Best Clarinets (2020)

It can be daunting starting anything new but when you begin learning the clarinet there’s the added stress of actually buying your instrument.

The clarinet is a great instrument to learn both for kids and adults.

Best Clarinet

A member of the woodwind family, like other instruments such as the saxophone, the clarinet produces a rich earthy tone and is a versatile and satisfying instrument to learn.

However, the clarinet can cost up to $3000 so this could be a large investment and you want to make sure that you’re spending your money on the best fit for you.

Luckily, this handy guide will take you through a range of beginner, intermediate and higher-level clarinets so that regardless of your skill level you’ll know you’ve made the right choice!

Our buyers' guide will lay out the pros and cons of each model and an FAQ section to answer all your questions (and a couple you haven’t thought of).

Top 5 Best Clarinets

If you’re just starting and trying to work out if the clarinet is something you want to pursue, than Mendini by Cecilio MCT is a great option.

Here are the top five reasons why it’s a great instrument to get started on:

  • At just under $100 the Mendini by Cecilio MCT ABS B Flat Clarinet is relatively inexpensive, so you don’t have to break the bank to get started.
  • Its plastic body is durable, so you don’t have to worry about accidental damage while you’re still getting used to playing.
  • It comes with a complete starter kit including a box of 10 reeds, everything you need to keep your instrument clean, and a lightweight hard-shell case to keep everything safe. This model even comes with a foldable stand and clarinet pocketbook which can be stored inside the bell.
  • You can buy it in a range of colors, including sky blue, red and green, which gives you a chance to show a little personality and stand out amongst a sea of dark blue and black.
  • It comes with a 1 Year Warranty against manufacturer's defects which considering it’s a cheaper model will help make sure you get your money’s worth.

The major con is the sound quality which is why this is the best option for someone just beginning.

If you want to make angels cry than this is probably not the model for you, but it is an inexpensive way to try out a new instrument until you grow more proficient and want to spend a little more.

Mendini MCT-P+SD+PB Purple ABS B Flat Clarinet with Case, Stand, Pocketbook, Mouthpiece, 10 Reeds and More
  • High-grade purple ABS body with durable nickel plated keys
  • Key of Bb (B Flat) clarinet with inline trill keys with adjustable thumb rest
  • Includes: hard-shell case, mouthpiece, a box of 10 reeds (Size 2.5"), cork grease, cleaning cloth, and a pair of gloves
  • Bonus: clarinet pocketbook and a foldable clarinet stand that is stored inside the bell
  • 1 Year Warranty Against Manufacturer's Defects

Another option for beginners is the Jean Paul USA CL-300 Student Clarinet.

If you know that the clarinet is something you want to pursue but you’re not ready for a wooden clarinet than this is the perfect stopgap. 

Here are the reasons why this might be the clarinet for you:

  • Again, a nice low price point. Under $100 so you’re not going to feel you have to play night and day to get your money’s worth, perfect for someone trying to learn something new in a busy schedule.
  • Its ebonite body produces a much nicer sound than plastic while retaining that robustness which can be crucial for the beginner- you’re not going to worry about dropping and breaking it in the first five minutes.
  • Jean Paul is a well-respected brand and easily available in most music stores with great customer service if something goes wrong.
  • This model comes with a durable carry case to protect your instrument against the elements and easy-to-follow assembly instructions which you can use until it’s second nature.

Some reviewers have complained that the metal ligature that comes with the clarinet has had to be replaced.

But this can be easily and cheaply achieved, and when balanced with the price it’s still far cheaper than renting an instrument.

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Jean Paul USA CL-300 Student Clarinet
  • Key of BB with a Boehm 17 key system
  • Beautiful ebonite Body material
  • Nickel-plated keys for a clear and focused tone
  • Robust contoured carrying case for quick and easy transportation
  • Included accessories: Carrying Case, one Rico reed 2.5, cleaning Cloth, and cork grease

If you have your heart set on a wooden clarinet but have still just begun, Mendini by Cecilio MCT-30 is worth a look.

Similar to the Mendini above this is a great option for beginners and lends itself to be the instrument to take you through to intermediate level.

Here’s why it’s the best budget clarinet on the market:

  • It's only $250 but its wooden body gives you a better sound for your money
  • Its inline trill keys enhance its playability which is one of the reasons that it's perfect for beginners to learn and grow on
  • Cecilio also offers a 1 year’s warranty against manufacturers
  • Comes equipped with accessories that include a hard-shell case, a box of 10 reeds, a mouthpiece, a cleaning cloth, a cork grease, and a pair of gloves

A wooden clarinet requires more maintenance as it expands and contracts with temperature changes and thus is more susceptible to cracking, so it’s worth noting that this clarinet will need more looking after than a plastic one.

