If you or your child has just recently decided to play the clarinet, now it is time for you to decide on whether to purchase a brand new instrument for the new beginner clarinet player in the house.
Along with the decision of buying a clarinet, comes questions about which clarinet is best, how to tell the difference between a poor quality instrument and a high-quality instrument, and how much you are likely to pay.
It is important to remember that, although it may seem tempting to purchase the cheapest clarinet you can find, you will be doing yourself or your child a favor by not going this route.
Not only do poor quality instruments prevent you from really learning the instrument, but they also typically cost more money in the long term. Generally, with higher quality instruments comes a higher cost. However, there are routes you can take to avoid paying higher prices and still obtain a decent instrument. Also, when buying a higher quality clarinet model, it will still retain its value if you decide or need to sell it as a used clarinet after.
You will also want to look for an instrument that is specifically manufactured with students in mind. These instruments are going to be more durable and built for smaller hands and bodies that are less adapted to playing the instrument. They are great, low-risk instruments to learn from before moving up to more professional models.
What Is the Best Beginner Clarinet Type?
It is widely accepted that plastic clarinets are better suited for beginner players. However, just because a clarinet is identified as a “student clarinet” doesn’t mean it should be a “cheap clarinet.”
Although student instruments are often made from cheaper materials, most commonly made from plastic, this is more to do with the fact that students are notorious for banging their instruments around a bit more frequently than adults or pro players.
However, a decent beginner clarinet is still not going to be cheap; and if it is somehow cheap, you should probably rethink your purchase. Hopefully, this article can serve as a buying guide to finding a good student clarinet.
Our Choices of the Best Student Clarinets
Here is a list of some of the best clarinets currently on the market for students.
Jean Paul USA CL-300 Student Clarinet
This clarinet almost perfectly balances low price with durability and high-quality sound. It also comes with a myriad of accessories, including a reed, cleaning cloth, and cork grease. The body is made from ebonite and nickel, which are slightly less durable than plastic but provide an improved tone over plastic clarinets. The cost of this instrument averages at about $200.
The Sonata Bb Clarinet, Black (B1S)
Honestly, everything we have to say about how cheap instruments are is that almost always they are of low quality. But that goes entirely out the window with this brand of clarinets. Although still not as high quality as a Yamaha or Jean Paul, this is the best quality clarinet that you will find for this price. It has a good sound, is made from extremely durable plastic material, and can be found at less than $200.
Buffet Prodige Bb Clarinet
This clarinet advertises a professional sound at a budget price. They have recently updated the design of their instruments to ensure a better quality sound. It is modeled after a previous version, the Buffet B12. It can be found at around $475.
Yamaha is known for making incredibly high-quality instruments, and their student clarinet is no exception. The YCL-255 is their clarinet that has been specifically designed for students. Although ranking the best in terms of quality, the YCL-255 is, of course, much more expensive than any of the other brands, coming in at $700.
How Much is a Beginner Clarinet?
A decent beginner clarinet typically ranges in price from $300-$1,100.
However, as was previously demonstrated, there are beginner clarinet brands that are of decent quality and less than $300. This is the exception, not the rule, however. In contrast, professional-grade clarinets can cost above $2,000 for a good quality instrument.
Factors Influencing the Cost of a Student Clarinet
The cost of the instrument can be determined by a variety of factors, including material, condition, brand, mouthpieces, and any additional accessories that may be included (such as cleaning supplies, reeds, etc).
Additionally, you may be able to find a higher quality brand of clarinet for a cheaper price, if it is a used instrument. If you choose to go this route, make sure you can view images of the instrument and, when possible, see it, hold it, and test it out beforehand. If the instrument has been pre-owned, you have no idea how well the previous owner took care of it.
Purchasing a cheaper low-quality clarinet, or a clarinet with damages can end up costing you more in the long run, as you will have to pay to have it repaired. If it is made from very cheap material, you may not be able to have it repaired at all, and will need to replace it completely instead.
To calculate the total cost of owning and maintaining a clarinet, you will also have to factor in the cost of sheet music, cleaning materials, and reeds (as beginning players often wear out or break their reeds much faster than pro or even intermediate players, synthetic reeds could be a solution if that occurs often).
What Are the Best Clarinet Brands for a Beginner?
Some brands are known by clarinet players as being all-around trustworthy, high quality, and good for beginners. Here are some of the top few you might want to consider:
Jean Paul Clarinets
Jean Paul is one of the top-rated clarinet brands for students when you compare sound quality with price.
Although it may not have quite as good of a sound as a Yamaha, for the price that it’s listed at, this is still a great, worthwhile investment.
Every clarinet that is produced by them goes through rigorous quality checks before being sold.
It doesn’t warrant saying the Yamaha is one of the best quality student clarinet brands on the market.
Although typically selling for a few hundred dollars more than other brands of beginner clarinets, you’re spending more for a longer-lasting, better-sounding instrument.
Buffet clarinets are also on the higher end of the price spectrum, but they are also known for being exceptionally durable, having a great sound quality, and easy to use for students who may still be learning how to hold and use the clarinet.
This one is something of an outlier, but if your child is very young (think age 4-12), this is a fantastic instrument for getting them started.
Nuvo clarinets are typically much smaller, colorful, and made entirely from plastic. This is a great plastic instrument for kids who are just getting the hang of playing the instrument before moving up to a better-quality clarinet.
How Do I Choose a Clarinet?
Choosing your clarinet from the multitude of available options out there may feel overwhelming. Hopefully, however, we’ve provided you with a good starting point with a list of well-loved brands and specific instruments that are of a reputable quality.
You may choose to begin with a plastic clarinet, even if you’re not a very young child. Although it will not have as good of a sound as clarinets made from other materials, it is more resilient and often much cheaper.
Professional clarinets aren’t well suited for beginners, and are often way more expensive than what you’ll need right now, so make sure that whatever instrument you buy is labeled as a “student instrument.”
Just remember that you generally get what you pay for, and if you find an instrument that feels too good to be true, it likely is.
Helpful Resources for the Beginner Clarinetist:
- The Clarinet Project is a YouTube channel that specializes in providing media content for clarinet players. There, you can find tutorials, tips for improving your technique, and interviews with professional clarinet players.
- Yamaha is a great website not just to purchase high-quality clarinets, but they also offer a host of resources to help you further your music education.
- A Woodwind Resource File features a compilation of some helpful suggestions, tips, and advice for beginning clarinet players.
Final Considerations on Beginner Clarinets
In summary, purchasing your first clarinet is not a decision that should be made on a whim.
Deciding which beginner clarinet strikes the best balance between price and quality for you or your child is something that should be given at least some careful consideration.
However, if you go with a brand such as Yamaha, Jean Paul, or Buffet, you probably won’t be going wrong, as these are brands you can trust to put out high-quality instruments.
Author: Cooper White
- Cooper is a Multi-Instrumentalist, with vast knowledge and experience performing with Sax, Flute, Clarinet, Keyboard, and Blues Harmonica.
- With a Bachelor’s Degree from the Berklee College of Music in Boston and studies in Classical Performance at the Lionel Hampton School of Music, he has also more than 10 years of performing professionally, whether while road touring in the U.S. or playing on different cruise ships.
- He is also an entertainer with his shows, as well as a producer of his music and others. Whenever he is not performing, he teaches individual online classes. He mostly plays Jazz, Classical and Popular music.