As you progress on the clarinet you’re going to outgrow your instrument. You’ll find it doesn’t have the ability to play at the high and low ends of the clarinet’s range and you’ll quickly get frustrated. This is when it might be time to upgrade to a professional clarinet. But what features should you look for and how much should you spend?
To help you choose the right one for you, we’ve included our buyer’s guide so you know what’s important and we also review what we think are some of the best professional clarinets on the market today. Let’s get started.
Quick Answer: The Top Professional Clarinets
How to Choose a Professional Clarinet: A Buying Guide
Choosing a professional clarinet may seem like a similar task to every other clarinet you’ve bought, but it’s much more of a long-term investment.
This is the instrument that you’ll be performing on for years to come.
While previously your decisions have only had to last for a limited time, a professional clarinet is the end goal. You’ll be playing this instrument for as long as it lasts.
The factors that go into choosing a professional clarinet are similar to those that went into choosing your earlier clarinet.
However, the decisions you make may vary from what you’ve previously chosen. You’re going to want a top-of-the-line instrument that produces the best possible sound quality.
Materials Used on Professional Clarinets
There’s a little less variation in materials of professional clarinets than in beginner clarinets. Industry standards hold a little stronger, but there are still some choices to make.
Pretty much any of the materials you’ve previously seen can be used, but wooden clarinets are the standard for professional clarinets.
While there may be some deviation from the norm, most professional clarinets are made of wood. Professional clarinets that aren’t made of wood are often regarded as being of inferior quality.
The most common wood used to make professional clarinets is grenadilla, followed by African Blackwood. Rosewood is sometimes used as well, but it isn’t seen nearly as often.
There may be some professional clarinet models made from ABS plastic or ebonite, but most of these won’t compare in quality and are unable to produce the warm sound expected of the clarinet.
Just like on earlier models, you can choose between nickel-plated and silver-plated keys on professional clarinets.
Nickel-plated keys tend to be more durable, but they also tarnish more easily.
Silver-plated keys keep their shine and offer more anti-microbial protection. Silver-plated keys are more common on professional clarinets, but either option can easily be found.
Some models are even available with both as a choice depending on your preference. If you’re equally happy with nickel-plated or silver-plated keys, choosing nickel-plated is usually an easy way to shave off a bit from the price as they’re a bit cheaper.
Sound and Tone
The sound of a professional clarinet is expected to be both warm and rich. This is why wooden instruments are the standard for professional clarinets.
As long as you get a quality clarinet, sound quality shouldn’t be a problem now that you’re looking at a professional instrument. It should play consistently in tune and produce a beautifully balanced sound with ease.
A professional clarinet is a big investment so you’re going to want something that looks nice. The aesthetic of your instrument can say a lot about your professionalism as a musician when you go for an audition or walk onto the stage.
You’ll want something that gives off the look that you’re trying to portray. That means it’s also important to keep your clarinet clean and in the best condition possible.
The clarinet case is more important now than ever before. Since a wooden clarinet is more sensitive, you’ll need a solid case with good insulation.
A good leather case is often recommended to ensure that the temperature is stable in addition to just keeping the instrument secure.
Regardless of material, you’ll need a case that’s durable, secure, and helps to fend your clarinet from the elements.
Related: Check out the best clarinet cases here.
The price of a professional clarinet will far exceed what you’ve previously paid for clarinets.
The starting cost is going to be at least a few thousand dollars. If you find anything cheaper, you’re almost definitely getting ripped off and there’s likely either something wrong with it or it’s not a pro clarinet.
A quality professional clarinet is going to cost you at least $1,500 but keeping it that low will take some shopping around and be pretty difficult.
They average at around $2,000 to $3,000, but can also cost upwards of $10,000. If you feel that your budget is becoming one of the biggest factors in your decision-making process, it’s likely best to save up some more before purchasing.
This is a long-term investment and you’ll want to get the best professional clarinet, not the cheapest one.
The included warranty is another thing to consider when setting your budget and purchasing one with a good warranty may be worth the extra cost you have to spend.
Some warranties will include all maintenance while others will be more limiting. There are also different lengths of time that warranties last. A good warranty may cost you more upfront, but save more in the long run.
