Which clarinet should I buy: A Full Guide

by Madonna

Choosing the right clarinet is an important decision for any musician, whether you’re a beginner starting your musical journey or an experienced player looking to upgrade your instrument. With numerous options available, it can be overwhelming to determine which clarinet is best suited to your needs. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the factors to consider when buying a clarinet, discuss the different types of clarinets available, and provide valuable insights to help you make an informed decision.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Clarinet:

Skill Level:

Consider your skill level as a clarinet player. Are you a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player? Different clarinets are designed to cater to specific skill levels, offering features and qualities that match the player’s abilities.



Establishing a budget is crucial when buying a clarinet. Determine how much you are willing to invest in an instrument. Keep in mind that higher-quality clarinets often come with a higher price tag. It’s important to find a balance between your budget and the quality of the instrument.


Intended Use:

Consider your intended use of the clarinet. Are you planning to play in a school band or orchestra, participate in professional performances, or enjoy playing as a hobby? The type of clarinet you choose can vary based on your intended use.


Tone and Sound:

Every clarinet has its unique tone and sound characteristics. Consider the type of sound you prefer and the musical genres you plan to play. Different clarinets may have variations in timbre, projection, and resonance, allowing you to achieve the desired musical expression.

Ergonomics and Comfort:

The ergonomics and comfort of a clarinet are important factors, especially for players who plan to spend long hours practicing or performing. Consider the weight, balance, key placement, and overall feel of the instrument in your hands. It’s essential to choose a clarinet that feels comfortable and allows for ease of play.

Types of Clarinets:

Bb Clarinet:

The Bb clarinet is the most common and widely used type of clarinet. It is suitable for beginners and intermediate players. Bb clarinets are versatile and can be used in various musical genres, including classical, jazz, and pop. They are available in different levels, ranging from student models to professional-grade instruments.

A Clarinet:

The A clarinet is similar to the Bb clarinet but tuned a half step lower. It is commonly used in orchestral settings and is preferred for pieces written in keys with more sharps. A clarinets are typically used by intermediate and advanced players.

Bass Clarinet:

The bass clarinet is larger and produces a lower range of notes compared to the Bb and A clarinets. It is often used in symphony orchestras, concert bands, and jazz ensembles. The bass clarinet requires more advanced technique and is typically played by intermediate to advanced players.

Eb Clarinet:

The Eb clarinet is smaller in size and higher in pitch compared to the Bb clarinet. It is commonly used in marching bands, military bands, and chamber music. The Eb clarinet requires additional fingerings and is typically played by intermediate to advanced players.

Other Clarinets:

There are various other clarinets, including the alto clarinet, contra-alto clarinet, and contrabass clarinet. These instruments are less common and typically used in specific ensemble settings.

Choosing the Right Clarinet:

Beginner Clarinets:

For beginners, it is advisable to start with a student-level clarinet. These instruments are designed with features that aid learning, such as durable construction, responsive keys, and easy playability. Popular student clarinet models include the Yamaha YCL-255 and Buffet Prodige.

Intermediate Clarinets:

Intermediate-level clarinets are suitable for players who have progressed beyond the beginner stage and are looking for improved sound quality and performance. These clarinets offer enhanced features, such as better materials, improved key mechanisms, and increased tonal complexity. Examples of intermediate models include the Buffet E12F and Yamaha YCL-450.

Professional Clarinets:

Professional-level clarinets are crafted with the highest quality materials and precision. They offer superior tone, projection, and response, making them ideal for advanced players and professionals. Professional models are often customizable and tailored to the player’s preferences. Examples of professional clarinets include the Buffet R13 and Yamaha CSVR.

Trying Out the Instrument:

When purchasing a clarinet, it is essential to try out different models before making a decision. Visit a reputable music store or consult with a clarinet specialist who can guide you through the selection process. Play the instrument, assess its sound quality, test its key mechanisms, and evaluate its overall feel and comfort in your hands.


Choosing the right clarinet is a significant decision that can greatly impact your musical journey. Consider factors such as your skill level, budget, intended use, tone preferences, and comfort. Explore the various types of clarinets available, ranging from Bb and A clarinets to bass clarinets and specialty instruments. Remember to try out different models, seek guidance from professionals, and make an informed decision based on your individual needs and aspirations. A well-chosen clarinet will not only enhance your playing experience but also support your musical growth and expression.

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