/ / 7 Best Bass Clarinets 2021; For Students, Intermediates & Professionals

7 Best Bass Clarinets 2021; For Students, Intermediates & Professionals

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Looking for a bass clarinet? You’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we’ll look at seven of the best bass clarinets for students, intermediates and professionals.

If you’re ready to dig in, let’s get right to it.

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Best Bass Clarinets For Students

At the beginner or student level, the most important factor tends to be playability and durability. Beyond that, you don’t necessarily need a great sounding instrument (you may not be able to tell the difference yet) or one made of the highest quality materials (you’ll be sad if you damage an instrument that costs $3,000 for example).

Depending on your teacher, band or school you’re playing at, you may require an instrument that’s of better quality than the ones listed in this section, so you can always refer to the Best Bass Clarinets For Intermediates section for additional options.

Here, we will be looking at the best affordable “bang for buck” products available.

Band Directors Choice Bass Clarinet

Band Directors Choice Bass Clarinet

The Band Directors Choice bass clarinet is one of the more affordable models available, and its name certainly makes it an enticing product for students and beginners.

That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily for everyone, and if you’re looking for something with a little more “oomph” to it, you’ll probably want to peruse the intermediate bass clarinet section that follows.

Here are this bass clarinet’s key features:

  • One-piece ebonite body.
  • Silver plated bell and neck.
  • 18 key Bohem system with seven covered holes.
  • Nickel silver keys with straight tone holes and stainless-steel springs.
  • Leather pads and metal tone resonators.
  • Adjustable floor peg.
  • Rounded bridge key connector.
  • Adjustable thumb rest.
  • Accessories – custom leather case, mouthpiece, cap ligature, cork grease.

Manufacturer claims this instrument is equipped with many of the same amenities found on a more expensive, pro grade instrument. In the same breath, they point out that it’s ideal for beginners and students.

They also claim durability, which is ideal for beginners. A durable instrument should last longer, at least in theory, giving the beginner plenty of time to adjust to the regular care and maintenance of the instrument before upgrading to pricier premium models (see the section on pro level instruments below).

Now for the pros and cons.

Pros – this is one of the most affordable bass clarinets available and its 18-key system is straightforward and easy to figure out. The included accessories are nice to have, and the silver plating can help you get those deep, dark tones characteristic of a bass clarinet.

Cons – Ebonite may not be the ideal material for a bass clarinet’s body, as it tends to offer a “hollow” sound compared to other materials. Of course, some corners must be cut with lower cost products, and this is an area where it’s kind of noticeable.

That’s a general overview of the good and the bad, and you’re bound to discover and identify your own pros and cons if you choose to go with it.

As far as I’m concerned, the chief advantage of the Band Directors Choice bass clarinet is that it’s more affordable than its peers, and it comes with all the extras you need as you’re getting started.

Item weight: Unknown

Package dimensions: Unknown

RS Berkeley BCL310 Elite Series Bb Bass Clarinet With Leather Case & Accessories

RS Berkeley BCL310 Elite Series Bb Bass Clarinet With Leather Case & Accessories

RS Berkeley is a relative newcomer on the scene, having been established in 2002. They hold themselves to high standards, however, and they specialize in woodwind and stringed instruments for all ages and all playing levels.

That makes the RS Berkeley BCL310 Elite series bass clarinet worth a look, especially for beginners.

So, what do you get when you buy an RS Berkeley? Here’s a quick rundown of its features:

  • One-piece ebonite body.
  • 18 nickel-silver keys.
  • Boehm key system.
  • Seven covered finger holes.
  • Silver plated bell and neck.
  • Straight tone holes.
  • Stainless steel springs.
  • Leather pads.
  • Metal resonators.
  • Rounded bridge key connector.
  • Adjustable thumb rest.
  • Adjustable floor peg.
  • Accessories – mouthpiece, custom leather case.

There’s a lot to like about the RS Berkeley, not the least of which is its price point. This is good bang for buck.

So, with that out in the open, here’s an overview of its pros and cons.

Pros – The instrument offers a rich, mellow sound, and that’s a bit of an accomplishment considering its price point and components. The keys are in proper alignment and its construction is solid. And, as already noted, it’s a bit of a steal.

You get access to a low Eb note as well.

Cons – not much! The RS Berkeley at the beginner level, and even at the intermediate level is worth considering.

Item weight: 16 lbs.

Package dimensions: 36.2 x 10.5 x 6.5 inches

Jupiter JBC1000NC Bb Bass Clarinet

Jupiter JBC1000NC Bb Bass Clarinet

As we continue down the list of highly rated beginner instruments, we come to the Jupiter JBC1000NC Bb bass clarinet.

