-effective. Such materials don’t require as much investment, and to drive down the price further, student clarinets are generally mass produced, not hand crafted. Overall, this leads to an instrument that is strong enough to hold up to the first one or two years of rough treatment as the player learns about proper care.

One tradeoff for the greater durability and lower price of a student clarinet is the sound. Whereas a pro model will have a rich, deep, and warm sound, a clarinet for a beginner might strike the ear as bright and almost brassy. It will lack the roundedness of tone that you’d expect from any type of clarinet music, from jazz to rock. In general, this isn’t too much of an issue, though, because a beginner doesn’t have the skills to control the tone yet.

Another difference you’ll notice is that most student models come bundled with a range of accessories, such as a music stand. Because those purchasing pro models most likely have been playing for some time, it’s expected that they’ll already have these items, making the bundling unnecessary. Also, this allows manufacturers or sellers of pro models to focus entirely on the quality of the instrument and individuality of the player.

Accessories For Beginning Clarinetists

The bundled accessories of a student clarinet help lessen the initial investment and ensure that the player has everything he or she needs to get started. If you’re brand new to the woodwind world, however, you might find this help to be a hassle, as you try to figure out the what and why of each item. To put you on more solid ground, we’ve outlined a few of the most important and common accessories.

First come the reed, mouthpiece, and ligature. The ligature holds the reed to the mouthpiece so that the reed can vibrate as you blow into the instrument, which is what creates the sound. Reeds are numbered from 1 to 5, with 1 being more flexible and 5 being more stiff; most beginners start out on a medium 2 or 3. Reeds vary in several other ways, such as shape, but most clarinetists won’t need to worry about these until they have some playing experience. Note that reeds are somewhat delicate and do break, so it’s wise to always keep a couple of extras on hand.

Next comes the case. The clarinet has four other parts in addition to the mouthpiece: barrel, upper joint, lower joint, and bell. If you put them in a bag, they’d bump against each other, possibly pushing the keys out of alignment or even cracking the pieces. A case prevents such damage by keeping each piece nestled and secure for transport. Many cases also have room for accessories.

Then you have the cork grease. The clarinet’s joints are covered in cork; although this is pretty durable on student models, cork grease helps extend its life. It also makes the instrument easier to put together and take apart.

Finally, you have a cleaning cloth and swab. During playing, the clarinet picks up the oils from the player’s hands on the outside and becomes moist from the player’s breath on the inside. Putting the instrument back in the case without removing these oils and moisture will greatly shorten the instrument’s lifespan, which is why a cleaning cloth for wiping down the outside and a swab for drying the inside are crucial.

A Brief History Of The Clarinet

Unlike many instruments, the clarinet has an origin that’s relatively easy to pinpoint. Sometime around the beginning of the 18th century, instrument maker Johann Christoph Denner offered his improvement on the chalumeau, a woodwind instrument that resembles a recorder. Although the new instrument didn’t look exactly like today’s modern clarinets, it was significantly different from its predecessor in that it had a register key. Still found on today’s models, the register key is what allows the new instrument to play a greater range of notes.

The clarinet is, today, only one in a large family that includes instruments you may or may not be familiar with, including the piccolo clarinet and bass clarinet. In fact, the instrument that everyone calls a clarinet would be more specifically called a soprano clarinet, with the most common of these being the B-flat variety. Many serious players, as they progress, become familiar with several instruments in the family and may switch among them as their band or music requires.

As for the type of music you would expect from a clarinet player, the variety is just as wide as the number of instruments in the family. You will certainly hear clarinetists in groups that perform the baroque style of classical music popular around the time of the instrument’s invention, but clarinetists perform with many other types of groups. You’ll hear the clarinet’s rich sound in big band, swing, jazz, rock, polka, and even pop music. A few of the greats include Benny Goodman, Pete Fountain, Anton Stadler, and Giora Feidman.

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Last updated on May 04, 2018 by Melissa Harr

Melissa is a writer, editor, and EFL educator from the U.S. She's worked in the field since earning her B.A. in 2012, during which time she's judged fiction contests, taught English in Asia, and authored e-courses about arts and crafts. In her free time, she likes to make stuff out of sticks and string.

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