As a professional clarinet player, you should be prepared to spend more on a pro level instrument.
After all, you may already have a clarinet or two that has served you well to this point. Taking it to the next level means being willing to invest more in your passion.
In this guide, we’ll compare individual models and top brands. Let’s start with a few pro level instruments worth looking at.
Yamaha YCL-CSVR Series Professional Bb Clarinet
The Yamaha YCL-CSVR clarinet features a select grenadilla wood body, barrel and bell, poly-cylindrical bore, silver-plated keys and rings and hand-tapered, undercut toneholes.
This is a simple, basic, quality clarinet, making it a great choice for beginners all the way up to experienced professionals.
This is an instrument you can play however you want to play to achieve the tones you want to achieve without having to make any adjustments.
That’s good news, because with some clarinets, you must wrestle it to the ground to get the sound you want.
There is something to be said for achieving that level of artistry, but all things being equal, it’s nice to have an instrument that responds to the player.
The manufacturing quality is also consistent, so you won’t have to play multiple CSVR instruments to find the right one.
It’s a sturdy instrument that should last you for a long time to come.
There is always a price on quality, but the Yamaha is a superb instrument that won’t disappoint.
Buffet Crampon Prestige RC Professional Bb Clarinet
As you can guess by the name, the Prestige RC is a professional clarinet and is one of the top models in the RC bore family.
It comes with 18 silver-plated keys and six rings, nickel silver keywork, pre-plated in copper. It has fine-tuned silver-plated, cold power forged rods and screws in stainless steel. The rings help prevent cracking.
It’s made with carefully chosen grenadilla wood for its acoustic qualities as well as appearance.
This easy and fun to play clarinet has incredible warmth, darkness and thickness that some players will find particularly appealing.
The Buffet Crampon is a fantastic instrument with great tone.
Buffet Crampon Tradition Professional Bb Clarinet With Nickel-Plated Keys
The Buffet Crampon Tradition has a pure and rich sound. It has a vocal-like quality in the higher register and roundness across its tonal spectrum.
It’s evenly intonated in pitch and sound, which means making your playing sound good is effortless. The design makes it easy to play and requires less force on behalf of the player.
Buffet Crampon has a wide range of fantastic clarinets, and this model is no exception. In a way, the Tradition is the meeting place of past innovations with other Buffet models.
It comes with carefully selected, natural grenadilla wood, a poly-cylindrical bore, 19 keys and six rings and adjustable thumb rest.
There are plenty of skeptics and based on the price range but that’s hardly surprising.
If you’ve settled on a Buffet Crampon, then compare this one against the others mentioned on this list and find the one that’s right for you. It may be the Tradition, or it may be another model.
Either way, there’s no denying that this is a great instrument.
Yamaha YCL-650 Bb Clarinet
The YCL-650 is an intermediate-professional grade clarinet that comes with a grenadilla wood body and silver-plated key work. The natural finish makes it an attractive instrument too.
The cylindrical bore design makes it free blowing and it has precise intonation with a responsive and consistent tone. To me, it has a clear, full, beautiful and whimsical tone.
This may have something to do with the bell design, which features a resonance chamber.
This lightweight clarinet comes with a Yamaha 4C clarinet mouthpiece, case and Yamaha care accessories.
The YCL-650 is a popular clarinet – you may come across it in school orchestras, wind bands, orchestra pits, big bands and more.
This Yamaha is a bargain. The woods may not be seasoned, but it’s great for the price. Worth a look.
Buffet Crampon R13 Green Line Professional Bb Clarinet With Nickel Plated Keys (Standard)
The Buffet Crampon R13 can withstand extreme temperature and humidity changes and will not crack.
That might have something to do with its 95% grenadilla wood and 5% polycarbonate and epoxy resin body. It still features the same level of finishing as wooden clarinets.
The hand-burnished bore helps with intonation and centers the tone. It also has warmth and great projection.
The Green Line, in case you’re wondering, is Buffet Crampon’s eco-friendly line. So, if you’re environmentally conscious, you might be inclined to check this one out.
It should be noted that this is an expensive clarinet, and if you aren’t serious about playing, this one might not be for you. The Green Line also costs more than a standard R13.
The Buffet Crampon is essentially the clarinet all other clarinets were based on so it’s a solid choice for professionals.
Backun Beta Bb Clarinet Silver Keys
Made with premium aged grenadilla wood, the Backun Beta is considered an intermediate level instrument.
The Beta has silver ergonomic keywork and synthetic pads, which helps with longevity. It’s free blowing, comfortable and easy to play.
It has a nice, round sound to it making it great for any musical setting.
It’s a little on the expensive side for an intermediate clarinet but the quality in craftsmanship is there. I’d suggest having a look at the Backun to decide for yourself.
Yamaha YCL-450 Clarinet With Nickel Keys
Another superb entry via Yamaha, the YCL-450 would be considered an intermediate level instrument. But pros on a budget might consider it a worthy proposition and that’s why it’s on this list.