However, the better sound quality makes this clarinet well worth it especially as you won’t have to replace it as you become more skilled.

Mendini MCT-W+SD+PB White ABS B Flat Clarinet with Case, Stand, Pocketbook, Mouthpiece, 10 Reeds and More
  • High-grade white ABS body with durable nickel plated keys
  • Key of Bb (B Flat) clarinet with inline trill keys with adjustable thumb rest
  • Includes: hard-shell case, mouthpiece, a box of 10 reeds (Size 2.5"), cork grease, cleaning cloth, and a pair of gloves
  • Bonus: clarinet pocketbook and a foldable clarinet stand that is stored inside the bell
  • 1 Year Warranty Against Manufacturer's Defects

If you’ve been playing the clarinet for a while or if you played previously and are now returning to the instrument, you’ll probably be looking for something with a better sound and are willing to pay a bit more to achieve it.

Our first choice for intermediates looking to spend under $500 is the Cecilio CT-380. If you know you’re ready for a wooden clarinet, but don’t want to spend thousands than this is a good middle of the road option.

Here’s why this could be the perfect fit for you:

  • Available for under $500, this model is significantly less expensive than other wooden clarinets, making it the perfect instrument for a new intermediate
  • Due to its rosewood body, it offers a fuller-bodied, warmer sound than plastic models
  • A slightly larger diameter and a heavier weight adds to its improved feel when compared with plastic clarinets
  • It comes with a durable plush-lined hard-shell case which can be carried as a backpack
  • It allows you the superior intonation and control of a wooden instrument without having to spend thousands of dollars

As this model is wooden it will require more care in handling and more maintenance.

However, this will be the same for any wooden model and if you decide to make this jump you’ll have to get used to taking more care over your instrument.

Cecilio 3Series CT-380 Solid Rosewood Bb Intermediate B-Flat Clarinet + Case, Mouthpiece, 10 Reeds and Accessories
  • Premium-quality rosewood body with durable silver plated keys
  • Key of Bb (B Flat) intermediate clarinet
  • Quality Italian pads with adjustable thumb rest
  • Includes: hard-shell case, mouthpiece, a box of 10 reeds (Size 2.5"), cork grease, cleaning cloth, and a pair of gloves
  • 1 Year Warranty Against Manufacturer's Defects

If you’ve decided that you’re willing to spend a little more, but are not quite ready to make the jump into spending thousands of pounds then the Yamaha YCL450 Bb Clarinet is the way to go.

The perfect step-up from a beginner’s instrument, the YCL450 comes in at just over $800.

If you’ve outgrown your beginner’s instrument and want to take your clarinet seriously then this is a great choice:

  • While being reasonably priced, it has a professional pure sound that will help push you forwards. After all, there’s nothing more encouraging when learning an instrument than making great-sounding music
  • The tone holes have undercuts which help reduce squeaking which can disrupt your practice
  • Made from granadilla wood this model has a beautiful color and finish, so wherever you play you’ll be looking at your best
  • Yamaha clarinets are built for durability and vigorous use so you know that while you might spend a little more, you’re not going to be looking for a new instrument for a while
  • Easy to tune so you can spend more time playing

As with any wooden model, it’ll always be more fragile than a plastic option, and granadilla is not the strongest wood available.

However at this level this should be less of a concern and for the price, you won’t find better.

Yamaha YCL450 Clarinet with Nickel Keys
  • Yamaha YCL 450N Bb Clarinet with Nickel Plated Keys.

If you’ve got to the point where there’s no further you can go with your music with your current clarinet then it might be time to think about spending more money to get the professional sound you’re looking for.

Don’t worry, we’ve got a few of the best higher-level options for you to take a look at, so you can feel at ease with the choice you’ve made.

The Buffet Crampon R13 Green Line Professional Clarinet is used by many professional musicians and would cost you a little over $2000.

This is a big step up from other models we’ve looked at, but ultimately this is a professional instrument and the pricing shows that.

Below is the list of reasons why this instrument is worth every cent:

  • Despite being a professional instrument any performer of advanced skill would be able to get a full rich sound from this model and will appreciate the high-quality intonation due to the bore and undercut holes, which work together to give this clarinet its tone
  • The keys are made from nickel and are durable and far stronger than on cheaper clarinets. Unlike silver, the nickel plating prevents tarnishing and is allergy-friendly unlike its silver counterparts
  • Its ring key design encourages your fingers to slide with ease, helping you to create a fluid and smooth performance
  • Made from high-quality granadilla wood which creates a superior tonal quality against other materials

The biggest issue with this model is that it doesn’t come with its own mouthpiece, as it's catered toward professionals who have their own preferences.

However, if you’re looking at this model buying a mouthpiece might be something to consider anyway--check out the FAQ at the end of this article to see if it’s something worth your time.