Its features are certainly comparable with the Yamaha YCL211II (see further down the list), though this instrument might be slightly more suited to beginners than intermediates.

The instrument sounds good and is easy to hold. Additionally, you generally only need the lower notes for orchestral situations, so this can be a good choice for intermediate players.

Let’s take a quick look at the features:

  • ABS resin body.
  • Inline trill keys.
  • Silver and nickel plating.
  • Comes with case.

This bass clarinet gives you access to dark, jazzy tones you can hear on higher quality instruments. The mix of nickel and silver plating gives it this tone while keeping costs down.

Unfortunately, this is a bit of a double-edged sword. The instrument isn’t as durable as others found on this list, its keys can get stuck and it only plays down to an Eb.

So, here’s a quick breakdown of pros and cons.

Pros – great tone thanks to silver and nickel plating, as well as easy-to-use 17-key design. Its price point isn’t too shabby either.

Cons – With 17 keys, you get access to the smallest range of notes possible on a bass clarinet. And, the fact that the Jupiter doesn’t hold up to quite as much abuse as its competitors makes it less suitable to beginners. Keys getting stuck isn’t all that fun either.

Item weight: 20 lbs.

Package dimensions: Unknown

Best Bass Clarinets For Intermediates

“Intermediate” can be a little challenging to define as it often refers to a broad range of players, from those who have a good command of the basics and are playing in a school band, all the way to those who are regularly performing at a semi-professional to professional level (but not necessarily on the biggest stages).

For the intents and purposes of this guide, we’ve basically narrowed our scope to “midlevel” instruments, those whose price basically sit somewhere in between the premium and budget price points.

So, some of the instruments that follow could be great for pros and some could be great for beginners. As much as possible, I’ve tried to point out which are which.

There are relatively few beginner and pro instruments, but there is a wider range of options available at the intermediate grade.

So, let’s look at the best intermediate level bass clarinets.

Selmer 1430LP Bb Bass Clarinet

Right off the bat, you can tell that you’re looking at something special. And, that’s because Selmer rarely disappoints. Their reputation precedes them.

The Selmer 1403LP Bb bass clarinet has been designed with students in mind. As you would expect from a beginner level instrument, it sounds good, plays nicely and is durable to boot.

Here’s what you get:

  • One-piece Resonite (ABS resin) body.
  • Pro angle neck.
  • Nickel-silver keys.
  • Stainless steel springs.
  • Nickel-plated ligature and cap.
  • Low Eb range.
  • Comes with case.

Now for what works and what doesn’t.

Pros – this clarinet offers a bright, rich sound and is free blowing. The 17-key system can be great even for small hands and the ABS resin and nickel plating make it sturdy and a pleasure to use.

Cons – you may need to put a bit of money towards a tune up at the local music store to optimize the performance of this instrument.

Apparently, QA (quality assurance) wasn’t top of mind for Selmer, and there are several reviewers that have complained about quality control.

The main issues to look out for are the instrument’s tuning and loose keys. Once these factors are addressed, you’ve got a solid Selmer instrument on your hands.

Intermediates may be interested in an instrument with greater range and durability, making this somewhat of a questionable choice at this price point. It’s still on this list for a reason, and it might be right for some, but it’s a pros and cons situation no matter how you look at it.

Item weight: 20 lbs.

Package dimensions: 38 x 8.5 x 12 inches

Yamaha YCL-221II Standard Bass Clarinet

Yamaha YCL-221II Standard Bass Clarinet

The Yamaha brand is known across a wide range of musicians, since they make everything from guitars to synthesizers.

Generally, they are known as a reliable provider offering a good range of options for every level of player.

In some categories, however, they tend to land themselves in the “love it or hate it” territory. I, for one, have yet to play a Yamaha guitar that I absolutely love.

But the Yamaha YCL-221II standard bass clarinet still makes it onto our list with flying colors, as it could work well for players ranging from beginner all the way up to intermediate.

Here are its basic features:

  • ABS resin body (temperature resistant).
  • Two-piece matte finish.
  • Nickel plated bell, neck pipe and keys.
  • Low Eb key.
  • Machined bore.
  • Accessories – Yamaha student mouthpiece, CLC-221II case.

Because of its 20-key design, the YCL-211II is ideal for beginners moving up to the intermediate level.

Buyers, however, should be aware that this clarinet is tuned to European A442 – not American A440. If you’re playing in a school band, for instance, there’s a good chance that what you require is A440 and not A442.