Overall, it sounds and responds great. The bell and barrel shape offer precise intonation and projection at the lower register, and it has a bright, full tone. It has good projection too, especially in the lower register.
Made of grenadilla wood, the YCL-450 is a joy to play.
This instrument has great reviews, and most buyers seem completely satisfied with it.
So, the YCL-450 should be added to your shortlist.
Yamaha YCL-255 Standard Bb Clarinet
Modeled after professional Yamaha clarinets, the YCL-255 is a good quality instrument for those who can’t afford to spend several thousand dollars on a clarinet.
This instrument is well-made and easy to play. It comes with a 4C mouthpiece, which is great for beginners. It’s also lightweight and feels just like a pro level instrument.
Overall, it has a full, warm tone but is lacking some of that clarity you’d get with a more expensive instrument. But it sounds amazing for the price point.
And, that’s also not surprising considering it’s made of plastic. But that means it requires less care and maintenance.
The YCL-255 comes with an adjustable thumb rest and a belt ring.
This is an incredibly practical instrument for live performance because it’s so easy to play.
Great for students, pros and teachers alike, the Yamaha is worth a look if you’re on a tighter budget.
What Should I Look For In A Professional Clarinet?
As a professional or someone advancing from intermediate to pro, you probably have a good sense of what you like in a clarinet already.
Your instincts and experience should serve you well in determining what clarinet to buy.
With that in mind, here are a few criteria worth paying attention to.
There are many elements that make up what we might qualify as good sound, including tone, consistency, projection and intonation.
Some clarinets offer a warm, thick, full tone. Others give you a cutting, clear tone. Some will even give you all the above.
As well, some instruments are consistent across their entire tonal spectrum. Others are more inconsistent regardless of your technique.
And, we can’t forget that different players have different ways of playing and different preferences for what they like to hear from their clarinet.
I can’t tell you what good sound is. I know what I like but that may not be what you like.
So, if you’re trying to find a clarinet with a great tone, check out YouTube demos and reviews. See if you can find a clarinet that satisfies your ears.
Ease Of Use
Being in complete control of your instrument is a good feeling.
That generally comes with practice and experience. But that doesn’t mean some clarinets don’t play better than others, and it’s worth exploring your options before you commit.
The more experience you have, the better you’ll be able to tell whether a specific instrument suits you, your fingers and playing style.
Generally, there is no need to compromise here. You can find an instrument that feels great to you.
If you can borrow or rent a few clarinets and try them out, that’s ideal. This option isn’t always available, so it may come down to research.
But it’s fair to say that, at this price point, most instruments should meet a baseline standard.
Quality Parts & Manufacturing
Not all clarinets are created equal. Even two clarinets made up of the same materials may not be on par, depending on the manufacturing process and attention to detail.
You certainly do get what you pay for, but clarinets aren’t all about price. Build quality is what determines many important factors, like sound, durability and ease of use.
If you’re going to be playing a lot, it’s worth finding a sturdy instrument, though durability isn’t always the barometer for a quality instrument.
Instruments should always be treated with care regardless, and the more expensive it is, the more likely you are to handle it with care.
Again, we can lean on demos and online reviews for a sense of which instruments are created with care and which aren’t.
At the professional level, however, most instruments are of a high quality.
Esthetics aren’t everything. But you might end up spending several thousand dollars on your professional level clarinet. That being the case, it’s preferable to have an instrument that looks good too.
We’ll take a closer look at a few of the top clarinet brands a little later but it’s safe to say they all create instruments that look a little different. It depends on the materials it’s made of too.
So, it’s entirely possible you’ll end up buying based on which brand appeals to you most. Or, at the very least, you might consider it a factor.
What Exactly Is A Professional Level Clarinet?
Generally, it’s a clarinet made of grenadilla or rosewood as opposed to plastic. But some professional grade clarinets are made with ABS plastic. The difference in tone is noticeable.
The wood selection has to do with resonance and tone. So, it makes sense that even the best quality plastic usually can’t compete, even though it can produce a nice tone that rivals wooden instruments.
The main advantage of a plastic instrument is that it doesn’t require the level of care and maintenance a wooden instrument does.
Changes in humidity and temperature can affect wood, and that is the case with any instrument made of wood.
What Types Of Clarinets Are There?
From a broader perspective there are effectively five types of clarinets. But that doesn’t mean that’s all there is.
Some of the most common clarinets are the Bb, Ab and Eb soprano clarinets and the contra-alto and contra-bass in the bass clarinet category.
Among these, Bb and bass clarinets are the most popular, but professionals are known to use multiple instruments depending on the type of performance they’re playing.
A and Eb clarinets are more common at the professional level as they can be more challenging to play.
You may know all this already, but just in case, it’s worth reviewing.
What Type Of Clarinet Should I Buy?
The clarinets featured on this list are all Bb.
Other clarinets, like the Ab and Eb clarinets sometimes carry a higher price tag than their counterparts and are generally considered harder to play.
