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Clarinet and Bass Clarinet – 5 Main Differences

Among the different types of clarinets, the bass clarinet is one that draws more curiosity. It differs greatly in size, shape, sound, and price from the other types of clarinets. And it does like quite similar to a saxophone.

Bass clarinets are larger and heavier than clarinet instruments. They have many more keys and are harder to play because of it. Bass clarinets also tend to cost more than clarinets. This is due to the fact that they are built out of better materials and take longer to make.

But how does it compare to the most standard type of clarinet, the Bb Clarinet?

The main differences are related to:

  • The size and their construction
  • How they sound and their range
  • How easy is it to learn them
  • The price
  • And the popularity

Let’s go into detail about each of those differences and see what makes the brass clarinet different from the soprano clarinet.

Differences in Size and Appearance

The difference in terms of size (and how heavy it is) between bass clarinet and clarinet is quite significant.

The size difference between the two instruments makes it difficult to compare them. However, both are wind instruments that produce sound by vibrating air as they move through it. 

The Bass Clarinet is about twice as large as the Bb Clarinet.

Its barrel is made out of metal tubing, and its bell is also metal and curved upwards and forwards like a Saxophone’s. The Bass Clarinet is not very easy to carry around because it weighs a lot, so musicians often use a special shoulder strap to keep it close to them.

Both instruments have four valves, but the bass clarinet has three additional keys. These keys allow the player to play notes that would be impossible on the standard clarinet.

How It Sounds and the Range

Both have similar ranges and key signatures, but the bass clarinet has a deeper tone quality than the Bb clarinets. Both types of clarinets are played differently. For example, bass clarinets are held higher above the mouthpiece than standard clarinets. This makes it harder to produce high notes.

However, bass clarinets sound better than standard clarinets because they are louder. Additionally, bass clarinets have a wider range of pitches than standard clarinets, which means they can play lower notes.

Costs Differences

There are several different types of bass clarinets available. The cheapest type is plastic and resin. They tend to be cheap, but they aren’t very durable.

Wooden instruments cost more, but they last longer and sound better (specially Grenadilla wood ones)

Mid-priced instruments run around $1,000-$3,000, while higher end instruments can cost over $10,000. Beginner bass clarinets will cost you between $1,000 to $2,000.

How Easy Is To Play It

It’s quite common for clarinetists to think that the bass clarinet is easier to learn and play than the standard Bb clarinet. The keys are larger, making it easier for fingering. But overall, the two instruments happen to have almost identical fingerings.

Even though that the fingerings on the clarinet and bass clarinet are almost identical, for beginners it might be somehow a greater challenge due to the dimension and heaviness of the bass clarinet, but also because of the breath support needed.

If you are an adult beginner, you may find it just as easy to start on the bass clarinet as on the Bb clarinet.


The Bass clarinet is considered an intermediate instrument, while the Bb clarinet is for beginners. The size and construction difference between the two instruments makes the bass clarinet more expensive.

And that fact happens to influence how popular it is among other band instruments, specially for beginners just starting.

Bass clarinets are not as popular as more normal clarinets or other band instruments like flute, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone, and when compared to a standard Bb clarinet, it’s way less popular.

But that will also depend on the player’s ability level.

Deciding Between the Clarinet and Bass Clarinet

Both instruments are great choices, and you don’t necessarily have to buy one instrument over another.

The best choice for you depends on your skill level, budget, and personal preference.

If you’re just starting out with music, consider getting a basic clarinet first. This way, you’ll be able to get used to playing the instrument and build up your skills. If you want to play in a band, you might want to consider buying a Bb clarinet because it is easier to tune.

Another option would be to practice using both the clarinet and the bass clarinet at home. 

– Both the bass clarinet and the clarinet are great instruments, but I would recommend the Bb clarinet as an entry level instrument.

How easy is it to switch to Bass Clarinet after playing a Bb Clarinet?

Switching from a bb clarinet to a bass clarinet requires a bit of adjustment. Fortunately, it’s easier than you might think. Due to their similarities, most people find switching between them fairly seamless.

The challenges would be mostly related to how larger and heavier they are when compared to regular clarinets, so you may need to adjust your embouchure (the shape of your mouth) when switching. Also, the keys on bass clarinets are slightly higher than normal clarinet keys, so you will need to adjust your fingering.