Difference Between Intermediate & Professional Clarinets
A common question we get asked is what the differences between professional and intermediate clarinets are. Other than the cost, professional clarinets are a little more consistent in quality and made to last longer than intermediate models.
The professional model will require more maintenance but the materials used are of higher quality will produce a better sound, and will feel nicer to play. If you’re unsure if you need an intermediate or professional clarinet, an intermediate is likely fine.
Unless you’re pursuing a career in music or are taking your clarinet playing very seriously, the larger investment of a professional clarinet likely isn’t necessary.
Related: Check out the best intermediate clarinets here.
Your clarinet will require regular maintenance to keep it in its best condition. In addition to using a standard cleaning kit required on all clarinets, it will need to be wiped down.
Wiping down the instrument will keep the keys shiny and remove moisture from the clarinet. Moisture from the air and your fingers may collect on the instrument and this can cause cracks over time if it isn’t removed, especially if your ph is on the acidic side.
Another thing about professional clarinets is that as they are typically made from wood, they can’t handle extreme temperature changes.
Try to keep the instrument in a stable environment that’s moisture-free and with a constant temperature. It’s best to keep the clarinet in areas that range from 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. Don’t play the instrument if it’s cold to the touch.
Regularly check the screws and make sure that they’re all tight. Losing a screw may sound like a minor fix, but it could end in catastrophic damage to your clarinet.
The screws keep keys in place and if you don’t notice a screw go missing, it could lead to keys moving. This could easily result in scratches or bent keys.
It’s better to keep the screws tightened and avoid problems. We recommend taking your clarinet to a professional every year for a look-over.
Best Rated Professional Clarinet Brands
Yamaha produces some of the most consistently high-quality band instruments regardless of what you’re looking for so they’re one of the safest bets. Selmer is also well-liked and has a lot of history of use.
Most would rank Selmer below Yamaha, but it’s still a great choice for a professional clarinet. Buffet Crampon may not be a household name, but they produce arguably the best woodwinds on the market.
They produce over 20 models of professional clarinets, 12 of which have a Bb model. You’ll definitely pay more for a Buffet Crampon, but many professionals will argue that the value of these clarinets is well worth it.
Related: Wondering what the best clarinet brand is? Check out our post here.
Making a Decision
Your professional clarinet is a decision that’s solely yours. Take a look at all of the factors when choosing this instrument because this is a clarinet that you’ll be spending a lot of time with over the course of many years.
Remember what’s most important to you when making your decision. All of the factors should be considered at this point to ensure you’re playing your best as a professional clarinetist.
A quality professional clarinet can become an heirloom that may be passed down in your family and spark musical interest in future generations. Choose your clarinet with love for yourself and hope it carries on.
Best Rated Professional Clarinet Reviews
Now that we’ve hopefully answered all your questions about pro clarinets here are some of our professional clarinet reviews for you to get some inspiration about which one to go for.
1. Buffet Crampon R13 Professional Bb Clarinet
This stunning clarinet is made from grenadilla wood with silver-plated keys. The Buffet Crampon R13 has undercut tone holes, helping the clarinet play in perfect tune. It also features a poly cylindrical bore and double fish skin pads.
Buffet Crampon, the maker of this beautiful clarinet, is known for their close work with musicians to ensure that his instruments are perfect for their needs. The legendary sound of this clarinet is what makes it the top choice for professional musicians.
The best part of this clarinet is its flexibility. It will not disappoint regardless of register. The Buffet Crampon R13 maintains its famous tone.
Important to note is that this clarinet does not come with a mouthpiece. Since most musicians playing at this level will have specific preferences and specifications, Buffet Crampon wanted to allow for this.
Truly, the R13 is a clarinet that you will never hear a complaint about. Its rich warm sound remains ever-present in the world of music. For the price of this instrument, if you are serious about continuing in the world of music – the Buffet Crampon R13 is the way to go.
2. Yamaha YCL-650 Pro Clarinet
You’ll notice a significant price difference between the Buffet Crampon clarinets and this Yamaha. If you’re looking for a top-quality instrument but looking to spend less, this clarinet will be perfect for you.
The Yamaha YCL-650 Bb clarinet is known for its intonation and reliable sound. This clarinet is made from grenadilla wood with a cylindrical bore design. This feature makes for easy tuning and makes it free-blowing.