The bass family of clarinets, as you can imagine, are designed for playing harmony or holding down the rhythmic pulse in whatever situation it’s played in.
Bass clarinets sound a lot lower that Bb clarinets, if that wasn’t already obvious.
But that doesn’t mean more complex pieces aren’t played on bass clarinets because they certainly are. I’ve seen videos of people playing the “Flight of the Bumblebee” on a bass clarinet.
Since pros often have multiple clarinets, you might be looking to fill a gap in your collection. Or, you might be looking for a better clarinet than the one you already have.
Ultimately, I can’t tell you want clarinet you should buy. If in doubt, ask your band leader, conductor or band.
Does Price Matter?
Price certainly matters to the extent that your budget matters.
If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on an instrument, you should stay within your budget and not go into debt in pursuit of your passion.
But when it comes to clarinets, price isn’t everything. The materials and quality of construction is what matters most.
So, it’s not all about how much you spend on the instrument, because it is possible to find a quality clarinet for less.
As with cars, computer monitors or anything else, sometimes you pay a little more for the brand name. That’s not wrong – just something to be mindful of.
What Are The Best Clarinet Brands?
There is a finite number of reputable clarinet brands out there.
I’m not saying there are an infinite selection of makers for other instruments, but the clarinet is not as popular as an instrument like the guitar.
So, it stands to reason that there wouldn’t be as many companies competing in this space.
You can see that our list is primarily dominated by brands like Yamaha and Buffet Crampon, which have clarinet manufacturing dialed in.
Since our focus here is professional grade instruments, we’ll look at the best manufacturers of pro level clarinets.
Here are the best clarinet brands.
Yamaha is considered one of the best clarinet brands out there and is trusted among a wide range of instrumentalists.
They offer clarinets for every level of player and even their beginner level instruments are quality.
Yamaha instruments are generally durable, making them great for students and even professionals who play out often.
That level of quality, consistency and attention to detail usually comes at a price, and even their beginner level clarinets aren’t necessarily cheap.
But that means even their cheaper clarinets can be great for pros.
So, as you hunt for the ideal clarinet, Yamaha should certainly be on your radar.
Buffet Crampon is a top-rated clarinet brand and they offer one of the best beginner clarinets on the market.
Their beginner models are lightweight, easy to use, durable and sound great. But as with Yamaha, even at the beginner level you will pay more.
Intermediate Buffet Crampons also offer a great sound and are high quality. But they are pricey and less durable.
And, at the pro level, they are sturdier and project well. But they generally don’t allow for much customization, and again, the price tag they carry can be high.
But the idea that you get what you pay for carries some weight, and professionals should certainly consider Buffet Crampon clarinets.
Canadian manufacturer Backun offers top of the line clarinets and even the uninitiated are sometimes wowed by their appearance, quality and build.
Not only do their products look good, professionals around the world love using them too.
If you’re not ready to invest in one of their professional or custom level instruments, you’ll be glad to know they have a selection of beginner and intermediate clarinets too.
The Beta mentioned in this guide is more on the affordable end of the spectrum, with their custom level instruments reaching the five-figure range.
For those looking for the Lamborghini of the clarinet world, you’ll want to check out Backun.
Henri Selmer Paris
Henri Selmer Paris specializes in top shelf saxophones and clarinets. Unsurprisingly, their instruments come with a higher price tag.
It’s apparent that their instruments are of a high quality and their attention to detail and precision is astounding.
As with Backun, investing in a Henri Selmer Paris is more like committing to the craft of playing clarinet as opposed to picking it up as a hobby.
Professionals should certainly have a look at their offerings and check out online reviews and videos for more information.
Patricola instruments carry a high price tag.
First and foremost, they are amazing to look at. And, they sound good and are a wonder to play too.
There are skeptics of Patricola, citing that while European players are using them while US players are not. I can’t confirm or deny that and that shouldn’t necessarily be a factor in your buying decision.
What I can say is that Patricola players seem to love their instruments – even those who upgraded from a Buffet Crampon.
I can’t tell you one way or another, but as a professional player looking for a new clarinet, I would be inclined to check out Patricola instruments too.
Brands like Rossi, Fox, Horwath, Eaton, Wurlitzer, Hammersmith and others also tend to come up in the discussion concerning professional level clarinets.
If you want to do some deeper digging, start there.
There are also other brands making beginner and intermediate level clarinets like Vento, Roy Benson, Nuvo, Jean Paul USA and others.
If you’re curious, go check these out for yourself. You might come across an instrument or two that strikes your fancy.
In general, however, the brands mentioned earlier are among the best and have more clarinets suited to professional players.
Best Professional Clarinets 2019 Conclusion
Take your time and have fun finding your perfect instrument.
There’s no need to rush the process and since you’ll be spending a pretty penny on a pro level clarinet, you may as well be patient, do your research and shop around.
Finding your ideal clarinet should be a joyful process. Once you’ve found “the one”, you’re going to have a lot of fun practicing and playing out.