Clarinets Buying Guide

The clarinet  is a member of the woodwind family. Clarinets come in a huge variety of sizes and pitches, making them the most numerous type of woodwind. The versatility of the clarinet allows it to be a part of all sorts of musical genres; from Baroque to New Orleans jazz or Klezmer to Big Band. Whether you are a beginner or first chair clarinet of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, choosing the right clarinet can make a world of difference. 

What to Consider

  • As a general rule, the more expensive the clarinet, the better the quality.
  • Buying new or used and renting all have their own pros and cons. You must first decide on your level of commitment, then choose the option that's right for you.
  • Name brand instruments often guarantee high quality.
  • Ask for a warranty whether your instrument is new or old. It can come in handy if you ever have trouble.  

Types of Clarinets

  • A Sopranino Clarinet in A-flat is used most commonly in military bands in Europe and Australia.
  • A Sopranino Clarinet in E-flat is also called the baby clarinet due to its small size. It can be used to replace the cornet or high trumpet.
  • A Sopranino Clarinet in D is shorter than the clarinet in C but easier to play than the E-flat clarinet.
  • A Clarinet in C is the most suitable for children and beginners because it is small but easy to handle, and has the same pitch as a piano and violin.
  • A Clarinet in B-flat is the most commonly used clarinet, and is often found in schools and orchestras.
  • A Clarinet in A is primarily used in symphonic orchestras.
  • A Bassett Clarinet in A is rare due to the bent horn attached at the bottom.
  • A Bassett Horn in F is similar to the alto clarinet in E-flat, but in the key of F.
  • A Alto Clarinet in E-flat is most suitable for small ensembles.
  • A Bass Clarinet in B-flat is a very heavy clarinet that must stand on the floor.
  • A Contra Alto Clarinet in E-flat is one octave below the alto but rarely used.
  • A Contra Bass Clarinet in B-flat is one octave below the bass.

Parts of a Clarinet 

  • The Mouthpiece  includes the reed  and the ligature  and is where the mouth applies pressure to produce the sound. 
  • The Barrel joint  can alter the the tuning of the clarinet by having its length adjusted. 
  • The Upper joint  is where most of the buttons for the left hand are.
  • The Lower joint  is where the buttons of the for the right hand are.
  • The Bell  improves the uniformity of the lowest note in each register.

Plastic v. Wood

  • Plastic clarinets  have the ruggedness that can sustain injuries often made by student or entry-level players.
  • Wooden clarinets  are made from grenadilla wood which helps it create the specific wooden clarinet sound. It is very sensitive to moisture in the air which can crack the instrument.
  • There is also the Green line clarinet , which is made from grenadilla wood mixed with carbon fibre and epoxy resin. They can withstand many more humidity changes.  

Keys and Plating

  • Keys are plated in either nickel, silver, or very rarely, gold. Silver has the advantage of being attractive and incredibly visually appealing.
  • Nickel plated keys are durable and do not tarnish as easily as silver.  

Bore Styles

  • Small bores are most suitable for students for the finger holes are covered more easily.
  • Large bores have more flexibility in range of notes and produce a grander sound. They are widely used by jazz musicians.  

Clarinet Maintenance 

  • Apply cork grease  before assembling the clarinet. It will keep the cork from cracking.
  • Use a clarinet swab  to clean out the moisture from the inside of the clarinet. It will increase the lifespan of the pads.
  • Remove the reed from the mouthpiece after disassembly.

Quick Picks

Buffet E11 Bb Wooden Clarinet 

Jupiter JC631G Intonica Bb Clarinet 

Yamaha YCL250 Clarinet 

Norton Bb Clarinet 

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