The aesthetic beauty of this clarinet is taken from previous Yamaha designs, allowing it not only to have a sleek and beautiful design but to make it one of the best professional clarinets on the market.
With Yamaha’s long history in the world of musical instruments, they are sure to live up to your expectations. If you are a student looking to take the next step in your musical career, this Yamaha is a fantastic choice.
3. Yamaha YCL-CSVR Series
- Bb Clarinet with Grenadilla Body
- Silver-plated Keys
- CL4CM Mouthpiece
The Yamaha YCL-CSVR Pro Clarinet is one of the best clarinets that Yamaha has made. This clarinet was developed after years of research. Working closely with musicians, Yamaha has created an instrument that is consistent in tone and quality.
Made from grenadilla wood with a poly cylindrical bore, this clarinet offers a warm tone that is reminiscent of the more expensive Buffet Crampon R13.
This is a fantastic instrument for a progressing clarinetist, as it can move with a student through their study. The thick leather pads ensure easy response and beautiful quality. It also comes with a strap to easily keep the clarinet in place.
Yamaha has made sure that this clarinet needs few adjustments, you won’t have to put much work into making sure that you are getting the sound that you’re looking for. While some professional clarinet players may want the challenge of breaking in an instrument, this instrument is quickly responsive to the player.
It is hard to go wrong with one of Yamaha’s many instruments, as they are an industry king. That being said, the farther you go up in price the higher the quality of the materials and the sound.
4. Yamaha YCL450 Clarinet with Nickel Keys
Next, we have the Yamaha YCL450 Clarinet which is another great option for aspiring pros who want a high-quality intermediate instrument.
While this instrument won’t have that distinct warm sound that Buffet Crampon or high-quality Yamaha’s have, it’s still a beautiful and consistent clarinet.
Players have noted that when they move onto this clarinet they notice a real tone difference. The problems that are associated with beginner clarinets have been designed out of this one.
The YCL450 is made with grenadilla wood and straight tone holes with tapered uppercuts which makes for an easy response from your clarinet.
The nickel-plated keys can sometimes show more wear than silver-plated, but the overall quality of the instrument is unaffected. The only complaint about this instrument is with the case. Some people thought that it could be more durable.
5. Buffet Crampon Tosca Bb Clarinet
- The Tosca innovates with a new perfectly crafted bore design
One of the most expensive instruments on the list, the quality of this Buffet Crampon Bb clarinet is unparalleled. This clarinet was made with the collaboration of some famous musicians, notably Michel Arrignon, Pascal Moragu’s, Guy Deplus, Romain Guyot, and Paul Meyer.
The Buffet Crampon Tosca is made for the modern clarinetist. With two barrels, the Tosca clarinet offers an extremely consistent sound at 440 or 442 Hz. Its velvety tone is a product of the delicate handcrafting that goes into the creation of this clarinet.
The Buffet Crampon Tosca Bb is made with a low F correction for ease in matching low register instruments. You have the choice of grenadilla or Green Line Composite. The beauty of the composite clarinet is that there is no time spent breaking it in.
You are sure to recognize the sound of this astonishing clarinet, as Buffet Crampon goes to all lengths to make sure that their instruments are some of the best out there.
This instrument is also made with silver-plated keys, preventing rusting or other uncomfortable wear. The Tosca has become the inspiration for many of Buffet Crampon’s other designs, so you can be sure that you are getting a top-quality clarinet.
Conclusion: Which Pro Clarinet Should you Buy?
Both Buffet Crampon and Yamaha are unbeatable music industry giants. They consistently produce the top instruments in both quality and aesthetics. The most important thing to focus on when buying your clarinet is what your specific needs are.
If you know that you plan on continuing with your passion, it is worth it to invest in a clarinet that can stay with you throughout your training.
The cost of a high-quality clarinet can make moving to a professional instrument seem daunting. But, with any of these choices you are sure to have a clarinet that is superior in tone and will match your professional needs.
If you’re still unsure about which one to go for we’d recommend either the Buffet Crampon R13 Professional Bb Clarinet or the Yamaha YCL-650 Bb Clarinet. From two of the most respected brands in the clarinet world these two models are hugely popular and will help you step up to the next level with your playing.