Why does this matter? Because with an instrument tuned to A442, you’re going to sound sharp. And, while this may not be noticeable while playing with a full orchestra, it’s certainly going to be noticeable when playing alone.

And, while at the grade school level, you might be able to get away with it, it would be embarrassing as an adult to be singled out in an orchestra for having an out of tune instrument.

So, here’s the good – this bass clarinet comes with a 20-key system, giving you access to a full tonal range. This is great for intermediate players, as beginner instruments come with fewer (as few as 17 keys), while pro level instruments come with more (as many as 24 keys).

The ABS resin body and nickel-plating work quite well for an instrument at this level and it’s still highly usable at the student level.

The bad – there aren’t any glaring issues with this Yamaha clarinet. Just the fact that it’s tuned to A442 standard might make it unusable in certain orchestral contexts.

Item weight: 5.3 lbs.

Package dimensions: Unknown

Best Bass Clarinets For Professionals

What is a pro level bass clarinet?

Generally, it’s one costing quite a bit of money, if only because you can’t get the best-sounding, best-feeling instruments at a lower price point.

But that doesn’t mean you must spend a fortune to get something you like. Pro level bass clarinets can cost thousands of dollars and in some cases, $10,000 and up.

The build, quality, components and tone of the instrument generally justify the asking price, but of course it depends on who you ask.

Either way, here are some pro level bass clarinets for your consideration.

Buffet Crampon Tosca Bass Clarinet

Moving up to the pro range of instruments, you will notice a significant bump in quality and price. That is somewhat to be expected, but the jump in price might be a little unbelievable for the uninitiated, so I’m warning you in advance.

The Buffet Crampon Tosca bass clarinet comes with premium features matched to its price tag, and in practically every regard, it’s a superior instrument to the alternatives.

If you can’t afford it, that’s fine. There are always other options. But unmistakably, you will notice a difference between this bass clarinet and many others already introduced.

Here’s a rundown of its features:

  • Select Grenadilla (Dalbergia Melanoxylon) body.
  • Tosca bore design.
  • Metal-capped tenons.
  • Synthetic cork on tenon neck with neck adjusting screw.
  • 24 silver-plated Tosca design keys.
  • Bright Bb register key system.
  • Rubber dampers for quiet key action.
  • Adjustable thumb key.
  • Leather pads.

Thanks to the instrument’s range and 24-key system, this bass clarinet can be used for a wide variety of orchestral pieces.

So, here’s a basic rundown of the pros and cons.

Pros – the instrument’s sound quality is hard to beat – it’s the perfect combination of rich and deep. Its range is obviously superior and without compromise. Add to that its silver plating, Grenadilla wood construction and solid intonation, and you’ve got yourself a phenomenal, quality bass clarinet.

Cons – the instrument’s price is going to be inhibiting for many. Beyond that, we can’t find any major flaws with the Buffet Crampon.

Item weight: 29.5 lbs.

Package dimensions: 34 x 9 x 14 inches

Buffet Crampon BC1183 Prestige Bb Bass Clarinet

Buffet Crampon BC1183 Prestige Bb Bass Clarinet

Closing out the pro level instrument section, we’ve got yet another Buffet Crampon for you, and despite the overall quality of the instrument already introduced, this one’s no worse for wear.

The Buffet Crampon BC1183 Prestige bass clarinet is right up there with the Tosca, and is a solid option for the pros. It comes with a lot of extras too.

So, what does the BC1183 Prestige have to offer? Here’s an overview:

  • Grenadilla body.
  • Two-piece adjustable neck.
  • Silver-plated copper bell.
  • Metal-capped tenons.
  • Bell section resonance vent.
  • Eb/Ab lever.
  • Range down to C.
  • Double register mechanism.
  • Adjustable thumb rest.
  • Silver-plated keywork.
  • Blue steel springs.
  • Leather and cork pads.

The silver adds a bit of reverb and complexity to the tone of your notes, which is going to help you achieve that much coveted pro tone. It comes at a price, of course.

So, let’s break this one down to its components:

Pros – the materials and components are top notch. The silver plating offers a deeper tone overall.

Cons – as with other Buffet Crampons, this one doesn’t exactly come at a bargain. Further, this clarinet doesn’t give you access to notes lower than Eb, which is going to prove disappointing for some players.

Item weight: 15.25 lbs.

Package dimensions: 31 x 12.5 x 7.6 inches

What Should I Look For In A Bass Clarinet?

Choosing an instrument isn’t always as straightforward as it seems.

Oftentimes, you can’t make a straight comparison from one to the other. Sometimes, the information simply isn’t available, and at other times, comparable products end up being significantly different.