Buffet Crampon R13 Professional Bb Clarinet with Nickel Keys
  • Professional Clarinet is the legendary choice of professionals.
  • Includes deluxe naugahyde-covered wood shell case with plush interior.

Finally, for the best professional clarinet on a budget look no further than the Yamaha YCL-650 Bb.

At under $2000, this is the best option for those who want an instrument for the transition from advanced intermediate to professional without having to buy a whole new model.

Let's take a look at why it’s our favorite:

  • Its tapered tone holes are handcrafted for precision tone balance, while the bell’s solid resonance chamber helps project sound for a quality performance
  • The granadilla wood gives a professional resonance you won’t find without spending much more money
  • The keys are silver-plated and exceptionally durable so you’ll be able to hit notes that other instruments might have prevented you from playing
  • Comes with a mouthpiece, cleaning kit and a case to help you protect your instrument

Despite being cheaper than other professional models it is still a significant amount of money to spend on an instrument and you should be certain that the clarinet is your instrument before purchasing.

At the end of the day, this product is meant for advanced players, and beginners should be aware that this probably isn’t the clarinet for them.

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Yamaha YCL-255 Standard Bb Clarinet Bb Clarinet
  • Modeled after professional Yamaha models
  • 65mm barrel for a focused tone
  • Adjustable thumb rest with strap ring
  • Yamaha 4C mouthpiece included
  • Case may vary. Hard case or semi-hard case

Best Clarinets Buyers Guide

If you’re just starting to look for a clarinet, whether you’ve been renting one or are looking to buy before you start learning after playing another wind instrument like the saxophone, the choice can seem overwhelming.

The most important thing is to keep in mind what you’re looking for in a clarinet.

  • How much time are you looking to spend playing- you don’t want to buy a professional clarinet if you’re only playing as a hobby. You just won’t get the use out of it
  • What kind of clarinet you’re looking for--a standard clarinet is the Bb Clarinet which unless you’re looking for a young child is the one you want. For children younger than 8, you want a C Clarinet which lets players as young as 5 start learning

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve seen wooden and plastic clarinets! Is one more suited to me? Which is better? 

It’s easy to panic when you see the same instrument made from two different materials, but the answer is simple. Clarinets can be made from both materials and which is better suited for you comes down to what you’re using it for.

Plastic is more durable and will survive being dropped or handled roughly than a wooden one will. This durability makes it a better choice for a beginner who is unused to handling the instrument, or for marching band where movement is crucial.

It’s also easier to find a cheaper plastic clarinet, so if you’re just starting this might be a wise choice. That way if you decide the clarinet isn’t the right instrument for you, you haven’t blown a crazy amount of money.

The cons of plastic clarinet are arguably sound. Not that you can’t get a great sound from a plastic model, but experts argue wooden clarinets produce a better sound.

So, if you’ve been playing for a while you should look to upgrade to a wooden model.

Which is the best brand to buy?

Ultimately there are a lot of brands out there and you can waste a lot of time looking at the benefits of each one.

This guide looks at a range of brands, but ultimately you might find it easier to look at individual models rather than specific brands, especially if you’re just starting. 

As you get to know the clarinet better, you’ll know more what you look for in a specific instrument and which brand makes products more suited to your needs.

Is the clarinet hard? Will a more expensive clarinet make it easier to learn?

The clarinet isn’t easier or harder than any other instrument you might decide to learn.

Once you’ve learned how to make a sound (often thought to be the hardest part of any instrument that you blow) you’ll be well on your way. You shouldn’t think that spending more money will make it easier--if anything it could well be the opposite. 

More expensive clarinets tend to be geared toward professionals who have far more experience and a more advanced level of skill than a beginner and this could easily slow your progress and put you off.

The best thing is to find the clarinet that suits you and what you want to get out of the experience.

I just want to learn as a hobby, but I’m scared I’ll spend too much money then get disheartened. Is it worth the investment?

As this guide will hopefully have shown you there are plenty of options for every type of player.

You can find clarinets that are durable and relatively inexpensive which will be perfect to learn on and won’t need to be replaced as your skill level improves.

What level you want to play the clarinet at is an important factor in your purchase and one well worth considering.

I’m confused about mouthpieces. Do I need one, and if so, what kind should I buy?

To play the clarinet, you need a mouthpiece. Most of the ones we’ve shown in this guide will come with a mouthpiece, but it’s a case of personal preference.

If you’re a beginner it's probably a good idea to start with a plastic mouthpiece which is less expensive and easier to replace if it gets broken. 

As you progress you can then move to a hard rubber mouthpiece which allows a better sound. Rubber mouthpieces are more expensive and will shatter if dropped, so until you’re comfortable playing and used to your instrument plastic is probably the way to go.