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Best Clarinets For Beginners: How To Choose The Best Student Clarinet
If you have kids that are new to the clarinet, you probably have a few questions about the decisions that lay ahead. Don't feel bad. The clarinet is a complicated instrument, and it's easy for a new band parent to get confused.
Should I Buy Or Rent a Student Clarinet?
The first thing on your mind is probably whether you should rent or buy. This is mostly a matter of personal preference. If your child is brand new to music, though, it may be a good idea to rent, for a couple of reasons. You would hate to spend $300-$500 on a brand new clarinet, only to have your young artist decide they wanted to play the trombone, instead. Renting also gives a beginning student the opportunity to try out a few different brands to see what they like.
What About Rent To Own Clarinets For Kids?
Another option that many dealers offer is a rent to own plan. If you're considering this, you should be very careful. It's easy to be seduced by a low monthly payment, but at the end of the lease, you may actually be paying two or three times what it would have cost to buy it outright. Look at the terms of the plan carefully before you commit.
When you are ready to buy, you'll quickly find out that there are more styles and brands of student model clarinets for sale than you would ever have imagined. There is, however, a short list of brands and models that top nearly every band director's list of suggested student clarinets. If you stick to one of these major brands, you can't go wrong.
Best Clarinets For Kids
Yamaha YCL 250
The Yamaha brand is known and respected around the globe. Their professional clarinets are world class, and their student models are among the biggest sellers of any brand. The YCL 250 offers superior sound quality. It's made of tough ABS resin, and the sturdy nickel plated keys are made to withstand the bumps and blows that young band students can deliver.
New YCL 250
Buffet has often been called the "industry standard" in clarinets, and the B12 student model is no exception. This clarinet offers a beautiful sound quality, sturdy keys and tough construction. Clarinets are an instrument that students are prone to drop, and the B12 is one of the few that won't typically crack on impact.
The Vito 7214 is made of ABS resin that produces a sound that is similar to more expensive wooden clarinets, while being tough enough to withstand the rigors of marching band. With a slightly larger bore than other student clarinets, the 7214 is very easy to blow through and very responsive.
New Vito Student Clarinet
Bundy BCL 300
The Bundy BCL 300 is also made of ABS resin that produces a very rich sound. As far as quality, Bundy no longer enjoys the reputation they once had, but the BCL 300 comes with nickel-silver keys and premium double skin pads, and strikes a very good balance between quality and price. This student clarinet is likely to be the best value you'll find in this price range.
Amati combines old world craftsmanship with 21st century technology to produce one of the most affordable, high quality student clarinets. The model 201 is made of crack resistant ABS resin, and features nickel plated keys that are designed to fit under small hands. It's easy to blow through and has good, consistent intonation and a rich sound quality.
LJ Hutchen Student Clarinets
As much as you'd like to get your kids the best that money can buy, that's not always a practical option. Especially if you don't know whether they're going to stick with it. That's why I have added a sixth, more affordable clarinet to this lineup.
LJ Hutchen clarinets are designed by an American music teacher that was appalled at the quality of the Chinese horns his students were bringing to class. They're not designed to compete with the big dogs, but are of high enough quality for a beginner to learn on, and may even take them them through middle school. They're manufactured overseas, but are made of much higher quality materials and to a higher quality standard than the typical "cheap" clarinets. These horns are leak tested, play tested, and hand checked 3 times before being shipped, and they carry a two year warranty.
Invest In Quality
As a rule of thumb, you should expect to pay at least $400 for a decent quality student model clarinet, and as much as $600 or more for a truly high quality model. They cost a lot of money, but the less expensive (or downright cheap) clarinets will bring you headaches, grief, and repair bills. In fact many of them are considered disposable, because most of the cheap imports are made of materials that are prone to breakage, and are typically not repairable. Investing in a horn from a reputable manufacturer ensures durability, a good experience for your kids, so they're more likely to stick with it, and a higher resale value when it's time to trade up to a professional model clarinet.