But, if you were to boil it all down to a few key buying criteria, this is basically what you would be looking at:

  • Tone
  • Playability
  • Durability
  • Budget

You can base most of your decisions on these factors. Basically, everything else comes down to personal preference.

So, let’s consider each as we work our way through this section.

Tone

The tone of the instrument (how it sounds) is almost always a big factor when it comes to choosing an instrument for anyone.

But preferences can vary. So, what I might like might not be what you like, and what you like might not be what someone else likes, and so on.

If you’re just getting started, then it can be helpful to ask for direction from your teacher, conductor or otherwise. They can probably point you in the right direction, or at least give you an idea of what they like.

You can also watch online reviews or demos, or even go into the music store and try out instruments. If the store offers rentals, you can even rent several instruments, take them home, and test out each of them.

So, while I can’t tell you what to look for in terms of tone (full, rich, warm or otherwise), I’ve just explained several methods you can use to find your ideal instrument.

Also know that the build quality and price of the instrument will affect tone. It’s just the way it is, because more expensive components usually (but not always) produce a better sound.

Playability

Second on the list is playability, a factor no experienced musician would deny as being important.

You can sacrifice playability for tone, appearance or other elements, and sometimes musicians do, but for the most part, they just want an instrument that does what it’s supposed to when it’s supposed to.

And, as with tone, what feels right to one won’t necessarily feel right to another. Yes, playability is also highly individual.

The only way to know for sure is to take the clarinet for a test drive to see whether it feels good to you.

Playability can also mean different things to different people. As it pertains to bass clarinets, the size, weight, blowing and keys can all make a significant difference.

Durability

Generally, durability is more valued by the beginner or student player than the intermediate or advanced player who is more familiar with the general care and maintenance of their instrument.

Experienced players know that they must be careful with their instruments if they want to keep them in good working order, and that should hardly come as a surprise when they’ve spent several thousand dollars on their instruments.

So, students might prefer a bass clarinet that holds up to some abuse, so that they don’t end up breaking an expensive instrument.

Unfortunately, we can’t measure durability, and your best bet is to check product reviews for any notable concerns. And, while it may not be the most important factor, again no musician would deny that they’d love for their instrument to hold together for years if not decades to come.

Budget

Buying a clarinet is a commitment. Prices can vary a lot based on the quality of the instrument, but generally you’re going to be spending a couple thousand dollars if not more.

So, this is a quick reminder to keep an eye on your bank account. Don’t spend more than you have, and please don’t go into debt while shopping for the ideal instrument.

If the clarinet you want isn’t in reach just yet, your best bet is to save up for it and pay for it when you have the money.

With that warning out of the way, please enjoy the shopping experience!

What Are The Top Bass Clarinet Brands?

In this guide, we’ve already looked at some of the top bass clarinet brands available. In saying that, there are only about three we would consider to be top tier brands.

They are as follows:

Buffet Crampon

French manufacturer Buffet Crampon was founded in Paris, France in 1825. They specialize in woodwind musical instruments and is best known for their clarinets (you can see why they belong on this list).

Here’s a short list of some of the artists using their products – Boris Allakhverdyan, Carlos Alves, Franck Amet, Deborah Andrus, Marco Antonio Mazzini and Diane Barger.

Their instruments aren’t necessarily cheap, of course, but oftentimes the cost is justified by the materials and quality of their products.

Selmer

If you’ve been in the clarinet world for any length of time, it’s unlikely you haven’t heard of Selmer.

The French manufacturer was founded in 1885, and they make professional grade woodwind and brass instruments, including trumpets, saxophones and clarinets.

When it comes to bass clarinets, however, they have relatively few models available.

Yamaha

Yamaha is an all-around solid brand and is a Japanese multinational corporation/conglomerate offering a variety of products. They were originally founded in 1887 by Torakusu Yamaha.

Not exclusively a woodwind brand, Yamaha makes everything from pianos and guitars to drums and pro audio equipment.

To that extent, they are a trusted brand, but of course, since they don’t specialize in any one area, quality can vary from one product to another.

RS Berkeley is also a decent brand, but not as big as the other three.

Top Bass Clarinets, Final Thoughts

Instruments are highly individual. So, it isn’t all about build quality, brand or components. It’s about what works for you. What works for you might not be the same as everyone else.

So, give a bunch of instruments a try and see if they are right for you. It’s okay to have your own preferences, likes, dislikes and so forth. Knowing what’s important to you makes it easier for you to find what you need.

With that, I wish you happy shopping.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you’ve learned will matter if you don’t know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career’ ebook emailed directly to you!

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